Education

Student protests mark Spellings' first day as UNC president

Posted March 1

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— Protesters greeted University of North Carolina President Margaret Spellings on her first official day on the job Tuesday.

Hundreds of students and faculty members gathered on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill to express continued dissatisfaction and frustration over Spellings' hiring. She succeeds Tom Ross, who was forced out by the Republican-controlled Board of Governors and left at the beginning of the year.

The protesters chanted "Stand up, fight back" on the steps of Wilson Library, and several students read a list of reasons why they think Spellings is the wrong choice to lead the 17-campus UNC system. The list included her implementation of the No Child Left Behind education reform program as U.S. education secretary under former President George W. Bush, her role as a board member for the for-profit University of Phoenix and her record on LGBT rights.

"We want people to know we are out here, that we are watching what the UNC system and Margaret Spellings are doing," student Richard Lindayen said. "We are concerned about what they've done in the past. That's why we're worried about the future."

The demonstration was the latest surrounding Spellings' election last fall. Students and faculty criticized what they called a secretive selection process, and protests have marred recent Board of Governors meetings.

"It's about awareness and really forcing the Board of Governors and Margaret Spellings to include students' voice in a meaningful way and faculty's voices in a meaningful way. We've been excluded," said Altha Cravey, an associate professor of geography at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Protest organizers asked those who couldn't attend the walkout to show support in other ways, and several faculty members held their classes outside on the quad.

Spellings brushed off the criticism of her record, saying she's "extremely proud" of No Child Left Behind and supports the University of Phoenix's efforts to reach non-traditional students.

"It really put a laser focus on the need of poor and minority students," she said of No Child Left Behind. "It has done a lot to drive resources around the needs of those students and start to close the achievement gap."

Spellings said she is dedicated to building consensus across the UNC system's different constituencies in an effort to achieve affordability, access, accountability and quality. She apologized for a reference to "those lifestyles" when answering a question about LGBT issues shortly after she was named president.

"I feel like it is critically important for me to represent the needs and issues of every single student in every sense," she said. "What makes American higher education as vibrant and fantastic as it is (is) that there’s such diversity."

Many protesters said that, now that Spellings is on the job, they are focused on monitoring her actions and making sure she lives up to promises she made to the Board of Governors last month that she would foster an affordable and accessible UNC system.

"We have to give her a fair shot. She's going to be here, and there's nothing we can do about that," student John Taylor said. "Stop trying to demonize her and understand she may have her flaws, but we have to work with her or we won't have a good UNC system."

Spellings plans to visit every school in the UNC system in the coming weeks to meet with students and faculty.

12 Comments

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  • David Collins Mar 2, 2016
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    So the democrats, don't also do the same thing? They don't replace Republican appointees with their cronies? That never happens?

    Why do we care what the LGBT community think about this anyway? What does that have to do with higher education in North Carolina? Why don't we care what the NRA members think of her or the Presbyterian Church in Wake County? We only seem to care what left leaning people thing of her, why is that?

  • Dale Xavier Mar 2, 2016
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    What do you think you are being madam? When you speak of feeble minded atheists? Many folks in America my dear have absolutely NO interest in being ruled over by a bunch of silly 2000 year old myths, scratched onto some stinking goat hides by a group of ignorant iron-age peasants huddled around a camel-dung fire pit!

  • Jonathan Barnes Mar 2, 2016
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    First off, it isn't one op-ed. I posted one article that described why the LBGT community has a problem with her, mostly because you seemed to not know, and specifically asked for examples. I would hope you are perfectly capable of finding plenty of other sources to corroborate the facts presented in the op-ed, but I can't hold your hand on everything here.

    Secondly, you seem to be forgetting that the main issue isn't her record on LBGT rights. The main issue is that a perfectly capable and qualified individual, with a sterling record and successful tenure, was forced out of this position by the republicans - specifically to replace him with a known republican crony. Democrats aren't the ones that made this a political issue, just let that sink in.

  • Carolyn Shomaker Mar 2, 2016
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    Dang, Dale - calm down. No need to get hostile!

  • David Collins Mar 2, 2016
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    So one Op Ed by a Gay student should disqualify a public official? It looks like WRAL is once again presenting opinions as fact....

  • Will Sonnett Mar 2, 2016
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    These poor pawns know nothing except slogans and empty shows of protest. Their real knowledge and understanding of Ms. Spelling probably ends after the fact that she worked for a Republican administration.

  • Steve Faulkner Mar 2, 2016
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    I wonder what would happen to me if I walked out on my job and protested against my new CEO? I think these students may be getting their entitled snowflake mentality from the faculty.
    How many of these students were even born when NCLB was implemented??

  • Jonathan Barnes Mar 2, 2016
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    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adam-kirk-edgerton/why-spellings-must-go_b_8455244.html

  • Roland Kandalbar Mar 1, 2016
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    dissing Noam Chomsky, one of America's great public intellectuals, is pretty ignorant, if you ask me. And he's still making trenchant commentary on American politics and society.

    That said, I think the students should let her formulate and express her visions. And give her a chance.

  • David Collins Mar 1, 2016
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    "..her record on LGBT rights"? What exactly does that mean? Any examples or is that just an attempt at a quick "drive by" negative comment?

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