Commentary

Conservative business leaders to UNC Board of Governors: Let Spellings do her job

UNC System President Margaret Spellings

It seems hard to imagine, but UNC president Margaret Spellings — a conservative Republican who served as U.S. Education Secretary under President George W. Bush and often raised the ire of progressives in that position — is not enough of a true believer for many of the hard right ideologues who are increasingly dominant on the UNC Board of Governors. Word on the street is that conservative North Carolina legislative leaders were never happy with her selection and that newly appointed ideologues on the board are doing all they can to undermine her position.

This rather remarkable state of affairs has prompted a growing chorus of conservative business leaders who reject the idea of putting a blowtorch to the university in the service of extreme far right ideology to speak out.

A few weeks back, it was former Bank of America boss Hugh McColl. In an opinion piece for the Charlotte Observer concluded this way:

“For the sake of our state’s economy, its public universities and most of all our state’s children, the UNC Board of Governors and all of us need to support Margaret Spellings and her efforts to remove barriers to a college degree.”

Two weeks ago it was high-powered UNC supporters Fred Eshelman and Hannah Gage who wrote in an op-ed:
“Good governance is very different from micromanaging. Good governance means advancing the focused strategic plan that was unanimously adopted by the UNC Board of Governors earlier this year — a plan that tackles big challenges in affordability, degree completion, and research excellence. It means empowering talented campus leaders and world-class faculty to do their best work, to create value for the citizens of North Carolina.”
Now, this week, it’s businessmen Robert Ingram and Roger Perry writing for the Higher Education Works Foundation. Here’s the conclusion to “We all need to support Margaret Spellings”:

“The proper role for boards of large institutions – be they public or corporate – is to set policy and then allow administrators the freedom to carry out that policy and hold them accountable for the results.

The Board of Governors needs to do just that with Spellings: Give her the leeway to meet the ‘Higher Expectations’ in that plan for a better-educated North Carolina.

In fact, the Board of Governors and all of us need to support Margaret Spellings in those aspirations and expectations. Our public universities have helped distinguish North Carolina from other states, and our students’ futures and our shared future as a state depend on it.”

Stay tuned. There’s sure to be more to come in this battle.

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