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Press Release: December 21, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 21, 2006
Nichol Concedes Error in Removing Cross from William & Mary’s Wren Chapel without Consultation --
But Learns Nothing
William & Mary president compounds error by offering a “compromise” -- again without consultation.
Online Petition Calling on William & Mary’s new President to Rescind His Cross
Removal Order Now Exceeds 7,300 Signatures
Students and Alumni React
WILLIAMSBURG, VA —. President Gene Nichol of William & Mary admitted yesterday in a public statement to college students that he "likely acted too quickly and should have consulted more broadly" before deciding to remove from regular display the 100 year old Wren Cross in the campus' historic Wren Chapel. Nichol acknowledged that his unilateral action upset many current students and alumni, who believed that his decision was a dilution of the history and traditions of the College and an example of an animus toward religion in general and Christianity in particular.
After apologizing for his failure to involve others in this historic decision, Nichol went on in his letter--apparently unaware of the irony--to dictate what he obviously thinks is a compromise solution to the problem he created. He promised, first, that he will have placed in Wren Chapel "a permanent plaque to commemorate the Chapel's origins as an Anglican place of worship and symbol of the Christian beginnings of the College." Second, Nichol ordered that "the altar cross be displayed throughout the day on Sundays with expanded hours."
The following is a statement of the organizers of the SaveTheWrenCross.org in response to yesterday’s email from President Gene Nichol to William & Mary students regarding the Wren Cross:
“The controversy over the Wren Cross began because President Nichol made a decision affecting core values of the College with insufficient deliberation, nor any apparent consultation. It was regal in its implementation and impact, and the subsequent rationales offered by Nichol for it have been found by many to be utterly peculiar and wanting. The next appropriate step should have been to open a dialogue with the entire College community, including alumni, as Nichol himself wrote in his October 27 email to students about the Wren Cross: ‘I welcome a broader College discussion of how the ancient Chapel can reflect our best values.’ To this day, there has not been a single communication about the decision from the College to all alumni. It is difficult to understand how you can have a ‘broader College discussion’ that does not include alumni, unless perhaps you really don’t want such a discussion. Instead, Nichol has yesterday offered what is essentially another fiat, where the broader College community is left to decide between his offered alternatives without any input. Removing the cross on the Wren Chapel altar should not have been his sole decision to make. We are grateful that President Nichol has now acknowledged this. Yet, the solution to this earlier error should not be his sole decision EITHER. The SaveTheWrenCross.org petition, which has now been signed by over 7,300 people (including over 3,000 alumni and students) clearly requests that President Nichol return to the policies that had governed the display of the cross prior it his initial removal order. President Nichol’s communication yesterday does not meet the objective of the petition language, which means that SaveTheWrenCross.org will continue its efforts to have the original decision reversed and continue to facilitate a dialogue about defending and honoring William and Mary’s history (especially the Wren Cross).
Our top priority is for the Board of Visitors to discuss this issue at its next scheduled meeting in February 2007 and take an up or down vote on Nichol’s decision. The issue of the Wren Cross is certainly worthy of discussion by the supervisory body of the College, especially so when already over 3,000 alumni and students have specifically requested that the decision be reversed. Individual members of the Board of Visitors should be proud to state their views on the matter and be held individually accountable by voting yes or no on the decision.
Those following this story can review our site at www.SaveTheWrenCross.org as well as review the postings on the new complementary blog put together by two W&M women graduates who share our goals at http://savethewrencross.blogspot.com/. This blog launched last week and is intended as a clearinghouse of perspectives and strategies of those who want the Cross returned to permanent display in Wren Chapel and a return to the old policy.”