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Transcript: Reveley teleconference with alumni

Taylor Reveley. File photo.

Taylor Reveley. File photo.

Following are excerpts of the telephone conference between Taylor Reveley, interim president of William and Mary, and alumni, parents and friends of the College. The conference call was hosted by Sean Pieri, vice president of development. —Ed.

Conference Call Between Interim President Taylor Reveley and Alumni, Parents and Friends
Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hi, everybody. As Sean just advertised, I’m Taylor Reveley. You’re good to take some time for this conversation right at the dinner hour, at least the dinner hour on the East Coast.

Let me tell you a few things to get our discussion rolling, and then we can talk about what’s most on your minds. In some respects, this has been a very difficult time for William & Mary, but in other respects, it’s been a very reassuring time.

You know, let me say a bit more about this. The first two weeks following Gene’s departure were, in fact, full of real shock, confusion, and anger in many parts of the William and Mary family, especially on the campus. In particular, there was concern that the four matters of that which Gene had been most passionate would be abandoned or de-emphasized. And as you very likely know, these four matters are: diversity on the campus; the Gateway program, which makes college possible for students with very modest financial resources; civic engagement by our students; and a growing international emphasis for the College.

In addition to being very difficult, in the weeks since Gene Nichol left most of the William and Mary family has come back together to focus on moving the College forward. The students, with whom I have talked to so many, have been especially eloquent and especially insistent that coming back together is what we all must do in order to preserve and advance that which is enduring and precious about the College.

Why have William and Mary people begun so quickly to restore the ties of trust and affection that are crucial to moving ahead? In my view, first, there has been a credible amount of reassurance that the areas about which President Nichol was most passionate remained areas to which the college is committed and in which we continue to work hard. The Board of Visitors has made this clear, and I have made it clear in countless conversations on campus. We continue to take steps forward in each area.

Second, eight members of the Board of Visitors came to campus one Friday a couple of weeks ago – I think it was February the 22nd – and spent a day here, from 9:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night, meeting with large and small groups of faculty, staff and students, answering question after question after question. The Rector Michael Powell bore the brunt of the questioning, which was always very direct, sometimes harsh. He and his colleagues didn’t get angry, didn’t get defensive, and just kept explaining as best they could. And I believe their willingness to come to campus to take any and all questions and to make themselves accountable to the William and Mary body politic helped a lot.

Third.... Spring break provided time for everyone on campus to take a deep reinvigorating breath and gave everyone an opportunity to change their minds. Now, the end of the academic year approaches, which means everybody’s got a lot of work to do in class and out of class to meet all remaining requirements. Graduation looms. William & Mary, as you know, is a place where schoolwork is taken deadly seriously by both professors and students.

Fourth, as this academic year 2007-08 draws to a close, many good things are happening on campus. Let me just tick off a few. The Muscarelle Museum of Art, which had a near-death experience just a few years ago in 2002, celebrated its 25th anniversary on February the 29th. The museum is moving forward splendidly under its director of the last three years, Aaron De Groft.

Fifth, the men’s basketball team just finished an absolutely magical run through the Colonial Athletic Association’s tournament, winning its first three games in the tournament in heart-stopping, spectacular fashion, each in the last one or two seconds of the game. We beat Georgia State by a point, Old Dominion by three points, VCU by two points; then we ran out of steam… losing to George Mason in the championship game. But coming in second in the CAA tournament was a historic high point for men’s basketball here. It was a real triumph for us.

Sixth, faculty, students and the Board of Visitors are moving in significant fashion to raise endowed funds for our Gateway William and Mary program. Very successful programs on diversity and on civic engagement have taken place on the campus in the last few weeks. And finally, though the Virginia General Assembly is still in session and thus the legislative fat lady has yet to sing, it does look like the state will fund our School of Education’s new facility. And it does look like the State will authorize a 2 percent salary increase for faculty and staff rather than no salary increase, which would have been very bad for morale.

Well, enough for me at the threshold. Let’s go to your questions and thoughts.

