Phi Beta Cons

Nichol Odious

The latest from the controversy at William & Mary over the Wren Chapel Cross and the school president:

Williamsburg, VA, January 22, 2007:  The Virginia Informer, the independent student newspaper of the College of William and Mary, has renewed its invitation to President Gene Nichol to debate author Dinesh D’Souza on February 1 despite the fact that Nichol and his office evaded requests for a response for 26 days.
The original invitation was submitted to Nichol’s office on December 21, 2006 by Amanda Yasenchak, the Editor in Chief of The Informer.  Yasenchak spent days over the semester winter break trying to contact the president.  “It seemed like every time I called there was another excuse as to why President Nichol was unavailable to respond to our request,” she said.  During the first week of January, Nichol was in the Dominican Republic.  On January 10, Informer photographer Ian Whiteside went on campus to see if the president was, in fact, available.  “Clearly, President Nichol was in his office,” said Whiteside, who captured the president, on film, entering his office in the Brafferton building.  But when Yasenchak called the office, Nichol’s staff still insisted that he was unavailable.  “After I told the secretary that I know someone on campus just saw Nichol walk into his office, I was put on hold for five minutes, and was then told that though Nichol was in his office he wasn’t ‘really’ in the office, and that he was too busy to respond,” said Yasenchak.  “This type of conduct from the president and his staff is unbecoming of the William and Mary traditions such as the Honor Code.”
On January 16, Nichol sent a letter to The Virginia Informer stating that he had seen the local media reports that the invitation to debate has been extended and accepted by Professor David Holmes.  “This, to me, was very disingenuous on the part of Nichol,” said Yasenchak.  “It seemed all too convenient for his answer to come in ‘just too late.’”
On January 17, Yasenchak faxed a letter to Nichol asking for him to respond, and that Holmes had accepted on the condition that Nichol does not respond or turns down the invitation.  “I reminded President Nichol that he called for a discussion, and that this debate would be perfect to accomplish that.”
The debate, scheduled to take place in the Wren Chapel on February 1, has been organized by The Virginia Informer and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.  Media will be welcome in the Chapel to see the debate between D’Souza and Nichol, if he accepts.  If not, Holmes will appear in his stead.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.