WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Gene Nichol, the embattled president of the College of William and Mary, resigned from his post on February 12 after the college declined to renew Nichol's contract. The resignation took effect immediately.
Following his resignation, Nichol sent a letter to the campus community which indicated he had been the victim of a mean-spirited campaign and that he had been offered a monetary incentive to not characterize his departure as the result of an ideological fight.
The college's governing organization, the Board of Visitors, said it was "flatly wrong" to describe the decision not to renew Nichol's contract as being motivated by ideology or the public controversy that seemed to dog Nichol.
However, a number of members of the college community noted that under Nichol, the college had moved in a more liberal direction that had offended some conservative alumni and college legislators.
In a statement to the Washington Post, associate professor of history and American studies Karin Wulf said of the Nichol departure, "It sure looks a lot like old Virginia versus new Virginia."
Nichol assumed his post in 2005 and in 2006 he caused controversy by deciding to remove a cross from the campus chapel. He said the decision came from a desire to keep church and state separate and to make the chapel, which is used for both religious and secular events, welcoming to everybody. However, many conservative activists characterized the move as political correctness run amuck.
Following that controversy, Nichol's other decisions were questioned and his critics were often vocal. Nichol allowed a sex-workers art show on campus, saying he believed in freedom of expression. The decision did not endear him to his opponents.
Upon learning of the resignation, hundreds of students and professors protested on campus, and more protests are planned.
Nichol will continue to serve on the faculty of William and Mary's law school.
W. Taylor Reveley III, dean of the law school, will step in for Nichol as president of the college while the board begins its search for a permanent replacement.