App State Faculty Senate Expresses Concerns Over Spellings Appointment

Published Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 11:33 am

A resolution expressing serious reservations about the appointment of Margaret Spellings as the next president of the UNC system was approved overwhelmingly at a specially called session of the Appalachian State University Faculty Senate on Monday, November 30.

The October 23 announcement of Spellings’ selection by the University system’s Board of Governors was the culmination of nearly 10 months of controversy, which began with the dismissal of President Tom Ross in January.

The resolution (the full text of which is found below) was approved with 27 votes in favor, none opposed, and 4 abstentions.

The resolution expressed concern about the secretive nature of the Board of Governors’ search process and the lack of any meaningful faculty input. It also detailed the Senate’s reservations about Ms. Spellings’ ability to perform the duties of UNC president effectively in light of her record, notably her intolerant remarks and actions against the LGBT community, her work on behalf of the for-profit college industry and Ceannate, a for-profit student loan collection company, as well as her long association with high stakes testing at the K-12 level.

The resolution condemned the process through which Ms. Spellings was chosen, calling on the Board of Governors to revise its search procedures.

It further requested that Ms. Spellings, as a condition of her installation, affirm her commitment to campus inclusivity, step down from her position at Ceannate and publicly explain her involvement in the for-profit education industry.

Commenting on the vote, Faculty Senate Chair Paul Gates said, “The Senate’s action today is a powerful expression of the Appalachian faculty’s concern over the future of public education in North Carolina and our commitment to the fundamental principles of academic integrity, equal opportunity and the faculty’s role in institutional governance.

Full text of the resolution:

Appalachian State University Faculty Senate resolution re: the Search Process for UNC President

Whereas, The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors carried out its recent Presidential search in a highly secretive manner that excluded even an appearance of meaningful faculty involvement, and

Whereas, Drs. Stephen Leonard and Gabriel Lugo, speaking on behalf of the UNC Faculty Assembly, stated that the candidate selected by the Board of Governors’ process “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,” and

Whereas, The Board of Governors has on numerous occasions denied meaningful faculty input on

tuition, admissions and financial aid, preferring to pursue what Drs. Leonard and Lugo call “ill-advised policies and practices that have proven detrimental to the best interests of public higher education in this state,” and

Whereas, The American Association of University Professor’s landmark Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities declares that “the selection of a chief administrative officer should follow upon a cooperative search by the governing board and the faculty,” and

Whereas, The adoption of the practice of shared governance in many American institutions of higher learning after the Second World War coincided with the high point of the United States’ reputation for academic excellence, and

Whereas, UNC President-elect Margaret Spellings has a record of pursuing policies that are contrary to the very idea and integrity of public higher education;

Whereas, President-elect Spellings’ record raises a number of serious concerns about the policies she will pursue as UNC’s president, specifically:

– Her intolerant remarks and actions against the LGBT community, which violate the “spirit of inclusion” that Appalachian State claims to promote in its mission statement, as well as similar language found in the mission statements and non-discrimination policies of other UNC campuses;

– Her involvement in the implementation of No Child Left Behind and the report “A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education,” commonly known as the “Spellings report,” which promotes high-stakes standardized testing and the narrowing of the curriculum, as manifested by “teaching to the test”;

– Her involvement in the for-profit education sector, notably her service on the Board of Directors of the Apollo Education Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix, which is noted for its high student dropout rates, the high rate of default on student debt and weak investment in instruction, among other problems;

– Her advocacy to advance the pecuniary interests of Ceannate, a for-profit student-debt collection agency, by serving as chair of its Advisory Board during a time when student debt has risen dramatically in recent years; therefore, be it

Resolved, that Appalachian State’s Faculty Senate condemn the Board of Governors’ disregard for accepted norms of shared governance in the conduct of its presidential search and its denial of any meaningful attempt to involve faculty.

Be it further resolved, that Appalachian State’s Faculty Senate call upon the Board of Governors to revise its search procedures in a manner consistent with accepted norms of shared governance, notably AAUP’s Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, with the input of Faculty Assembly and UNC system Faculty Senates.

Be it further resolved, that Appalachian State’s Faculty Senate request that the Board of Governors require that President-elect Spellings, as a condition of her installation, publicly affirm her commitment to the existing mission statements of UNC’s member institutions, specifically as they relate to academic freedom and non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Be it further resolved that the Appalachian State Faculty Senate call upon the Board of Governors to take a stand against standardized testing as the benchmark of accountability, and that any accountability measures emphasize the expansion of student creativity and critical thinking.

Be it further resolved, that Appalachian State’s Faculty Senate request that the Board of Governors require that President-elect Spellings, as a condition of her installation, resign from all her affiliations with Ceannate.

Be it further resolved, that Appalachian State’s Faculty Senate request that the Board of Governors require that President-elect Spellings, as a condition of her installation, explain in detail and in public the steps she took as a member of the Board of Directors of the Apollo Education Group to address concerns about the troubling practices of the for-profit education sectors, notably those described in the United States Senate’s 2012 report (“For Profit Higher Education: The Failure to Safeguard the Federal Investment and Ensure Student Success”).

Be it further resolved, that the President of Appalachian State’s Faculty Senate communicate this resolution to the Presidents of the other UNC Faculty Senates, the President of the Faculty Assembly, the Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors, and Governor Pat McCrory.

*Release from App State Faculty Senate and App State chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)

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