With reservations and concerns, several weeks ago this board stated its willingness to give new UNC-system President Margaret Spellings the benefit of the doubt. We need to move forward together under the five year contract she and the Board of Governors have signed.
We are encouraged by Spellings’ seeming commitments to broad principles of inclusion. We are also encouraged by her stated willingness to serve as an advocate for the entire UNC system as a holistic intellectual enterprise.
Spellings has had a busy week in the media, including her Feb. 29 response to the UNC Faculty Council, her March 1 appearance on “The State of Things” and an email to the entire UNC system.
Spellings certainly seems aware of the discourse and codes one must know and use in order to secure a modicum of political alliance within higher education institutions — diversity and inclusion being near the top of the list. However, espousing sexy Twitter-ready aphorisms such as “education is the new civil right” will only take Spellings so far when she is administering a university system and not advising a campaign.
First, civil rights are the rights of citizens based on their status as citizens without regard to financial means. Markets, on the other hand, by definition create elite hierarchies based on ability to pay. Spellings’ opening message set against her continued public embrace of free market lexicon staples such as “value proposition” and students as consumers troublingly straddles an ideological line. She needs to fall on one side convincingly to maintain credibility.