Spellings Appears Poised to Lead U of North Carolina

October 15, 2015

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors is set to hold an emergency meeting today with one candidate for president of the 16-campus system -- former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings -- and the board's plan has roiled lawmakers and others who say it would run afoul of legislation designed to ensure an inclusive search, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

The newspaper's report, which was based on three unnamed sources, would represent yet another stunning development in what has been a tumultuous several years at the university. A dramatic change in the state's political landscape since 2010 (with the legislative and executive branches in Republican hands for the first time since Reconstruction), along with self-inflicted wounds like a deeply damaging athletic academic scandal at the flagship Chapel Hill campus, brought about last winter's ouster of UNC President Tom Ross without any explanation.

The months since then have been characterized by significant uncertainty over the direction that the university's board seemed to have in mind and agitation over the style and secrecy of the chair, John Fennebresque.

The legislature passed a bill -- which remains unsigned by Governor Pat McCrory -- that would require that three candidates be brought before the full board for consideration. Word that the board would hold an emergency meeting to discuss one candidate prompted a bipartisan group of legislators to write to board members Thursday, warning that the board's actions appeared to "circumvent the overwhelming will" of North Carolinians, as reflected by the passed (though unsigned) measure, the newspaper reported.

At least two board members, citing the legislators' letter, late Thursday called for Fennebresque's resignation.

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