Yes, thanks, and welcome as president. My affiliation with the College as a parent of both a freshman and an upcoming, hopefully graduating senior and … I guess I want to reflect upon our discussions with both my daughters, your students, and specifically my senior who feels that I guess “ripped off” might be the best words, having lost a president as a freshman and again as a senior. And my freshman feels a little bit uncertain about the potential repercussions of the College’s reputation, which has been extremely strong, and I anticipate will continue. But looking forward to that rebuilding you described and how we, how you envision that occurring — rebuilding that confidence, that reputation, and at the same time assuaging the concerns and disappointment of the soon-exiting seniors. Thank you.

REVELEY: Well, I think you raised real issues, and we are working very hard to swat – to try to assuage those concerns. As to reputation, I imagine we are going to embark on a fairly sophisticated effort to get the school’s message out nationally, even more effectively than we normally get it out. I also think time has a remarkable capacity to heal in terms of reputation, particularly if the underlying reality is marvelous — the underlying reality of William and Mary.

It is jarring when you have one president in your freshman year, and then another president as you’re finishing your senior year. I am doing my best to try to assure people that the College continues as it was and will be powerful in American higher education going forward. But I think, in the large part, we simply have to let time do its healing. And it’s clear that though the president may have changed at William and Mary, the College’s priorities have not changed, and its ancient essence remains as it was.

(CALLER): Yes, thank you very much, Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity.

I’m interested in how the College intends to reform in the future and its relationship with the state legislature. It seems that the events that occurred with President Nichol were heavily influenced by state legislature that seemed to have less and less financial involvement with the College, but yet seemed to play a significant role in dictating what the president’s agenda and priorities have to be. You know, it’s exciting to hear that it seems they will implement a raise, send some money and send some support to the College, but that makes me nervous that it (legislative involvement) will be confirmed it’s doing so after its (the legislature’s) wishes were conceded to.

REVELEY: Well, a few thoughts on that. First, I do not believe the Board of Visitors acted in response to the Virginia legislature at all. Indeed, if I had believed that was the case, I wouldn’t have become interim president. The Board makes its own decisions, uninfluenced by the General Assembly. And I really do believe that that’s quite clear.

Second, we’re not being treated any worse or better by the General Assembly than any of the other state-owned schools in Virginia. This is the time of some budget stringency in Virginia, and higher education is taking a hit. This simply makes all the more clear that increasingly going forward, private support is going to be crucial to William and Mary’s future.

One area in which the General Assembly may be on the cusp — doing something really nice for William and Mary — is funding our School of Education facility. It looks like that’s going to happen, though the legislature has not finished with its bond deliberations, and this facility would be funded with bonds. So, we’re not any better off or worse off than anybody else is at the General Assembly, except we may get some real help with the School of Education.

Final thought on this. As soon as I became interim president, I was put in a wagon and pulled to Richmond in order to walk the halls of the General Assembly, get to know people, and take their pulse. And I have met a remarkable number of senators and delegates, House and Senate staff, and executive branch staff since I’ve been Gene Nichol’s successor. They have been very gracious, very enthusiastic about the College, and made no attempt whatsoever to put any pressure on me as a policy matter.

I’m wondering, what is the process or the time frame of choosing a new president. And given the issues of the previous president, will any of the people who voted for him be allowed to serve and vote on the committee choosing the next president?

REVELEY: Well, that’s a call for the Board of Visitors, and it has not yet decided when to begin the process. In my view, it will probably be a while before the process begins because the process of healing that I discussed before needs to go forward. And I think there are some financial issues that the College must engage before it’s going to be in a position to attract someone who will stay for 10 to 15 years and be of the caliber that William and Mary wants and needs.

When the selection of the new president begins, I am absolutely confident that the process will be quite inclusive, involving faculty, staff, students and alumni. And I’m also confident it will involve many of the people now serving on the Board of Visitors.

Thank you for taking my question. I’m a now retired resident of Williamsburg. I served as Dean of Admission in the 1980s and was flattered to be named an honorary member of this society (Alumni Association) when I left.

My concern is that with all the attraction right now or attention that’s being focused on the presidency, that there is another search that should be ongoing and maybe even more important because it means the replacement of a legendary Vice President for Student Affairs, Sam Sadler. I wondered if there’s anything you can tell us about the search for someone who will attempt to replace Sam.

