When news of Margaret Spellings leaving her role as president of the UNC-system broke, many of us couldn’t help but remember when she first assumed the position.
It was three years ago, only a few months after former system president Tom Ross had been forced to announce his resignation by the Board of Governors, when Spellings was selected for the position. Given Spellings role as a former member of President George W. Bush's administration, her selection was always guaranteed to be controversial. But her past was overshadowed by the behavior of the Board of Governors, who kept the public entirely in the dark throughout the selection process.
The search committee met behind closed doors in a room belonging to an analytics and software company rather than a publicly accessible space. They made no announcements about who was being considered as a candidate. That Spellings was being interviewed for the role was only discovered after Spellings was spotted entering a Board of Governors meeting by left-leaning think tank N.C. Policy Watch.
Even members of the Board of Governors were unhappy with how the search was conducted, and ultimately UNC-System Board of Governors Chairperson John Fennebresque, who led the search, resigned because of the incident.
The search committee was also criticized by the UNC Faculty Assembly in a letter, for failing "to seek the advice and counsel of the staff and faculty." The letter further noted that the lack of transparency in the search wouldn't just harm the committee's ability to choose a president that would best fit the UNC-system, but would in fact undermine the credibility of the ultimate selection, who would have to "understand that the secretive character of this search, and his or her own indifference to consulting with staff and faculty when s/he was an active candidate for the position, will make it difficult to win the confidence and trust of the University community."