A Tale Of Two Moderates: McCrory, Spellings, And HB2

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
-Kurt Vonnegut

Every time there’s a contentious political issue, we tend to demonize our opponents – and we also tend to lump them together.

House Bill 2, for instance. They say we’re fomenting radical upheaval! We say they’re all ignorant bigots! And sadly, in all the shouting we lose sight of the fact that there are a lot of distinctions among the two sides as well.

Take HB2’s supporters. True, there are bigots, who only support HB2 because it makes life harder for LGBT people – but the bigots are not to be confused with good people who are still learning. Or those who genuinely worry about non-transgender men abusing a trans-friendly policy. Or those who say gender distinctions help protect privacy in bathrooms and changing rooms. Or libertarians, who at least support letting private businesses set their own policies. Or conservatives in the literal sense, who just aren’t thrilled about having to rethink everything that assumes a strict male/female divide – even if they concede that the assumption is wrong.

All those subtle distinctions are important.

But it’s not just why people support HB2 that matters – there’s also the question of degree.

On the one hand, sure, you have your die-hards: people who love House Bill 2, show up at all the rallies, believe it’s the only thing standing between us and total upheaval.

But then there are the moderates, and there’s a lot more of them than you think. The moderates aren’t happy with HB2. They think it’s poorly written. They think it’s way too broad. They’re embarrassed by the bigots. They know the “public safety” concerns are overblown. They hate what it’s done to our state’s reputation. They hate what it’s doing to our economy. And they think there are more important issues we ought to be addressing. Maybe they still support parts of the bill, maybe they think it’s better than nothing, maybe they’re worried about party unity, maybe they just don’t want to make waves – but they’re clearly not comfortable with it. And as the two sides get more entrenched (and more extreme), the moderates are caught in the middle.

So if you’re a moderate, and you get pressed to take a stance on HB2, you have a hard choice:

What do you do?

And that’s a huge question. How you act is even more important than how you think. Two moderates could share the exact same opinion about HB2 – but if they act in different ways, they’ll end up in very, very, very different places.

Case in point, submitted for your approval:

Margaret Spellings and Pat McCrory.

Both of them Republicans, both very public figures, both holding major positions of power in state government – and both of them highly ambivalent about House Bill 2.

McCrory, ambivalent? Actually yes, and no doubt about it. Pat McCrory refused to call the GA into special session precisely because he was afraid they’d do something nuts. In his signing statement, he couldn’t even get through two paragraphs before hinting the GA went too far. Even now, he rarely attempts to defend Parts 2 and 3 of the bill, the non-bathroom stuff; when asked about them, he steers the conversation back to Part 1. His April 12 executive order begged the GA to walk back Part 3 – and made it clear that his office would have no part of workplace discrimination against LGBT people, even if HB2 made it legal. And at no point has McCrory ever bought into the “public safety” craze: he’s consistently been a “privacy” guy, and he’s repeatedly rejected the notion that there’s any danger of people being assaulted in bathrooms. Pat McCrory supports Part 1 of HB2, he thinks Charlotte’s ordinance went too far, he’s willing to swallow Parts 2 and 3 to get the provision he wants – and he’s fully aware the NCGA would have just overridden him if he’d taken a stand and tried to veto. But he’s never been happy with HB2, not for a second.

And in that, Pat McCrory is not far off from Margaret Spellings. Spellings has never been comfortable with LGBT issues, she has a history of saying the wrong thing, and in the case of HB2 she’s clearly not interested in picking a public fight with the General Assembly. Nor should we expect her to be. She’s a very prominent Republican in North Carolina, so it would be front-page news if she did pick a fight; she needs to maintain friendly relations with the NCGA because they pay UNC’s bills; and she doesn’t believe she has the authority to defy a government directive in the first place. So it’s no surprise she hasn’t exactly been getting herself arrested at Moral Mondays. But we also know that she’s not a fan of HB2. She said so herself, and unlike McCrory she went after the “bathroom” stuff directly:

“Were it up to me, I would not recommend enactment…I think it sends a chill through these institutions for staff, faculty and student recruitment…We don’t intend to enforce anything.”