REVELEY: Well, of course, no one can replace Sam. He is genuinely — as you know — a living legend. And we will have him through June. There is no ongoing search to replace Sam at the moment because our sense is that we need to get a new president in place or some greater permanency in the presidential lair before we try to do that. Fortunately, there are people in Sam’s area who can carry on very effectively in the interim.

(CALLER): Thank you.

Yes. I guess what concerns me is as an alumnae who is most proud of having gone to William and Mary because of the tradition of Thomas Jefferson and Marshall-Wythe is that if the reasons for removal were not ideological, why was there money offered to have the president not state the reasons? When we talk about a high-caliber candidate for the future president, my concern is that other people will steer clear of William and Mary because of the very real assault on our constitution in the same way that the assault has been on President Nichol. It was ideological, and I’m deeply concerned about the future of the College for that reason.

REVELEY: No, I don’t believe that. There clearly was an ideological assault on President Nichol, but it didn’t come from the Board of Visitors. It came from other people, many of them who had no ties to William and Mary. The Board, when it was on campus — as I mentioned before, 9:00 in the morning till 8:00 at night — went in great detail, engaging the questions that you just raised, which are important questions. And I did think the Board satisfactorily answered them, certainly from my standpoint, and it answered them very directly.

I, however, have tried very hard, in my role as interim president, to not get into what happened before I became interim president. My position has been, “I’ll talk about what happened after I said ‘yes’ and got shot out of the cannon,” but not before because I think it’s appropriate that those questions go to the Board. They did go to the Board, and the Board spoke to them in great detail on February the 22nd or whenever it was they were here. So, I’m sorry not to answer directly myself, but I think these are questions that should go to the Board.

I have e-mailed Gene Nichol when he sent me his letter. I’ve e-mailed President Reveley twice or three times. I’ve e-mailed the Alumni Association when they have sent things. And nobody has responded.

I just don’t understand what the situation is that President Nichol became, not forced but chose to resign because they were not going to pick up his contract. And nobody has told me that in any clear terms at all. I have given to the alumni fund every single year since I have graduated. And I’m very proud of that. But I’m also, this year, concerned how can I write that check? Can you respond to me in both of those questions?

REVELEY: Well, first, thank you very much for your support, in the past, of the College. And we enormously value that and hope very much it will continue. Second, if you haven’t gotten any answers to your e-mail, I do apologize for that. I have gotten literally, it’s probably into the thousands now of e-mails, and I have to admit I haven’t been able to answer all of them.

As to why the Board of Visitors and President Nichol came to a parting of the ways, again, I’d really rather not go into that. The Board did come to campus in open sessions and explained in great and elaborate detail why it did what it did. And I wish you had been there to hear it because I think it might have been somewhat reassuring to you.

CALLER): May I interject. Is it simply because of some kind of a semi-religious thing about a cross in the chapel? I mean if that is the case then …

REVELEY: Absolutely not.

My daughter is a senior and I have been above and beyond proud that my daughter has chosen William and Mary as her college of choice.

And I do feel a little disgruntled and feel that a combination of a lot of things had transpired for President Nichol, who I felt was absolutely wonderful for the students and the parents. He wasn’t only president. He answered questions all the time. I want to know how this is going to affect graduation. Will President Nichol be there? Is he allowed to be there?

REVELEY: Yes, I don’t know whether President Nichol will be there or not. He certainly is allowed to be there.


REVELEY: And we will do our best, whether Nick is there or not, to have a wonderful, meaningful, uplifting graduation for the class of 2008.

(CALLER): Thank you, President.

My issue is really about moving forward. I’m one of the many people who believe there were probably serious issues on both sides of this whole event. I’m most interested in what we have learned specifically that we can do to avoid this kind of thing ever happening to the College again. And I’m talking about choosing the next president.


(CALLER): It’s always a complicated process, but surely, we’ve taken away something significant that will improve the likelihood that we can avoid this.

REVELEY: Good luck. As in so many aspects of life, it’s always crucial when you’re choosing a president. Sometimes, you can do a wonderful job of choosing, and still it doesn’t work. But, having said that, having an inclusive process as the choice is made, I think, will make a difference for the better, though I also believe the process by which Gene Nichol was chosen was quite inclusive. Going forward to the next stack, I’m absolutely confident that students, faculty, staff and alumni will be meaningfully represented in the decision-making process.

