Cultural Revolutions

Cross Kerfuffle

If you want know what’s wrong with higher education, look no further than Gene Nichol, the recently ousted president of Virginia’s College of William and Mary.  First, he banished an iconic cross from the chapel in the school’s Sir Christopher Wren Building, the oldest continuously operating college building in the United States.  Then, he let a traveling porn show stake its tent on campus for the third time.  Though Nichol’s welcome departure in February incited some protests on campus and prompted a member of the school’s board of visitors to resign, the angry alumni who drove him from office may well prove that the university is not quite dead.

Nichol’s trouble began in October 2006, when he ordered the Wren Cross removed.  His reason?  The cross, a gift from Williamsburg’s Bruton Episcopal Church in 1906, offended non-Christian students.  In a letter to Nichol, religious-studies professor Marc Raphael claimed that some prospective students, touring William and Mary with their Jewish parents, rejected Thomas Jefferson’s alma mater after their eyes fell on the cross.

“The William and Mary community,” Nichol opined in an op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “is generous and embracing—it touches, it entwines, it reaches past barriers to form loves and friendships that endure.  These bonds are the best part...

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