When HB2 passed, Pat McCrory and Margaret Spellings found themselves in the same boat. They both had qualms about the bill. They both believed it went too far. But they’re also ambivalent on LGBT matters, this issue was never their top priority, and they both have strong incentives to avoid challenging the all-powerful NCGA. They had their differences – McCrory supported the “bathroom” stuff in Part 1, Spellings apparently opposed it – but for all practical purposes, Pat McCrory and Margaret Spellings were caught in exactly the same position: moderates, forced to take a public stand on a volatile issue.

What do you do?

Pat McCrory didn’t have to make the choices he made. He could have vetoed the bill, forced an override, dumped it all on the NCGA. He could have quietly signed the bill and said no more about it. He could have issued a signing statement calling for amendments, or at least more dialogue. He didn’t have to issue statement after statement defending HB2. When the boycotts came, he could have simply called for cooler heads to prevail. When the lawsuits came, he didn’t have to say anything at all.

Margaret Spellings didn’t have to make the choices she made. The night HB2 passed, she could have issued a statement thanking the NCGA for establishing a clear statewide policy. She could have said UNC cared about “protecting students’ safety” or “protecting students’ privacy.” When the Obama administration stepped in, it could just as easily have been Spellings on TV denouncing “federal overreach.” It could just as easily have been UNC suing the Justice Department – Margaret Spellings leading the charge.

Any of those choices would have made perfect sense.

It could have been so different.

But those weren’t the choices they made. Pat McCrory could have quietly backed away, but instead he took it upon himself to be HB2’s public face. Margaret Spellings could have put on a smile and gotten on board, but instead she went out of her way to be as reluctant as possible. Pat McCrory accused HB2’s opponents of being uninformed and hypocritical; Margaret Spellings told reporters UNC is a “welcoming and safe space for all.” Pat McCrory sued the U.S. government; Margaret Spellings implied the U.S. government was probably right.

True, Spellings has still taken some heat for not opposing HB2 more strongly.

But let’s just say there are no delis in Charlotte currently serving a sandwich called “Burn In Hell Margaret Spellings.” Pat McCrory, not so much.

So whenever we find ourselves arguing about HB2, let’s pause for a second and take a moment for the moderates – forced to choose between cruddy options, on an issue they wanted no part of. Be frustrated with Spellings’ tepid reaction, but recognize how much she has been pushing back. Criticize McCrory, but remember he wasn’t the architect of HB2 – he’s just a guy who got a bad situation dumped in his lap and made one fateful choice that’s been snowballing ever since.

Kurt Vonnegut said, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” McCrory and Spellings started in the same place – but Pat McCrory is the face of House Bill 2, and Margaret Spellings is not. It could have been so different, so easily.

Remember the moderates. It’s hard out there these days.


Report: Colin Moran Receives Big League Call Up

Former UNC third baseman Colin Moran is reportedly making the jump from AAA to Major League Baseball on Tuesday night to join the Houston Astros.

Longtime MLB journalist, and Tar Heel in his own right, Peter Gammons first reported the news on Tuesday morning.

Moran played for UNC form 2011 – 2013. He was selected with the number six overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft by the Miami Marlins and the traded to the Astros’ organization the next year.

Moran was named the ACC Freshman of the Year, Baseball America Freshman of the Year, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Freshman All-American and a Baseball America All-American – the only freshman on the team – after his first year in a Carolina uniform.

Injuries slowed down Moran’s sophomore season, but he finished his junior campaign as one of the nation’s leading hitters.

The left-handed hitting third baseman was hitting .288 with a .747 OPS in AAA so far this season.


Two Orange County Students Receive Gap Year Fellowship

Taking a gap year between high school and college is becoming more popular. And thanks to the Global Gap Year Fellowship from the Campus Y, two Orange County students are joining the trend.

Sophie Nachman and Thilini Weerakkody are part of the six-student cohort for the upcoming gap year program. They have been awarded $7,500 to use toward travel, living expenses and other costs during their year of service work with the program.

Nachman is graduating from Woods Charter School and plays the violin in the Greensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra. She has used her passion for music to organize community fundraising concerts and support different advocacy groups.