(CALLER): May I follow up with one thing? What I’m curious about is what will be different? I would assume that they were pretty meaningfully represented in this process, are there not lessons learned here? Are there not specific things that will be done differently?

REVELEY: Well, that’s why I began by talking about luck. I don’t think the process itself will be materially different than the process that brought Gene Nichol to the campus, which was a very inclusive process. It could be that the Board will spend more time talking with the final candidates to ensure that in its judgment, the requisite decision-making habits and chemistry exists between the successful candidate and the Board or to make it more likely that it will be a successful match.

Whether you’re talking about the president of a college, the chairman or CEO of a corporation, or the head of a non-profit organization, to some extent you take your best shot, try to nurture the new person, and, in some instances, it works smashingly well, and in other instances, it just proves not to be a good match.

I have a freshman who will, hopefully, graduate in 2011. If diversity and the Gateway William and Mary program were essential in the past few years while Mr. Nichol was in place, what do you have in store for the future for the study body? What do you have planned to execute and implement this plan?

REVELEY: …Well, on the Gateway front, the crucial next step is to raise endowed funds to support the program. The existing program will be funded one way or another, but it would be wonderful to be able to expand the reach of the program and to put it on absolutely stable financial feet. So, we are in the process of raising material amounts of money to do just that.

I’d also just created yesterday, in fact, a working group on the Gateway program that’s chaired by the Provost to the College to think about the structure of the program, how it actually works once students get to campus, who are Gateway students, and to think about whether we should, assuming we had the money, increase the ceiling on family income that determines eligibility for the Gateway program. That ceiling is now $40,000 for a family. It would be a better program if the ceiling were, say, $60,000. But as the ceiling goes up, so do the financial demands of supporting the program. So on Gateway, in short, raising money to sustain it and empowering a working group to think about how better to nurture it and grow it.

On diversity, we just, as I mentioned in my introductory remarks, had a wonderful program involving the campus community and the Williamsburg community on the diversity that had been long planned, and we did extraordinarily well. We have a presidential-level diversity committee that I co-chair that is in full cry. We are taking some relatively small but important steps right now. One to create packets of food starting next August that will meet the dietary needs of certain religious groups whose dietary needs are not met by the regular campus food, and we are in the process of creating a prayer room where people can go for meditation and prayer whenever they wish.

One real need, in my judgment on the diversity front, is to figure out how to get people effectively talking with one another about it, talking about differences, sympathetically engaging differences, and learning from one another. So, we don’t simply have the group of people who are particularly hinged in diversity, talking with one another and everybody else uninvolved in the conversation. This is a lot harder to do than it sounds. But if we could do it, I think it will make a real difference for the better. So, bottom line, we’re working hard on both the Gateway and the diversity fronts.

PIERI: One thing I want to add to that comment is working with Sam Sadler — we are working on a multicultural affairs endowment that would also help address diversity-related issues on this campus, and that endowment is upward toward $500,000 at this point. And the goal is to take that over $1 million to help us move forward along that front as well. Thank you.

(CALLER) (ph): Thank you.

Having followed this fiasco about 3,000 miles away, I have no doubt that my perception of it is rather dim. But it seemed to be marked by a level of, sort of, personal attack, animosity, recrimination that was rather extraordinary. I take it from your remarks that the Board of Visitors should not be held responsible for that, but where did it come from? What happened?

REVELEY: I’ll give you my own personal take on this. For about the last 18 months ever since the cross issue came to the fore, I think William and Mary has been caught up in the national culture wars. We have been raw material for people in those culture wars, particularly on the Internet, but also in the print media — often who have absolutely no interest in William and Mary per se, just using us as a football.

The more you’re caught up in the national culture wars, the more personalized everything gets, the more vicious, frankly, it gets, and the more the institution is damaged. That’s been truly, truly unfortunate, and in my judgment, it has now ended. It’s very important that it end, and that William and Mary get out of the national culture wars.

I’d like to follow up on that previous question. Yes, we can get out of the news, but at what cost? What cost in terms of loss of courage? And what cost in terms of being recognized as a place that had to take a step backward by a century or so?

I’ve been asked by colleagues in academia and government why — apart from the views of wealthy donors — President Nichol’s contract was not renewed. We do need to know. And members of the Committee on Privileges and Elections did say that they had stressed the issues of the cross and the sex workers exhibit. Two members of the BOV had a meeting just less than a week before this decision evidently was released, and those members were up for a renewal of their term.

