Who Is Margaret Spellings?

On March 1, students and faculty at A&T participated in a walk out demonstration. Followed by a political rally in front of Williams Dinning Hall, Aggies united in protest against the recent appointment of Margaret Spellings as president of the UNC system. Several schools in the UNC system also held demonstrations to voice their concerns with the new UNC leadership.

With Spelling in office, minority schools such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) and Tribal Colleges and Universities will consistently be under attack for their cultural and ethnic specifications. It is very possible that the demographic of such schools will change drastically under Spellings’ term.

Proposed alterations to HBCUs such as university name changes and lowering tuition have members of the North Carolina HBCU community concerned. Recently, Fayetteville State University announced that these changes may become a reality on their own campus. It is believed that alter-
ing the name of a university and lowering tuition will increase enrollment and open the schools up to a larger demographic. As most HBCUs pride themselves on their history, these changes pose a threat to both their history and legacy.

In an interview with WRAL, Spellings said she had no interest in changing the name of Fayetteville State University. However Senate President Pro Tem has been drafting legislation that would lower the tuition change the names of several historically black campuses in the UNC system.

Spellings’ history of working with the Bush Administration has made many Aggies uneasy. Having worked in a variety of positions, including serving as the Secretary of Education of the United States, she has worked for George W. Bush during his terms as governor of Texas and president of the United States. She spearheaded the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act which reformed primary and secondary education. This act met much resistance from United States citizens as it created an inequality in education based on socioeconomic status and race.

On April 7, 2005, Spellings responded to criticisms toward her legislation on the PBS television broadcast, The NewsHour. “I think it’s regrettable when the achievement gap between African-American and Anglo kids in Connecticut is quite large. I think it’s unfortunate for those families and those students that they are trying to find a loophole to get out of the law as opposed to attending to the needs of those kids. That’s the notion, the soft bigotry of low expectations, as the president calls it, that No Child Left Behind rejects.”

The overt supporter of for-profit colleges and universities, often refers to students as “customers.” However, the schools she praises such as Kaplan University, the University of Phoenix, and Corinthian College all have long histories of charging high tuition prices, and providing a sub-par education. These institutions place their students in a tremendous amount of debt knowing that their graduates will face disproportionate probabilities of unemployment. Advertisements of such schools cost as much a $400,000 a day. For profit colleges and universities also have a reputation for targeting impoverished minorities and single mothers who have a history of unemployment and drug abuse. Standing on the marketing strategy of providing a fresh start, these universities often leave their graduates worse than when they started.

Compared to her predecessor, Pres.Tom Ross, Spellings is under qualified for this position. While Ross graduated with honors from Davidson College, and a juris doctor from the UNC School of Law, Spellings’ highest degree is a bachelors in political science from the University of Houston. The press notes that unlike his predecessor, Ross is a native of North Carolina and served in several leadership positions in an array of UNC schools, making him very familiar with the system as a whole.

When asked if the decision to remove Ross political, the Board of Education replied “No, the board believes President Ross has served with distinction, that his performance has been exemplary, and that he has devoted his full energy, intellect and passion to fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of his office,” However, it wasn’t a secret that President Ross, a democrat, did not want to approve the plans the conservative republican board had made. Electing Spellings would guarantee that their plans would be processed easily.

Not only is she under qualified for this position, but the new UNC president is now over paid. Spellings is contracted to a $775,000 base salary for each of five years. This contract also gives her $77,500 in annual deferred payments. She also has the potential to earn performance bonuses as she lives mortgage-free in the UNC presidential estate.

With Margret Spellings as the new president of the UNC educational system, the structure of higher education, especially at minority institutions, is threatened. It is imperative for students, faculty, and concerned residents of the state to protest and create legislature to preserve our state’s astute system of higher learning.

  • Dante Miller & Jessica Smith – (Register Reporter & Copy Editor)