At this time last year, Taylor Reveley was the interim president of the College of William and Mary, a post he assumed after the previous president Gene Nichol resigned and the campus community rose up in protest.
Then, shortly after the 2008-2009 academic year began, the Board of Visitors appointed Reveley to be the 27th president of the College.
“I transmogrified into something legitimate,” he said.
Despite assuming a more permanent position, Reveley said there has been no transition process.
“For all purposes, I have been president since 5:30 a.m. on February 12, 2008. The board had asked me not to operate as a caretaker, just to get in there and do what I could, and that is how I always operate … I think the only difference was that that September the question of whether I was or wasn’t going to do it became clear.”
Reveley’s transition was one of five upper level administrative power changes, including the College’s provost, rector of the BOV and vice president for Student Affairs, last year.
In April, BOV Rector Michael Powell ’85 stepped down at the end of his term, and Henry Wolf ’64 J.D. ’66 became the new leader of the BOV.
Reveley said he is confident the College community will find Wolf “very approachable and very much committed to the welfare of the College.”
Soon after Wolf assumed the position of rector, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Virginia Ambler 88, Ph.D. ‘06, who took up the post after Sam Sadler ‘64, M.Ed. ‘71 retired at the end of the 2007-2008 school year, became the vice president for Student Affairs. The long search concluded at the beginning of May.
“I think the students know Ginger Ambler pretty well already. She was one of the powerful group of candidates for the job. But she truly knows the College and she truly knows what she is doing.”
Reveley said he thinks that the College community will also be pleased with the new provost.
During his interview with The Flat Hat, Reveley talked at length about another change for the College: a new mascot.
Reveley said that once the committee reveals the handful of final concepts and students are given time to comment on the options, he would make the final decision.
“If it’s clear which mascot we ought to choose, I will heroically make the decision. If it is fraught with political peril, I will have the BOV help me. I expect we will have a mascot by, I hope, before the end of football season.”
Reveley said he has no personal favorites.
“I can safely say that a lot of what has been suggested I found really appealing … I know [the search committee] has had an enormous amount of suggestions, all the way from a stalk of asparagus with molten cheese on the top to some things that are probably more promising, although that stalk of asparagus got a lot of media attention.”
The College will retain the nickname ‘The Tribe,’ according to Reveley. The College president said that he thought if the mascot search committee could find an animal that lives in a tribe, the choice for a mascot would be clear.
After researching the idea, he could only come up with goats, and when he pitched the idea of a tribe of goats for the new mascot, he did not receive a good response.
Reveley did mention that he thought the idea of retaining the feathers as quills, harkening to College alumnus Thomas Jefferson’s role in writing the Declaration of Independence, rather than as American Indian feathers was “nifty.” He was disappointed that the stalk of asparagus with the molten cheese generated more attention.
Reveley also addressed the controversy surrounding the City of Williamsburg’s three-person rule, which prohibits more than three unrelated people from living in the same house, citing communication as the biggest roadblock.
“Let me tell you just cold turkey what I think, I think there is a problem. I think the university does have a role in trying to solve the problem, but there are five players in trying to solve the problem: There are the neighbors, the students who live in the neighborhoods, there is the university, there is the city government and there are the landlords. And unless all five of those groups pull their oars, working toward a solution, we’ll never get that.
“… I think it would be a gesture of good will for the city to change the three-person rule to a four-person rule. But in my personal view, we could have a one-person rule or a ten-person rule and that wouldn’t solve the human relations issue, which I think is crucial.”
Discussions have arisen at several city council meetings of holding the College responsible for creating and maintaining an off-campus residence office to help monitor and enforce the three-person rule.
“We are not getting into the law enforcement business. That is the city’s job.”
However, Reveley does think the College should provide “guidance to the students who are going to be living in neighborhoods about how to be a good neighbor.”
Reveley talked at length about the College’s finances, saying the state has already asked for the institution to be prepared for another budget cut.
The College has already lost 20 percent of its state funding in the last few years, according to Reveley. Forty years ago, taxpayers paid for nearly forty percent of the College’s operating budget. Now, after a slow decline, the state covers just 15 percent. The current financial situation led Reveley to claim the College has become “de facto private in its operating budget.”
“The state has been enormously supportive and helpful about getting us money to build buildings. When it comes to operating, it just keeps giving us less and less.”
Although he cannot say for certain what measures will be taken to handle additional budget cuts, Reveley said he is personally opposed to mid-semester tuition increases and layoffs.
“This budget cut is going to be difficult because we have sustained prior cuts in a short amount of time, but we are in the same boat everybody else is in across the country, private schools as well as public. I think there are very few institutions that have gotten through this recession as well as we have.”