BYH Democrats, compromise! And cooperate! I mean, compromise and cooperate as much as McConnell did with Obama....

Spellings' departure should prompt reset for UNC

Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell is editor of the Insider State Government News Service.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Imagine you decide to quit your job. You tell your boss, and he or she thanks you for your hard work and writes you a check for a half-million dollars.

That sounds like a farfetched dream, right? But dreams can come true if you're UNC system president Margaret Spellings, who's getting the payout even though she insists it was her decision to step down after three years on the job.

"All leaders are for a time," she said as she announced her decision to leave with two years left on a five-year contract, making her the shortest tenured UNC president in recent memory. She'll stay on until March 1, then get a $500,000 payout with $35,000 thrown in for relocation expenses, because apparently moving is quite a financial hardship when your salary is only $775,000.

While she has only positive things to say about them, it's likely Spellings was tired of her bosses, the fractious 28-member UNC Board of Governors. And given that board chairman Harry Smith described Spellings' departure as a "mutual agreement that now is the right time for a new leader for our next chapter," it's clear that the board also wanted her to leave.

It's unclear where the UNC presidency goes from here, and that should trouble anyone who cares about the health of higher education in North Carolina. For now, the university system is in good hands with the well-respected CEO of UNC Health Care CEO, Dr. William Roper, stepping in as interim president in January.

But what exactly are UNC board members looking for in Spellings' eventual replacement? The Republican-led legislature has put more political figures on the board in recent years -- folks like former N.C. Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer and former GOP Sen. Bob Rucho. Unlike the business leaders from both parties who have run the board in the past, they've sought a bigger role in the UNC system's operations.

Does the board want someone more conservative than Spellings, who served as education secretary under President George W. Bush? Will they bring in a political leader more willing to shake up the university system and do the board's bidding?

Nobody's offering specifics yet, but Smith has promised to take the process slowly and solicit input. Professors and students are rightfully suspicious, and I doubt they're happy to see Spellings get a sweetheart deal to leave while adjunct professors remain underpaid and tuition continues to rise.

Even if the board members want to hire a higher education luminary who's respected across the political spectrum, such a candidate might not want the job. No one likes being micromanaged, and that's what one can expect from a board that meddles in campus chancellor searches and kills off law school programs it doesn't like.

Spellings' departure offers an opportunity for state leaders to review the UNC system's governance model and hit the reset button. The current Board of Governors is appointed entirely by the legislature, which results in a partisan board regardless of which party controls the General Assembly.

Legislative leaders have been trying to add checks and balances to boards and appointments controlled exclusively by the governor. So they should be intellectually honest and do the same with the UNC Board of Governors. Perhaps the governor could appoint a few of the members, or there could be more faculty and student representatives.

Roper's interim presidency will allow time for changes and fresh ideas. State leaders must instill confidence in the university system -- that UNC's leadership will effectively serve the needs of Republicans, Democrats and everyone in between.

Colin Campbell is editor of the Insider State Government News Service. Follow him at NCInsider.com or @RaleighReporter. Write to him at ccampbell@ncinsider.com.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

January 22, 2019

After North Carolina lawmakers were sworn in for a new two-year term Jan. 9, their leaders had some unusually conciliatory words to share with House and Senate members.

Senate leader Phil Berger said he’s “hopeful now that we can put political battles behind us and find common ground in…

January 22, 2019

"Happy March for Life!" More than a few people said that to me as I arrived in Washington, D.C., for the annual pro-life rally in our nation's capital. The march actually consists of a few days of events. Initially a protest of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, the march has…


January 22, 2019

For those of us who don't often get outside the cities — or very far beyond our own towns — North Carolina geography can be confusing.

Franklinton is in Franklin County, but the town of Franklin sits 300 miles west in Macon County. Meanwhile the town of Macon is in Warren County, not…

Colin Campbell

January 21, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border would be "immoral." Instead, she favors something she calls a "technological wall." Another top House Democrat, Rep. James Clyburn, calls it a "smart wall."

Instead of building an actual physical barrier, Pelosi, Clyburn and other…

Byron York.jpg

January 21, 2019

Milton Friedman once observed that “nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.” To be sure, spending bills or regulations initially sold as limited responses to specific conditions often take on a life of their own. They create constituencies that receive funds or…

john hood.jpg

January 20, 2019

It was an extraordinary year.

No, that’s not boosterism by two of ECU’s biggest fans. It was a truly amazing year.

No question, 2018 was colored by the departures of our athletics director, a football coach and a basketball coach, a lot of change in one year. Follow those departures…


January 20, 2019

The Wall Street Journal

By now readers have heard that progressive luminary Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez supports a 70 percent top marginal tax rate, which she says will help finance a “green new deal.” Higher taxes on the rich is the stock socialist answer on how to pay for any project,…

January 20, 2019

The New York Times reports that in the days after President Donald Trump fired James B. Comey as FBI director, law enforcement officials became “so concerned by the president's behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.…


January 20, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has written President Trump to suggest that he postpone his State of the Union address, citing her "security concerns" over the ability of the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security to protect government officials during the shutdown.

With all due respect,…


January 20, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is driving President Trump nuts — a very short drive indeed — by doing something he simply cannot abide: She's stealing the spotlight.

She is also seizing the initiative in the trench warfare over Trump's government shutdown and his imaginary border wall,…

Eugene Robinson
322 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 33
        Next Page»   Last Page»