Ending the Nichol error

The story of the resignation of William & Mary’s president Gene Nichol and how to expose and ruin your campus’s radical leftists

By Joe Luppino-Esposito

When people hear that I was part of the group that put pressure on our university president and forced him to resign, the first thing they ask is, “How did you do that?” There is certainly no simple answer to this. For all of us at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, it was a perfect storm of sorts. It is unlikely that any school will ever again have a headline of “Cross removed from chapel,” or at least not anytime soon.
It was late October 2006 when the William and Mary community first learned that then-President Nichol had ordered the two-foot brass cross that had been sitting on the altar of the College’s historic Wren Chapel for 70 years to be removed from display. The reason was to make the 300 year old chapel a “less faith-specific space” and “welcoming to all.” Prior to this ruling, the cross was on the altar unless an individual or group requested it to be removed. Naturally, our liberal, school-sponsored paper ran the story in a news brief, not seeing the significance of declaring a religious symbol to be offensive. Meanwhile, the newspaper I co-founded, The Virginia Informer, ran the story as a front-page headline.

Privately, not in the capacity of the paper, I began to g
et organized. Vince Haley, an alumnus, contacted me, as I was Chair of the William and Mary College Republicans, and hoped that I would be interested. From there, I got together with several other students and Vince and we created SaveTheWrenCross.org. The site prominently featured a petition to request a return to the old policy and also had links to news articles and blog posts. Vince started making the rounds on cable news, and it was clear the story would not die.

We e-mailed thousands of alumni to alert them to the situation, and many sent letters to the editor of their local newspapers and wrote to their elected officials, as William and Mary is a
public institution. Some of the more committed alumni wrote messages asking how to help even more. Eventually, the group became a consistent digital forum for discussing strategies and ideas.

As time went on, Nichol could not help but trip himself up. His attempt at compromise, to display the cross on Sundays, failed miserably. He then ducked a debate hosted by The In
former in which he was to cross verbal swords with Dinesh D’Souza. Soon thereafter he concocted a new tradition, the “State of the College Address,” in which he made his failing policies seem rosy. He also commissioned a “Committee on Religion in Public University” that would determine the fate of the cross.

In early February 2007, the College announced it had reached its $500 million, seven-year fundraising goal. But later in the month, it was revealed that a major donor revoked a $12 million pledge, pulling the campaign back under its goal.

In mid-February, the Sex Workers Art Show came to campus. The show, which featured strippers and former prostitutes, was funded by student fees. Nichol told the local newspaper th
at, “It’s not the practice and province of universities to censor or cancel performances because they are controversial.” The irony of the statement, that strippers are okay, religion is not, was not lost on many, as Bill O’Reilly’s producers soon found their way down to Williamsburg and confronted Nichol as he left his home early one morning, with cameras rolling.

Not surprisingly, as if by divine intervention, the committee came to a decision the next day: when O’Reilly’s segment was set to air. Now the cross would remain to the side, in a glass case, with a plaque commemorating the chapel’s Anglican heritage.

Following the settlement of the cross issue, it became clear to many that the problem was not so much the policy as the person. Many alumni and students got together once again to form ShouldNicholBeRenewed.org. This group was questioning the wisdom of renewing Nichol’s contract after June 2008, not only because of the Wren Cross decision, but for many other shortcomings as a manager, head fundraiser and face of the institution.

In the fall of 2007, the College’s Board announced that Nichol would be publicly reviewed through a process of e-mails and other feedback from the community. While this review was underway, The Informer learned that the donor had revoked his pledge in December 2006, meaning that Nichol was aware the fund was $12 million short when he announced the fundraising goal had been reached in February 2007.

Finally, on February 12 of this year, Nichol sent a bitter e-mail to the entire College community stating that he was informed that his contract would not be renewed and that he was r
esigning immediately. This was, of course, followed by a few days of protests by angry students. But as usual, leftist initiative is fleeting and emotional, by the time we returned from spring break, I could swear I heard, “Gene who?”

There is so much to this story, and it is rich with trials and tribulations of all involved. But the lessons learned from my experience are ones that I want to share with other campus conservatives. The liberal establishment in academia is a force to be reckoned with, but they are not invincible. In fact, it is that belief in themselves that makes them so vulnerable, and there is no reason you should not take advantage.

