Who’s Really Playing Politics at UNC?

Once upon a time, there was a happy, sleepy university system in which nobody quarreled. The Board of Governors rubberstamped whatever the President wanted, the legislature gladly handed over whatever sums the President asked for, and the State Governor smiled on from above. But that period of comity in the governance of the University of … Continue reading “Who’s Really Playing Politics at UNC?”


We’re One People, Not ‘Two North Carolinas’

University of North Carolina system president Margaret Spellings recently outlined her plans for higher education to drive economic prosperity in the News & Observer. Her “Two North Carolinas” class rhetoric was remarkably reminiscent of that of another North Carolina public figure with ties to the University of North Carolina. That is, failed (and disgraced) former … Continue reading “We’re One People, Not ‘Two North Carolinas’”


Is Academic Reform for Insiders Only?

“Reform” is an appealing word, suggesting change intended for the better. It is frequently used in discussions of higher education. Critics, especially conservative ones, point out visible cracks in the Ivory Tower and demand that they be “reformed.” Politicians do the same. And deep-pocketed donors have their own ideas of what higher education should be, … Continue reading “Is Academic Reform for Insiders Only?”


Will the UNC System Rise Above Higher Education’s Status Quo?

UNC System leaders are overhauling their 2013 strategic planning initiative. Whether that will result in sound reform ideas, however, is up in the air. North Carolina’s university system is a powerful force in the state—armed with its own lobbying team, almost 50,000 employees, and a $9.5 billion annual budget. It is a machine with a tendency to aggrandize. Curbing its appetite for expansion and self-serving policies won’t be easy.



Welcome to North Carolina, Secretary Spellings

The search for the next University of North Carolina system president has finally concluded. Margaret Spellings, secretary of the U.S. Education Department during George W. Bush’s second presidential term, was unanimously elected by the system’s Board of Governors on October 23. Spellings, who will take the helm in March 2016, is a moderate Republican, but one who shows some promise of developing into a reform-minded university leader—a very welcome possibility. She opposes what she calls universities’ “send us the money and leave us alone” approach, and some of her views on higher education challenge those of the academic establishment.