Commentary

Commentary: “The scoundrels have won the day” at UNC as Spellings throws in the towel

Margaret Spellings

It’s hard to believe that supporters of higher education are actually lamenting the departure of conservative appointee Margaret Spellings from her position as president of the UNC system. That said, who’d have believed that so many caring and thinking people would be pining for the presidency of Spellings’ former boss, George W. Bush, as they contemplate the current chaos in Washington brought on by the Great Prevaricator?

In today’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer in a column entitled “Margaret Spellings’ departure from UNC is bad — very bad,” veteran UNC faculty assembly leader Stephen Leonard explains just how bad things are (and are likely to get) in North Carolina higher education now that the Trumpists are in full control:

“Here is what [former President Tom] Ross and Spellings fought back, and what the next president will have to swallow in order to “qualify” for the job:

  • A new presidential search process intended to give the legislature more control, and weaken the board’s independence in the chief executive search.
  • A smaller Board of Governors (once 32, now 28, soon to be 24 members), the effect of which will give lawmakers a higher percentage of flatterers on the board.
  • The enforcement of mean-spirited legislation that was intended to downsize higher education, close off opportunities for student from less privileged circumstances, and target the state’s minority institutions.
  • More political interference in the teaching, research, and service duties of University staff and faculty.
  • A re-imposition of the ill-conceived policy of inserting the board in campus chancellor searches. Passed in 2015, the policy was recently amended after (as predicted) the board abused its powers in some chancellor searches, savaging the president’s efforts to help the campuses secure effective leadership.
  • A hyperpoliticized oversight of campus leadership. Last year the legislature stripped away the last vestiges of executive participation in university governance, usurping the governor’s authority to make appointments to the campus Boards of Trustees.

What we have then is a badly designed governance structure that is easily corrupted by political scoundrels, often working against a great system of public higher education protected and cultivated by honest public servants who have always put the public good before partisan prejudices.

With the shortened tenure of Tom Ross, and now the sudden resignation of Margaret Spellings, it has become clear that the scoundrels have won the day – for the moment.”

Click here to read Leonard’s entire column.

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