In a recent article in The American Spectator Thomas Lipscomb equated a petition being circulated at the College of William and Mary with a loyalty oath. Since I am one of the authors of the petition and have been involved in circulating it, I feel compelled to respond.
What is a loyalty oath? A loyalty oath is a statement that an individual has to sign in order to obtain or retain some privilege, often the privilege of employment. The incident from the 1950s at William and Mary referred to in Mr. Lipscomb’s article included just such a loyalty oath. It was a statement that had to be signed by a faculty member who wanted to retain his or her job.
Is the petition currently being circulated among the William and Mary faculty anything like a loyalty oath? Here is the wording, “Whereas the College of William and Mary is a public university and its mission includes fostering and sustaining an environment that is welcoming to people of all backgrounds and religious denominations, we support President Nichol’s policy for the Wren Chapel.” The petition was drafted by an independent faculty group, not the College administration. It was circulated by a group of faculty who asked their colleagues to sign the petition if they agreed with the statement.
Most people I presented the petition to signed it. Many people thanked me for circulating the petition. Others read the petition and told me that they were unwilling to sign it. The crux of the matter then is: will faculty who did not sign the petition be treated differently from faculty who did sign the petition?
The answer to this question is NO. Faculty who did not sign the petition will be treated exactly the same as faculty who signed the petition. The College of William and Mary’s procedures for determining tenure, promotion, and salary increases are very specific about the factors that can be considered. Agreeing or disagreeing with the administration is not among these factors. Our practices and procedures zealously protect the academic freedom of our faculty.
Mr. Lipscomb’s attempt to equate the petition with a loyalty oath is an ill disguised attempt to undercut the impact of the wide support for President Nichol’s policy on the Wren Chapel indicated by large number of signatures on our petition. The plain fact of the matter is that a clear majority of William and Mary faculty support the policy.p>Finally, Mr. Lipscomb’s article suggests that those who signed our petition might have been confused about President Nichol’s policy on the Wren Chapel. This is not true. His policy is clear. The old policy was that the cross in the Chapel was displayed unless someone requested its removal. The new policy is that, with the exception of Sunday, the cross remains in the sacristy unless someone requests it be displayed. The faculty members who signed our petition agree that the new policy is appropriate for a state-supported institution. There is no confusion. br> — Robert B. Archibald
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