Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Cross Removal Stirs Va. College Campus

My Way News As a Catholic, Vince Haley often went to Mass at the College of William and Mary's historic Wren Chapel when he was an undergraduate in the 1980s. Also a Catholic, school President Gene R. Nichol often goes to the 120-seat chapel alone at night to think in the quiet.

As I suspect the founders of the collage would have expected.

Both agree the chapel is a sacred space meaningful to students, alumni, faculty and staff of the public school who use it for religious services and secular events. They clash, though, over what to do with an unadorned, 18-inch brass cross that had been displayed on the altar since about 1940. Nichol ordered the cross removed in October to make the chapel more welcoming to students of all faiths. Previously, the cross could be removed by request; now it can be returned by request.
That is not the worst thing. The college's website boasts Five pillars unite W&M: He summarized that consensus in terms of five pillars:
  • (1) that “our intimate, supportive, rigorous, engaged, dynamic, residential form of liberal-arts education is … the strongest, most affecting and likely the most pragmatic tool the academy has to offer”;
  • (2) that “academic excellence, intellectual achievement and the highest standards of performance, imagination and creativity inform all that we do”;
  • (3) that “our programs are premised on a culture that promoted deep and sustained faculty involvement in the lives, development and work of our students”;
  • (4) that “our high standards of instruction are leavened by a foundational and sustaining commitment to research”; and
  • (5) that, as the campuswide committee on diversity asserted last year, the College “strives to be a place where people of all backgrounds feel at home, where diversity is actively embraced and where each individual takes responsibility for upholding the dignity of all members of the community.”

    Elaborating upon that final pillar, Nichol expressed his delight that the College’s Class of 2010 was the most diverse in decades—almost 25 percent were “students of color,” he said—and that nearly 90 students had been brought in under the Gateway initiative, which offers an opportunity for a debt-free education to deserving students from low-income families in Virginia.
but it calls to mind the Five Pillars of Isam
"It's the right thing to do to make sure that this campus is open and welcoming to everyone," Nichol said. "This is a diverse institution religiously, and we want it to become even more diverse."
You can be diverse and tolerate other faiths, without having to descriminate against the faith of the majority: Christianity
Haley and more than 10,000 supporters who have signed his online petition since last fall want Nichol to put the cross back on the altar permanently. More than 1,100 students, alumni and others have signed a petition in support of Nichol since Jan. 31.

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