- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2008

WILLIAMSBURG (AP) — College of William & Mary President Gene S. Nichol resigned yesterday, after a tenure that included the removal of a cross from the public school”s chapel and a sex show on campus.

Mr. Nichol”s decision, effective immediately, was outlined in an e-mail to the university community after he was advised Sunday that his contract would not be renewed in July. The Board of Visitors confirmed his departure.

Mr. Nichol had been criticized by some alumni, students and General Assembly members during his almost three years on the job at the country”s second-oldest college.

“Mine, to be sure, has not been a perfect presidency,” he wrote in the e-mail. “I have sometimes moved too swiftly, and perhaps paid insufficient attention to the processes and practices of a strong and complex university. A wiser leader would likely have done otherwise.”

In October 2006, Mr. Nichol sparked loud protests when he removed the cross from permanent display in the school”s Wren Chapel to make students and visitors of non-Christian faiths feel more welcome.

Thousands of alumni, students and others signed petitions, and one donor rescinded pledges to give $12 million to the school. Angry state lawmakers weighed in on the matter, and some outraged alumni and students sought to remove Mr. Nichol from office.

The cross was returned to the chapel in August and can be seen near the altar inside a locked case. It can be removed from the case and placed on the altar by request.

Last week, William & Mary brought to campus the “Sex Workers” Art Show,” featuring monologues and performances by porn actors, strippers and other sex workers. It sold out.

In his e-mail, Mr. Nichol said he and his family had been the target of a “committed, relentless, frequently untruthful and vicious campaign” on the Internet and in the press. He added that a House of Delegates committee effectively had threatened board appointees if he had not been fired.

“That campaign has now been rendered successful,” he wrote.

In response, Delegate Mark Cole, Spotsylvania Republican and chairman of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, denied the charge.

“We never threatened anybody, never made his job removal a litmus test,” Mr. Cole said. “To say we did this just to try to get him fired is ridiculous. It’s just sour grapes.”

Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Prince William Republican and one of Mr. Nichol’s harshest critics, said, “The fact is his behavior was threatening the commonwealth. That was the only threat around here.”

In a statement to the university community, the board said the decision was not based on “ideology or any single public controversy.”

The board said the decision not to renew Mr. Nichol’s contract was “extremely difficult.”

“His energy and passion is legendary,” the board wrote. “He is a truly inspirational figure who has enjoyed the affection of many.”

But there were “a number of problems that were keeping the college from reaching its full potential and concluded that those issues could not be effectively remedied without a change of leadership,” the board said.

Mr. Nichol said he plans to return to the faculty at the school of law and resume teaching and writing. He came to William & Mary after serving as dean of the law school from the University of North Carolina and the University of Colorado.

William & Mary will begin a search for a new president immediately, the board said. Law School Dean W. Taylor Reveley will take the post until a replacement is found.

Flowers and letters from supporters were left outside Mr. Nichol’s private residence on the edge of campus yesterday.

One student wrote: “Gene Nichol was my president and will always be my president of William and Mary. He embodied all that was the best about this school.”

AP reporter Larry O’Dell in Richmond contributed to this report.

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