Hundreds of students and faculty members at UNC gathered on Tuesday to protest the newly-minted UNC System President, Margaret Spellings.
It didn’t take long for the chanting to start, just after 11 o’clock on Tuesday morning as the crowd grew in front of Wilson Library on the UNC campus. The protest was part of a coordinated walkout at six of the 17 UNC System campuses.
The protest was held on Tuesday to align with the first day that Spellings was officially at the helm as President.
Protesters targeted Spellings’ history, including actions taken while she served as the U.S. Secretary of Education under George W. Bush and her involvement with for-profit colleges and a student loan collection agency.
“Spellings claims to value public education, but her actions and her words say otherwise,” one protester said. “College students are not customers. This University System is not a business.
“We will not let her turn our University System into a profit-making machine for the white elite men of this state.”
Another speaker took aim at the process that began with the firing of President emeritus Tom Ross and led to the hiring of Spellings.
“The Board of Governors doesn’t care about us,” she said. “It doesn’t care about our opinions. And it’s only natural that the selection process that didn’t include us would result in the selection of a president who doesn’t represent us and should not be fit to govern us.”
Other speakers spoke about the “attack” on the Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the UNC System and Spellings’ record of funding HBCUs during her time as Education Secretary and her criticism of PBS in 2005 for spending public money on a cartoon with lesbian characters.
UNC geography professor Altha Cravey has been an outspoken critic of Spellings and again stated her objection to Spellings referring to students as “customers.”
“If you look at Margaret Spellings’ long public record, you’ll see that this is at the heart of her ideology – the idea of performance-based funding, performance-based metrics,” Cravey said. “You don’t need any student voice. You don’t need any faculty voice. You’ve already got the metrics – you’re measuring things every quarter, every year – you already know which programs to close.”
The contract in place that will pay Spellings $775,000 per year – $175,000 more than Ross made while president – also drew criticism from the crowd in a year that state employees received a one-time $750 bonus but no raise.
The first Board of Governors meeting with Margaret Spellings as president is scheduled for Friday at Fayetteville State University.