On Tuesday, April 24, the Herald sat down with the Gregory J. Vincent ’83, former President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. In his first sit-down interview, we discussed the accusations of plagiarism that resulted in his resignation. Vincent seemed relaxed in person; he was not focused on the past but rather looking ahead to the future.
When asked how he and the Colleges found themselves at this point, Vincent told the Herald about the events, which are now very familiar to the Colleges and have been previously covered in the Herald. After The Chronicle of Higher Education published on March 30, Vincent said that because he “saw what it was doing to my family and the community, I decided to resign, which then halted HWS’s investigation. I knew, of course, that Penn was going to continue and that would – since they were the institution that conferred the degree – that it would bring it to resolution and they did.”
Vincent resigned from his post as President of HWS on April 13 and he further explained that while he was president of HWS, he knew that it was never about only him, “[College] is where you’re supposed to build lifelong friendships and learn and develop and explore new opportunities and at places like HWS, students go abroad, off campus, so you know, students should enjoy – I want students to enjoy this incredible experience and opportunity they had.”
When describing his resignation, Vincent purposefully focused on how it impacted the campus community. “It was the talk of campus,” he said. “When you’re the leader, it can’t be about you. It has to be about the institution and the people that you serve so what I wanted to let [the students] know that my decision to step down had to do with making sure that the distraction ended so that students can get back to living and learning and building community.” He noted that he has no plans do come back as President and instead is moving forward.
“I came here to serve my alma mater, that was my sole reason – that’s the sole reason my wife and my children came to support me. As you know, we had a great life in Austin and we were like, ‘Why are we doing this if this is going to be the environment?’ I think, as you know, the faculty overwhelmingly condemned this and we just said why are we – you know – this doesn’t make sense,” he explained. “I also saw the impact it was having on the campus and I said, ‘This is just – this is just too much, the campus has to get back to normal.’”
Community is important to the former president and, when discussing the topic, he said: “We’re here because we want to build community – I love this place because it builds community and there was someone who, for whatever their reason, tried to rip that fabric.” Vincent believes, emphatically, that HWS is on pace for even more positive growth and prosperity in the coming years. “I believe we are on a great trajectory and we’re not going to let this distraction get us off course,” he said.
One part of moving forward included sitting down with the Herald for his first sit-down interview. Vincent also gave his first statement on the plagiarism allegations to the Herald for their April 6th issue. It was the first communication that came directly from Vincent to the students. When asked why he spoke with the Herald, he reiterated his commitment to free speech. But most importantly, he focused again on the students: “I thought that it’s important to talk to the students through the student newspaper…and so I really wanted to be sure that students and whoever else reads the paper has an opportunity to hear the side – other than my very brief statement – this gives me an opportunity to share with the students through this very important medium, you know, give this other side.”
When discussing his communications to the student body in the weeks between the allegations going public and his resignation, Vincent said that he wanted to be careful and thoughtful in his communication to the general student population. He was working with Thomas S. Bozzuto ’68, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and said that “at some point you need one voice.” He continued, noting that he thought it was important to not “muddle the message.” Since his resignation, Vincent has spoken more freely about what occurred. He told the Herald that was why he agreed to an interview, “Now that we’re done, I feel that I’ll have my opportunity to speak.”
One thing he hadn’t addressed yet was Commencement and how his resignation impacted the Classes of 2018. Interim President Patrick A. McGuire L.H.D.’12 will now officiate the Commencement for his thirtieth day on the job. But Vincent did still have words to share with graduates: “I just wish them the best, I just want them to go out and do great things and lead lives of consequence and so I’m really just excited for them. I’m glad we tried to minimize the distraction as much as we could.”
The Vincent family is staying in Geneva until the end of school year. After that, Vincent noted that they are “looking forward to the next wonderful opportunity and adventure.”
“We’ll see what happens next,” he continued. “I’m a person of great faith so I know things will work out as they’re supposed to.” Right now he said the family is “looking forward to the next wonderful opportunity and adventure.” But when asked whether he would ever return to Hobart and William Smith after he leaves this summer, he response was quick and simple: “We’ll have to see.”