My guide to any issue like this consists of five rules:

1. Go Organize: As soon as you think you have an issue to pursue, find out who feels the same way. The group does not have to be large, in fact, four people would be ideal, each of w
hom can accomplish each of the “Go’s.” The first is the leader. That is you if you put the group together. You had the initiative to make those phone calls and send those e-mails and set the meeting time. You are responsible for coordinating strategy, and also must be as fair as possible in the planning to be sure to listen to all the views of the group, which will undoubtedly grow. The leader is in charge of reaching out to potentially-interested parties, including alumni.

2. Go Digital: This should be your first step once your group is established. The techie is in charge of this. Buy a cheap and easy-to-remember domain name and make a dramatic title for the page, and adopt it as the name of your movement. People will need to reference something if they are interested in the issue. Put any related media articles on the page, and include a petition. Hide the list and number of signees until the number is significant enough to have clout.

3. Go Public: Once the website is established and you have a basic game plan and mantra, it is time to take the issue outside your circle. Look through the local papers and find out who usually writes the news articles about your school. Check out the media contacts and news tip lines for all of the radio and television stations that reach campus and the surrounding towns. Grab the e-mail addresses for a few national columnists and publications that might be interested in the subject matter. And then put together a press release, using a basic template you can find from Microsoft Word. The smooth talker/pretty face is in charge of this. He or she should put their name, e-mail address and phone number as the main contact. This person should be well spoken and presentable and accessible enough to be able to sit for an interview at a mome
nt’s notice. This person is also responsible for making the case and doing battle over the issue in a public forum.

4. Go Digging: Chances are, the administrator or professor has done something else ridiculous in the past that can be used. Give this job to the nerd who knows how to do solid research and can make connections to people and sources that others miss. This is not to say that the nerd should look into the target’s personal life: it is far better to find stories from Lexis-Nexis or from alumni that relate to their job performance, either at your university or where they worked in the past. People will dismiss personal attacks, and rightfully so. The issue is about what they have done wrong that affects you or the university, and unless something in their past suggests a similar violation, there is no need to use it. However, it does not hurt to have it to release virally if they attack your group members personally.

5. Keep the pressure up: The difference between you and your university’s public relations department is that at 5:00pm (maybe later if you have them working overtime to fix the mess) they go home. They have lives, with their families, away from the university, and no matter how good they are at their job; they usually do not need to take it home with them. You are very different. Your life is being a student. Furthermore, you are attached to this issue because it is important to you, and you are passionate about it. For the PR people, it is just
a job for them to make sure the school gets more good press than bad press. For you, it is a matter of morals, religious beliefs or political convictions. There is naturally more fight in you than them.

Meanwhile, there are a group of people that revel in reporting controversy; your local news media. Depending on where you go to college, what happens on campus may be the biggest game in town, and if there is anything besides the musical and the football game to report, you can bet the story will grace the front section. That is why going public is important: keeping the issue isolated on campus is almost always a losing battle for conservatives

Most people on campus will assume that the issue will go away if they ignore it, and that is when
it is most important to keep the information going. Keep adding more signatures to your petition, and do a press release every time you hit a milestone. Be sure that other media groups know when you get on other shows or printed in other publications; if they sense the story is hot, they will want a piece of it too. Without constant pressure to be shared among alumni, the campus community, the local town and the media, your issue will undoubtedly vanish and nothing will be accomplished.

Although your college president may not attempt to ban religion, chances are there is a radical professor failing students that do not drink his Kool-Aid. These are campus battles that need to be fought and won, and there is no excuse to not engage in them and win them.



lin said...

First, we should disenfranchise the education guilds. Is it not interesting that doctors, lawyers, and accountants have professional associations, but educators have Teamster-style labor unions? Second, the federal Education Department should be de-funded because it is an unconstitutional encroachment on states’ rights and little more than a political payoff to the National Education Association for getting Jimmy Carter elected. Thirdly, tenure should be eliminated so that publicly funded, social engineering, community activists masquerading as educators can no longer vacation in Europe under the guise of research while graduate students teach their courses for them. Fourth, all public education records should be made available to unveil the curricular content, educational methods, disciplinary actions, application and acceptance information, and grading criteria of all schools.

  • Who we are

    New Guard is the magazine of a new conservative movement, populist in orientation, original and rigorous in its intellectual dedication and young and revolutionary in character. The articles will challenge the failed approaches of the past, expose the crisis of the age and suggest real alternatives. New Guard will focus on the real centers of power in our society: the universities, the culture, the local communities and the battles for the hearts and minds of our generation. We will fight for the vision of a restored republic and a proud Western people rather than a failed reactionary opposition. We do not reject the conservative label, but we think it is insufficient. New Guard is written for and by the organizers, intellectuals and activists of a New Right that will take back our future.