Students have largely been overlooked during the UNC Board of Governors’ search for a new system President, and, turns out, they’re just as unhappy with the Board’s choice of Margaret Spellings as the rest of us are.
President George W. Bush’s former Secretary of Education has a disappointing resume, as a group of “concerned students and community members from across North Carolina” pointed out in a letter. The letter says Spellings “prioritizes profit over student education,” and that her homophobic views “are inconsistent with creating campus culture that serves everyone.”
Spellings, now the president of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, was unanimously chosen by the Board of Governors Friday morning to be the next President of the 17-campus UNC system. Spellings served in Bush’s cabinet from 2001-2009 and is credited with implementing No Child Left Behind, a standards-based education reform program that critics say has had limited success.
The student letter says that Spellings has earned more than $400,000 from her time as a board member of Ceannate Corp and Apollo Education Group, “companies whose business model is based on privatizing education and exploiting students and faculty.” (Apollo Group is the parent company of for-profit college, University of Phoenix.)
And while serving under Bush as US education secretary, Spellings criticized PBS for airing a show that featured a lesbian couple, a move which caused the CEO of PBS to resign two weeks later.
“We are deeply troubled that Margaret Spellings has been selected as UNC system president. Public universities should be spaces where LGBT youth feel welcomed and accepted,” North Carolina’s largest LGBT advocacy group, EqualityNC, said in a statement. “However, Ms. Spellings has been a vocal opponent of the gay and transgender community. Our schools’ administrators are responsible for creating safe environments for our students to learn without distractions. This starts at the top. Spellings does not have the needs of North Carolina’s LGBT students in her interests.”
On Thursday, Spellings asked UNC faculty members (who also criticized the search process) to give her chance.
“I have skills that are different from theirs. I’m not an academic. I’m not a teacher or a researcher. I’m someone who understands public policy-making. I understand advocacy. I understand how to bring people together around a shared mission, and I have a track record of doing that in my career,” Spellings said. “We have much more in common than separates us.”
But students and faculty are unmoved.
“This past record combined with a lack of experience in higher education reveals that the Board of Governors is not concerned about the needs of student and faculty members,” the letter states.
The letter also expressed concerns about maintaining the UNC system’s accessibility.
“The allotment of scholarship and financial aid for schools has decreased, while tuition and fees have continued to rise. We are concerned with the lack of transparency in the system presidential search as the issues that deeply concern us have not been taken into account.”
Spellings will replace Tom Ross, who was forced to resign by the all-Republican Board of Governors earlier this year.