We can say we’re not going to look backward, but I simply think that would be very risky not to. And clearly, over and over again, people are asking you, sir, why did this happen. And nobody knows. And to say, “Well, we’re just not going to look at this” leaves us all feeling perhaps a lack of confidence.

Can you, could you tell us what the BOV found insufficient in President Nichol? The members of the Committee on Privileges and Elections are quite willing and open about saying what it was. They didn’t like the cross issue. They didn’t like the sex workers issue.

REVELEY: Well, I think that that particular legislative hearing was an occasion of great angst for the College community, especially the Board of Visitors, and emphatically had no influence on the judgment about anything.

(CALLER): But if you’re saying that we …

REVELEY: In fact, it went in the other direction. Here the challenge we have right now, I think, on this call. The Board of Visitors, for hours, came to campus and squarely engaged the particular question you just put. They talked about it, talked about it, and talked about it.

(CALLER): But can you distill it then and just give us one or two sentences because all that I know, all that many of us know, and all that my colleagues know is simply that some wealthy donors had a lot of influence.

REVELEY: Well, we … I don’t think donors had a lot of influence. Let me try to distill it without getting into the particulars.

It was a question of management style. It was a question of effective communications between the Board and President Nichol. It was a question of effective confidence, one in the other. It was not a question of ideology.

Most of the members of the Board of Visitors were appointed by democratic governors of Virginia. Some extremely liberal people are on the Board of Visitors. Two of the members of Board of Visitors are African-American.

It was not an ideological call. It was not a question of donor influence. It was not a question of the General Assembly. It was a question of management communications and mutual confidence. And thus, it was a personnel decision.

And one of the challenges the Board had when it was on campus talking about this, was you really can’t go into elaborate detail on personnel decisions without both violating law and invading privacy. I’m really sorry that all of you couldn’t have been here for the Board’s long sessions with people. It may not have completely satisfied you, but I think it would have eased some concerns.

I was wondering if what plans were in effect and what precautions to present the cases, as when you check with all the murders that were involved in the assassination of the students. Have you all put something into place about warning the students?

REVELEY: Yes, we have a very sophisticated warning system that involves cell phones, loud sirens, and communication by Internet. We also have a very elaborate plan or response to any sort of an emergency. So, I do believe that we are prepared.

(CALLER): What about the laws in Virginia that allows students to carry guns. Do you allow students to carry guns on campus?

REVELEY: No, we do not…

(CALLER): Yes, OK. All right, well, thank you very much. This is encouraging.

REVELEY: Thank you….

First, I want to say thank you for allowing us to have this opportunity to express our concerns. Like one of the callers, I am in California. So, I’m at a distance, and I’m following all this indirectly. I wish that I had more information. However, I did happen to be in Washington, D.C., when President Nichol resigned. I got the letter and, of course, read various columns in the Washington Post. And I realize I’m still dwelling on the past, but the past is very concerning to me. And I suppose I know what you’re going to say, but I have to ask it anyway. And that is I wonder if the Board of Visitors really anticipated this outcry and the — maybe disgrace is a little too strong a word — the bad publicity, like what it’s doing to the reputation of William and Mary when they made this move.

REVELEY: I think they did anticipate that this might happen, and I think, accordingly, the decision to go forward with what they did was a very agonizing one for them. I think everyone is very concerned about the potential impact on the College’s reputation and that we will take steps to try to see to it that there isn’t such an impact, though the, as I mentioned before, the basic way in which William and Mary will come through this as William and Mary, I think, is simply by being William and Mary in all of this marvelous dimensions and by the passage of time.

It has certainly been a very, very difficult situation with which all of us have had to deal. And it is not a period of weeks that I would personally wish to relive.

President Reveley, thank you very much for hosting this conference call, very interesting. And I appreciate the opportunity. I’d like to say that I’m an alumnus of the College, Class of 1975. And I’m also a parent of an alumnus, Class of 2006. And I’ve also been a consistent contributor to the Fund for William & Mary over the years.

