The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday November 29th

Hearings for Trump cabinet picks draw national controversy

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke in the Greensboro Coliseum on Tuesday, June 14th.
Buy Photos Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke in the Greensboro Coliseum on Tuesday, June 14th.

Ten professors from the UNC School of Law are among the 1,424 faculty members who signed a letter opposing the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL, for U.S. Attorney General.

The letter cited the Senate Judiciary Committee’s 1986 rejection of Sessions for a federal judgeship under the Ronald Reagan administration for being racially insensitive.

“Some of us have concerns about (Sessions’) misguided prosecution of three civil rights activists for voter fraud in Alabama in 1985, and his consistent promotion of the myth of voter-impersonation fraud,” the letter said.

But Elliot Engstrom, a fellow at Elon Law School, said it is crucial to distinguish between allegations of racism and criticism of views that align with conservatism.

“If the accusation is he’s conservative, well, I don’t think Donald Trump is going to be nominating anybody particularly liberal to be attorney general,” he said.

Sessions’ colleague Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX said the body was solely evaluating his potential tenure as attorney general.

“If you begin to think about the awesome responsibility of serving as an attorney general with the possibility of having to handle certain cases, you need to be more cautious about what you say,” Cruz said to Sessions. “So I think it’s just not appropriate for me to be the person for you to seek political responses from.”

Trump nominee Betsy DeVos received further attention this week after a critical testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Matt Ellinwood, director of the Education and Law Project at the North Carolina Justice Center, said confirmation hearings for the U.S. Secretary of Education have not always been so partisan.

“I’m very concerned in general about how education has become part of this partisan mix,” he said. “I don’t know that extreme divisions between parties works well when it comes to education.”

Given DeVos’ controversial nomination, D. Sunshine Hillygus, a professor of political science at Duke University, said she was not surprised the hearing provoked partisan tension.

While some members of the committee lauded DeVos for her support of private school vouchers and charter schools, the nominee had a more tense interchange with U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-MN, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, on educational proficiency and college affordability.

Ellinwood said DeVos’ confusion over proficiency and growth speaks to her mindset, one distant from many public school evaluation models.

“It does show you how much her thinking is focused so much on vouchers and charters,” he said.

state@dailytarheel.com



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