WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - The often-controversial president of the College of William & Mary resigned Tuesday, amid outrage for allowing a pornographic show to be performed on campus.
Gene Nichol announced his resignation, effective immediately, after learning that the school's board had decided not to renew his contract due in July. Nichols had often came under intense criticism for making decisions that some claimed suppressed Christian expression.
Last week, Nichol outraged several students for allowing a sex show on campus featuring porn actors, strippers and other sex workers. He said Tuesday that he would have violated the First Amendment had he banned the show from the student-governed speaker series.
In his most notable decision, however, Nichol sparked protests for having an historic cross removed from permanent display in the school's Wren Chapel. The move, he said, was made in an effort to make students and visitors of non-Christian faiths feel more welcome at the nation's second-oldest college.
The cross was returned to the chapel in August in a locked, Plexiglass-like case near the altar. It can be removed from the case and placed on the altar by request.
Calls for His Removal
But subsequent decisions by the president prompted some to call for Nichol's removal from office. One donor rescinded pledges to give $12 million to the school. Angry state lawmakers also held a hearing about the matter.
Nichol's resignation was outlined in an e-mail to the university community.
"Mine, to be sure, has not been a perfect presidency," Nichol wrote. "I have sometimes moved too swiftly, and perhaps paid insufficient attention to the processes and practices of a strong and complex university. A wiser leader would likely have done otherwise."
In response to the resignation, Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, applauded Virginia leaders for helping to "bring that institution back on track to focus on education, not de-moralizing the students."
"Universities have pushed the envelope in censoring Christianity and promoting pornography," Wright said. "Under the leadership of Gene Nichols, the College of William & Mary, a respected, historic institution, became the poster child of the degradation of higher learning,"
State Lawmakers Step in
Last week, the Virginia House Privileges and Elections Committee questioned nominees to the William and Mary Board of Visitors on recent decisions made by Nichol.
Nichol said he and his family had been the target of a "committed, relentless, frequently untruthful and vicious campaign" on the Internet and in the media. He also said a House of Delegates Committee had effectively threatened board appointees if he had not been fired.
Virginia delegate Mark Cole denied the allegation.
"We never threatened anybody, never made his job removal a litmus test," Cole said. "To say we did this just to try to get him fired is ridiculous. It's just sour grapes."
Board officials said the decision not to renew Nichol's contract was not based on "ideology or any single public controversy."
"He is a truly inspirational figure who has enjoyed the affection of many," the board wrote of Nichol. But the board said it believed there were "a number of problems that were keeping the college from reaching its full potential and concluded that those issues could not be effectively remedied without a change of leadership."
The college will begin a search for a new president immediately. In the meantime Law School Dean W. Taylor Reveley will take the post until a replacement is found.
Nichol will remain on faculty in the law school.
Sources: CBN News, The Associated Press