Student and Faculty Strike at the College of William and Mary

On Tuesday morning, February 12th, the widely-popular and progressive Gene R. Nichol, President of the College, tendered his resignation, following a decision by the Board of Visitors to not renew his contract (set to expire at the end of the academic year). President Nichol bravely denounced the Board of Visitors and their attempt to purchase his silence as to the true reasons for which he was Fired – free speech and broad-minded Change to a traditionally conservative institution. The Board of Visitors, the governing body of the College, is composed of the political appointees of the Governor of Virginia. The majority is not otherwise active members of the William & Mary Community, and has in their decision-making process continuously silenced the Voices of students, staff, faculty, and alumni, who are overwhelming in support of President Nichol and the substantive, progressive Change he has made to this institution in three, short years.

In the wake of the shock of President Nichol’s sudden resignation, members of the Faculty of the College of Arts and Science issued a call for fellow faculty-members to join them in a “Strike”, refusing to hold regular classes on Wednesday (2/13) and Thursday (2/14), during a spontaneous rally of over 500 students, staff, and faculty in support of Our President. Following this announcement, members of the William & Mary Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) announced a student strike in Solidarity with their professors and, unequivocally, Comrades-in-arms. That night, over 1500 students expressed their grief for our community’s loss of a great man by congregating in front of the President’s House to intone to Gene Nichol the Alma Mater of Our College. Students – stunned, grieved, incensed – are experiencing ‘the fierce urgency of Now’.

On wednesday, February 13th, over 400 students and faculty occupied the lobby of the University Center in an informal sit-in to voice their opposition to the dismissal of President Nichol and to the blatant disenfranchisement of their voices at the highest administrative level of Our College. At a subsequent student- and faculty-organized Town Hall Meeting, over 700 members of the William & Mary community gathered to organize their Resistance to the Gross Injustices committed, adopting a list of five tentative demands, overarching points of unity to amalgamate the disparaged and channel their grief and anger toward Constructive ends. Those who are affected most by the decisions of the Board of Visitors now actively express their Opposition to the secrecy and egotism of this distant, aloof body.

On thursday February 14th, the day usually devoted to the capitalistic display of ‘love’, the William & Mary SDS put on a Teach-In, inviting Faculty and Students to join in the Sunken Gardens of Our Old Campus – an active reclamation of education, denying the legitimacy of any attempt to circumscribe the academic freedom of students everywhere – young and old. Over 400 people were in attendence.

As events continue to unfold over the following days, the members of the William & Mary SDS ask our comrades and compatriots throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia and across the country to stand in solidarity and to support our struggle to regain control of Our College. Our message permeates well beyond the confines of our campus. It touches at the very Heart of what it means to be a student of life. Knowledge and the pursuit thereof should be in the hands of those who actively Engage it. Allowing our lives to be dictated by detached strangers amounts to a Denial of the Truth we seek – Freedom.

This was written by Sean Walsh of William and Mary sds, and editted slightly by me.

For interviews with Students, Faculty and Workers at William and Mary about the forced resignation of President Nichol, check out this amazing blog

The Students of William and Mary have issued the following set of demands:

Over the past three years, the College of William & Mary has blossomed with increasing civic involvement, expanding academic horizons, and deepening cultural breadth. As students, staff, faculty, and alumni, we are sincerely wed to the direction of this storied institution. A lack of transparency at the highest level regarding recent personnel decisions ignores our profound desire for engagement.


Our love of the College drives us to ask for answers, explanation, and course. The events of the previous days have illuminated that the majority of students, staff, faculty, and alumni of the College of William & Mary have been denied a voice.


We, William & Mary, demand:


  1. Full disclosure regarding the decision not to renew Nichol’s contract, including any vote that took place, and how that vote was influenced.

  2. A review of the process by which the decision was made, in secret, to dismiss Nichol and appoint an interim President.

  3. Rector Powell and the Board of Visitors to come to campus to explain their actions and answer student, staff, and faculty questions. We do not find Rector Powell’s explanation Tuesday morning to be sufficient.

  4. A strong public re-affirmation from the Board of Visitors that the process to choose our next President will fully incorporate student, staff, and faculty voices and concerns in a transparent fashion.

  5. That the staff of the College, like the students and faculty, have a permanent position on the Board of Visitors.

  6. A commitment to continuing the diversity initiatives and dedication to academic freedom and free speech championed by Gene Nichol.







          2 Responses to “Student and Faculty Strike at the College of William and Mary”

          1. albert banico Says:

            Dear friends,

            I wonder what do you mean by student power? Is it the student themselves are limited to their existence as a student inside the campus?

            After this, student life or college days, if he graduated (unless we want to remain as a student forever which i think you will not like), what power do students have in the life of society?

            In the philippines, we call it, people power, because the youth are just a part of the larger society. in fact, inside the campus, students are not the only sector that need to be heard in a process called democracy.

            There is a resurgence of interest among the student activities in our country today as they actively participate in the protest movement against an allegedly corrupt and treasonous act of some government officials here, but however the leading force is not student power but people power.

            I think, as a Filipino and as a citizen of a globalized world, the student voice cannot be separated from the legitimate voices of people. In our experience, students have a distinct role in shaping the political opinion, but what will be the shape of that student power movement when they already completed their schooling and they belong already to the institutions that they rejected before?

            I hope you will reply

            albert banico
            manila, philippines


          2. jasperconner Says:

            Thanks for the comment. I totally agree with you that students are a part of the larger movement for justice. Historically, I think students have played unique and critical roles in struggles for justice. Sometimes students have been the leaders, like when we look at the anti-sweatshop movement in the states. Often students are the base of support for movements even when they don’t take active roles in leadership. I think student power has a few important meanings. The most obvious one is the struggle for direct and meaningful student involvement in their school or university. This is a student struggle that is bound up with the struggle of workers and faculty on campus who are also working for direct and meaningful involvement in their workplace. I also think its important for us to focus on developing student power because too often movements and organizations fizzle out when there is no one to step into leadership roles that become vacant. Building radical systemic change means we are organizing for the long haul, this fight isn’t going to be over tomorrow. So, we need to be getting students and youth involved in the broader movement as a means to sustaining that broader movement and sustaining the work that is so critical. On a similar notes, students and youth are often the ‘bodies’ of the movement, we are often hounded to do this or that civil disobedience demonstration but we rarely are invited to the planning meeting for the action. If we want a democratic world, we need to build it in a democratic way and that means if folks want students to come put their bodies on the line for an action, they need to give students a voice in the planning process.
            Lastly, I think its critical for students who graduate to support those students who are still in the fight for democratic education by sharing and teaching skills and offering support and guidance. Its critical that we pass along the skills we learn so that new organizers aren’t starting from scratch.

            Thanks very much for your comment, I think we are in agreement for the most part, so I hope my clarification helped.

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