Margaret Spellings, a U.S. education secretary under President George W. Bush, will be the next president of the University of North Carolina system. The Board of Governors voted on Friday to elect Ms. Spellings.
The vote followed a presidential search beset by controversy almost from the very start. In January the board voted to fire the current president, Thomas W. Ross, while saying the decision had “nothing to do with President Ross’s performance or ability to continue in the office.” The lack of an explicit rationale prompted Mr. Ross’s supporters to allege political motivations for the ouster.
The search for Mr. Ross’s successor has been marred by discontent — both internal and external — about how it’s been handled. Board members have complained about being shut out of the search, with some calling for the chairman, John C. Fennebresque, to resign. A week ago the search committee reportedly met with Ms. Spellings in an emergency session, prompting both state legislators and faculty members to cry foul about the process.
“The faculty will not prejudge the commitment of new president to the well-being of the university,” the system’s Faculty Assembly said in a statement on Thursday. “But he or she must understand that the secretive character of this search, and his or her own indifference to consulting with staff and faculty when s/he was an active candidate for the position, will make it difficult to win the confidence and trust of the university community.”
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