And I want to say at the onset that I’m one who thoroughly approved of the decision to part company with Nichol. My own opinion is his tenure was a disaster in many respects, but I think that’s now water under the bridge. And I, like many others, want to focus on what the College does in the future.

I think that regardless of what one thinks of the merits of the various controversial decisions that Nichol made, in my view, there were two characteristics that contributed to the turmoil and could possibly have been avoided. The first was it seemed to me that there was a pattern of unilateral decision making without consultation with the Board that affected constituencies and alumni before decisions, especially controversial decisions, were made. And the second was it seemed like, to me, there was a general lack of transparency during that tenure.

And I’d like to ask you, as interim president — I know you’re not going to be there for the long haul — but as interim president, how would you propose to address these perceptions, which I know were shared by most alumni that I’m personally acquainted with?

REVELEY: Well, I’ve been heavily involved in leading institutions of one sort or another, literally, for a generation. And I found that it’s very important to keep to the extent you can, everyone in the loop. Be sure everybody is, to use a Lyndon Johnson quote, “on the plane before it takes off” while also being perfectly willing to make the hard decisions and to push the move forward. So I am and plan on continuing to consult a good bit, try to be sure all of the important players are on board before I move out, and then move out briskly.

First of all, thank you very much for the opportunity. And many of us have not had a chance to discuss what our concerns and issues were over the handling of the removal of the beloved President Nichol. So, I appreciate this opportunity.

And, as you can tell, my bias is very clear. I believe that President Nichol was a true asset to the organization, and with great sadness that this whole thing has come about. And it makes me wonder about what my continued affiliation as a parent of a student once my child graduates. That’s my first part.

The second part is you had said that civic engagement, which was one of President Nichol’s visions, will be supported by the Board and under the new presidency has a priority stance. And I have heard through the grapevine that there has been some question of what kind of revenue is actually going to be available to support civic engagement. So, I guess my question is what is the plan for continuing the excellence in civic engagement that really was a driving force behind many students’ choosing William and Mary?

REVELEY: It’s a good question. Civic engagement began at William and Mary in 1693. It far predates President Nichol, President Sullivan, and a zillion other presidents. I just came from a law school where one of my primal missions is to produce citizen lawyers, people who are not only skilled practitioners of law, but also lawyers who will use part of their time and talent for the larger good. Civic engagement is an old, old William and Mary commitment and one that we are deeply enmeshed in and utterly committed to. We just had, yesterday, a national forum on service learning on civic engagement that drew people from all over the country that will result in a William and Mary statement of national, indeed, I think, international import on the mating of service and learning. We have two people on the staff, Monica Griffin and Drew Stelljes, who are running for the undergraduates. Wonderful civic engagement programs. We have other people at the Law School doing the same. There is certainly no diminution in funding for it. If anything, we’re going to find more funds for it. So, I feel pretty passionate myself about this, and just find it amazingly disturbing that anyone thinks we’re backing off civic engagement.

(CALLER): I have heard that and so I just to share that with you.

REVELEY: Well, I appreciate knowing that because that means I’ve got to get on my horse, ride around and do even better spreading the word. So, thank you.

(CALLER): I appreciate that.

Thank you, Mr. President. I’m a member of the Class of 1976, and my daughter is a current senior. You mentioned the initiatives of Gene Nichol that will be continued. Have you or the Board of Visitors identified initiatives, issues or directions, which are to be changed, abandoned or enhanced?

REVELEY: Well, we have agreed and made, I think, very clear that the four areas that President Nichol was most involved will continue. Yet beyond that are all sorts of things the College needs to be doing and will continue to do starting with being an absolutely superb place for teaching, research and learning. I mean whatever else we do, it starts with teaching, research and learning here, where both professors and students are very, very serious about their common academic endeavor.

That takes a lot of effort, costs a lot of money, and involves constantly changing initiatives. But at its core, it hinges on William and Mary’s being an absolutely splendid school rooted in the liberal arts. So, we’re pushing on that just as hard as we can.

A piece of that that is clearly not well funded at the moment concerns research — funds to support faculty research, grants in the summer, and funds to support undergraduate research. We need a lot more research funding, and we’re going after that tooth and claw. We are, at the moment, on the campus in, what amounts to for William and Mary, a construction boom. All sorts of buildings are being built, have been built, or are being renovated as part of an effort to really bring the physical essence of William and Mary up to speed.