Weerakkody is graduating from Chapel Hill High School and is a member of the Model United Nations, president of the Stop Hunger Now club and a member of the Science Olympiad. She said she is passionate about advocating for others and helping them to find their place in the world.

The Global Gap Year Fellowship was launched in 2011 and is made possible by an anonymous $1.5 million gift to the Campus Y. The program selects a diverse group of North Carolina students based on merit and community involvement to defer enrollment for one year. During this gap year they work to enhance their leadership skills, learn about different world cultures and serve communities around the globe.


Margaret Spellings Can’t Hide Behind HB2

I teach geography at UNC.

In one of my courses, I take students on a tour.  I focus on the long struggle for women to gain access to UNC.  Spencer Hall, on Franklin Street, is part of my tour. When it was built in 1925, the building gave female students a “place of their own.”

I ask students to think about the location, and reflect on historic campus maps.

“It’s a long way from campus,” students say. And “it’s right next to the President’s home.”

Observing these spaces helps students imagine the campus landscape of the time. They’re animated when I ask them if they’ve ever been in a space where they didn’t feel welcome. They giggle when I ask if there might’ve been any sex or sexuality on campus when it was an exclusively male place. But they’re hooked.

We examine arguments that female students were “a distraction” from the supposedly purely intellectual space of campus.

The idea of panoptical spaces comes alive and it’s easy for students to see that such spaces allow for control, and encourage self-censorship. Students talk to each other about this as a space designed for regulating sexuality.  Students understand that a century ago, female bodies were seen as the bodies possessing sexuality.

Female bodies were quite literally placed under the watchful eye of the university president, the ultimate authority, the patriarch. If a woman’s ‘honor’ was in question, she was forced to leave UNC and leave the town of Chapel Hill within 24 hours!

Title IX in 1972 marked the end of a long struggle for gender equity for students on our campus.

Fast forward to 2016. President Margaret Spellings is in the yellow house on Franklin Street.

Whose bodies in North Carolina today are described as sexualized?

Whose safety does Margaret Spellings refuse to acknowledge?

Transgender students.

You can’t hide behind Hate Bill 2, Margaret Spellings.

Will you stand with our transgender students? Will you respect Title IX and federal law?

— Altha Cravey


UNC Baseball Set for Weekend Series Against Notre Dame

UNC baseball is looking to win its first Atlantic Coast Conference series in over a month against Notre Dame this weekend.

The Tar Heels are coming off of splitting two mid-week games against in-state opponents. UNC beat No. 21 East Carolina on Tuesday night in Chapel Hill before falling to UNC – Wilmington on the road Wednesday.

Notre Dame enters the game at 26-22 overall and 10-12 in ACC play.

UNC is still looking to secure its spot in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. Carolina has six games left in the regular season with the series against Notre Dame followed by a series with NC State next week.

Game one against Notre Dame is scheduled for seven o’clock Friday night in Chapel Hill. The series will continue at six o’clock on Saturday before finishing up on Monday evening.


Knee Replacement Scheduled for Roy Williams

UNC head coach Roy Williams is scheduled to undergo knee replacement surgery later this month.

Williams has gone through several surgeries over the past few years, on his shoulder and a couple of minor knee operations. But it was clear Williams was struggling with knee pain during the basketball season that ended in the national championship game last month.

Williams told reporters about the scheduled surgery at the ACC Spring Meetings in Florida.

After it was initially reported that Williams would have both knees replaced, UNC officials clarified that Williams would only have surgery to replace his right knee later this month and that “no decision has been made yet whether or not to have the left knee replaced, and if so, when.”

Recovery time following knee replacement surgeries varies among different patients, but Williams said he anticipates being back in action in July during a busy recruiting season.

Chansky’s Notebook: Committee of One


Factual Information for Amended Notice of Allegations Released

The University of North Carolina has released a redacted version of the 112 pieces of factual information supporting the amended Notice of Allegations from the NCAA.

UNC is facing five Level 1 infractions, the most serious the NCAA can bring, including Lack of Institutional Control.

Former faculty chair and director of the Parr Center for Ethics Dr. Jan Boxill is once again routinely mentioned in the 240-plus page document.

Boxill is shown e-mailing back and forth with student-athletes helping with grammatical or structure issues within a paper to providing portions of a paper for a course.