I think there’s also a lot of effort, and I’ve already talked about this. And it doesn’t cost money, but it’s very important, I think, to try to restore what I am calling the ties of trust and affection that traditionally characterized this place, that have, in fact, been harmed by the events of the last 18 months, particularly the events of the last five weeks. And that takes a huge amount of effort on all sorts of peoples’ part. And it’s an ongoing initiative of real importance. But there’s always something going on here that’s new and interesting.

(CALLER): Well, my question, though, wanted to focus you on any identification of things about Gene Nichol’s tenure or management that you were going to change.

REVELEY: Well, we’re under new management, which is me, and I’ve got a long track record of running things. And so, I’m going to run it the way I normally do, which has, so far, been very successful in all sorts of spheres. And I’m not Gene Nichol.

Gene Nichol is a very good friend of mine. He was a fellow law school dean. He has now gone back to the law school where I just left. But we’re different people. He is, for starters, far more charming, far larger, far hairier and far more eloquent than I. But I got a lot of experience running things.

(CALLER): Well, I wish you the best, Mr. President.

REVELEY: Thank you.

President Reveley, you know first off, I want to really thank you for taking on this perhaps thankless task on such short notice and jumping in with both feet. But I kind of wanted to make a comment and follow up on a couple questions that were already asked.

If I may, first, for those of you who are interested in some of the conversations of the Board of Visitors, I know that the Flat Hat, which is the school student newspaper, did a fairly extensive kind of real-time review of the Board of Visitors conversation, and I was able to follow some of that there. And I don’t know if that’s still up on their Web site, but you might want to check that.

But my question to you, President Reveley, is throughout this process — it’s my impression that some of the voices that were heard the loudest on both sides of the issues surrounding the decision to not renew President Nichol really represented some extremes — some extreme points of view. In other words, those were the people that were really heard. And my question is, moving forward, how do we improve the communication process among all members of the College community — I include students, parents, faculty and alumni — so that when difficult situations do arise in the future, they can perhaps be resolved in a less painful fashion, and so that each group can get a better, more accurate understanding of the real concerns of the other groups?...

REVELEY: That’s an important question, one we’re thinking about very seriously right now. This sort of conversation might help, and this is the first time we’ve ever had this sort of conference call. And I think we’ll continue to do it.

Second, for a lot of people, a better, more focused and more real-time set of communications via the Internet would probably help. I’m sure would help. But for some of our alumni, particularly the older ones, the Internet doesn’t cut it. They want to hear from us in hard copy, in print. And we didn’t do a good job of communicating with them at all about this in print; just the flood of events overtook us. And we communicated a bit by e-mail but not by hard copy.

Clearly, one of the lessons learned from all of this is we need to put in place means by which the College of William and Mary can get in touch with its larger family on campus, off campus, including parents, including friends, in a real-time, effective fashion. And any thoughts that any of you have about how we might do that better would be enormously appreciated. So, Steve, any thoughts you have, please give them to us.

(CALLER): OK, thank you very much.

PIERI : Thank you, Steve. We’re running out of time. We apologize because there are still quite a few questions yet to be asked. We only have time for one more question this evening.

I’m a current board member of the Alumni Association. I live here in Williamsburg. And in reference to your comment about getting back on the horse or getting on the horses, are there plans for you to be taken around the country this summer to meet with alumni even though you are acting as the interim president?

REVELEY: Yes. I’m sure I’ll be put on the horse and taken around to meet all sorts of people, and I may even be able to persuade Sam Sadler to come with me to hold my hand. I’m interim, but I’m not caretaker. I’m in absolute full cry as if I were the real thing. So, I’m going to be doing everything that a president needs to do to help heal this place and move it forward, which certainly includes going out and talking with alumni.

(CALLER): OK, thank you very much.

REVELEY: Let me just say one thing in closing. Obviously, thanks, warm thanks to each of you for being on this call, for what you do and your children do for the College. You can get hold of me anytime, though it may take me a while to get back to you. And obviously, I didn’t get back to one person on a timely basis.

You can get me via e-mail. It’s I’d love to get your thoughts, your comments, your concerns, and in particular your constructive thoughts about how we can do better going forward. Thank you so much and good night.


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