While there may not be new developments in the batch of e-mails released on Thursday, it reiterates the depth of the long-running scandal.

An e-mail from Debby Crowder in the AFAM department dated September 20, 2005, said “we are getting pressure from on-high to reduce the numbers of independent study type courses in the [department],” when responding to a request from Wayne Walden – the former academic advisor for the men’s basketball team – for a course recommendation for a student who was “getting a little overwhelmed” with his semester.

Crowder then sent an e-mail in July 2009 to the AFAM listserv saying that, “I do not plan to continue to add fictitious courses on MWF to make our percentages comply with the university’s regulations.”

Amid all of the allegations, a common theme from when the amended NOA was released is the lack of attention paid to football and men’s basketball. The aforementioned e-mail from Walden is the only tie to the men’s basketball program.

UNC has 90 days from the date it received the amended NOA, April 25, to respond to the NCAA.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt addressed the amended Notice of Allegations at the WCHL Community Forum the day after the university received the information.

You can see the full packet of factual information here.


UNC Golfer Named All-ACC

UNC junior golfer Carter Jenkins has been named to the 2016 All-Atlantic Coast Conference men’s golf team.

Jenkins is the only Tar Heel among the 12 players named to the all-conference team.

Jenkins leads UNC with a 71.79 stroke average per round. Jenkins has shot 13 rounds under par this season and seven rounds in the 60s, both of which also lead the team.

“We are excited for Carter,” UNC head coach Andrew Sapp said in a release. “It is a great honor in a very competitive conference. Carter’s consistent play all year is what helped him earn this award and we are very proud of him.”

As a team, Carolina is preparing for the NCAA Arizona Regional coming up May 16 – 18, where the Tar Heels are the No. 5 seed. Of the 14 teams at the regional, the top five finishers will advance to the NCAA Championships.


State Bar President-Elect Named UNC General Counsel

Charlotte attorney Mark Merritt has been named vice chancellor and general counsel at UNC.

Merritt is a partner at the Charlotte law firm Robinson Bradshaw and is currently the president-elect of the North Carolina State Bar.

Merritt was chosen after a nationwide search, led by UNC vice chancellor for workforce strategy, equity and engagement Felicia Washington, according to a release.

Chancellor Carol Folt released a statement on the hire:

“I am extremely pleased to have one of the best attorneys in North Carolina joining the UNC-Chapel Hill leadership team. Mark Merritt’s legal expertise and well-regarded counsel are only surpassed by his love and passion for Carolina. He is well-prepared to help us lead the University.”

Merritt is following David Parker, who has served as interim general counsel since January 2015. Merritt will provide legal advice and counsel to the Board of Trustees, the chancellor, the administration, faculty and staff on legal matters in his role as general counsel, according to a statement. The role will also require Merritt to serve as a liaison with the office of the President of the UNC System, the state Attorney General’s office and other authorities on legal issues.

“I am honored and humbled by this selection to serve the University. Chancellor Folt is a dynamic chancellor who has demonstrated excellence in leadership and assembled an incredible team,” Merritt said in a release. “I look forward to joining that team and working with her and the Board of Trustees to help make a great university even better.”

The UNC Board of Trustees approved the appointment.

Merritt will begin the new post on September 6.


UNC Knocks Off No. 21 ECU

UNC baseball may have gotten back on the right track on Tuesday night with a win over No. 21 East Carolina.

Logan Warmoth and Brandon Riley led the way with three hits for the Tar Heels while Tyler Ramirez added his team-leading eighth home run of the year as UNC beat ECU 9-1.

The win was the second over East Carolina this season, UNC knocked off the Pirates in March 17-4. But that was in the midst of a very strong start to the season for Carolina. The Tar Heels have been struggling over the second half of the season, but this could be a turning point.

UNC started the scoring early pushing across a run in the bottom of the first inning for a quick lead. Carolina extended that lead with two runs in the fifth and blew the game open with a five-run sixth inning.

UNC moved to 31-17 on the season with the win.

The Tar Heels have a quick turn around with a trip to the coast to take on UNC Wilmington at six o’clock on Wednesday night.