University of Non-Carolinian Carpetbaggers

by | May 27, 2016 | Editor's Blog, UNC | 19 comments

I’ve been very hesitant to criticize UNC President Margaret Spellings. She hasn’t been in place long enough to judge her. Protests based on her past experience seemed, to me, unfair. I believe in judging people on what they’ve done, not what they might do.

However, Spellings most recent hires sure send up red flags. She’s appointed people with agendas and political backgrounds but no previous ties to the state or university. She appears to be building a team ready for political and ideological battle, something UNC has previously tried to avoid.

In April, Spellings chose a former Georgia state legislator as the new chancellor at East Carolina. As a state Senator, Cecil Staton introduced Georgia’s controversial voter ID law in 2005. His campaign manager back then was Erick Erickson, the prominent conservative commentator who once served as editor of the blog Red State. At least Staton’s got experience as an educator.

Yesterday, Spellings announced she had hired Andrew Kelly as Vice President for Policy and Strategy. Kelly is a researcher and director of the Center on Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute, the free-market think tank based in Washington, DC. He served as an “informal advisor” during Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign. Like Spellings and Staton, Kelly has no previous connection with UNC or the state of North Carolina.

We don’t know what exactly Spellings has in mind but she sure seems to be preparing for a major overhaul of the university system that’s not rooted in any sort of North Carolina tradition but based on free-market ideology. Instead of searching for institutional history, she’s building a team of outsiders just like the Republicans in the legislature who have shifted our state so far to the right. She’s replacing the old boy and girl network that ran the University with free-market carpetbaggers.

It seems our university system is about to become yet another experiment for the conservatives who took over the state. To hear them tell it, North Carolina was a mess when they came to power. They’ve fixed it by turning us into a national laughingstock. Now, they’re going to “fix” our Crown Jewel.


  1. Charles Hogan

    So when are they going to rename it to the North Carolina KochCo university and right wing Think Tank”? Of course, they will put a statue of Art Pope up? UNC now has a – 50 creditability rating, in my humble opinion, especially in the area of research on the environment , right wing politics, minority reports and anything else that might need a university rubber stamp on it to make the propaganda seen legit .

  2. Another Main Street Angry Voter

    She needs to stop hiring crooks and cronies. Or changing anything. She will be one of the first we put on the train getting the hell out of NC. She really needs to move to Kentucky, where they don’t care about education. She is such a disgrace to the esteemed University of NC.

    • Someone from Main Street

      She was shoved into place by the UNC-BOG – are they all carpet-baggers? She is not alone in being a disgrace. The entire NCGOP platform is destructive. Vote out NCGOP out in November! That’s is what we have to do right now!!!

      • Cosmic Janitor

        Absolutely, the NC. GOP needs the boot, but how can we manage to do that when we are unable to demand verification of the electronic voting machine vote tallies? We have now seen enough election results where exit polls do not substantiate the final vote tallies and Republicans are the victors; it seems no matter what the GOP politico’s do – no matter how underhanded, pernicious or outright conspiratorial, they continue to miraculously be elected and reelected. How can a political party, so vilified by the general public, hold majorities in most state house assemblies as well as both houses of the US. Congress ?

  3. Amstel

    Read or listen to “Dark Money” by Jane Mayer and this will all makes sense. The ultra rich, Libertarian elite have long desired to scale the ivory towers of academia to spread their ideology. UNC will be their highest profile takeover yet. What the Koch-aligned groups have managed to accomplish (buy) in NC over the last few years is mind boggling. As a purple state, NC was specially targeted and will now provide a template for future state takeovers.

    • John

      Look what Koch is attempting to do at WCU! With help of Belcher and Foundation. So sad. Sold out for $2 million.

  4. Jay Ligon

    re-segregation not desegregation

  5. Norma Munn

    Reason to worry at least. Given the recent impact of HB2 on the UNC, I would have expected her to be a bit more cautious about creating the impression she has through such overtly political choices. I don’t think it is necessary, however, to hire from those with experience or connections to NC, although I suspect there are a lot of people in this state with great expertise and knowledge who may not have what now appears to be the “right” political mind set. Guess we will see as this develops further, and I hope someone will provide follow-up information over the next few months.

  6. BJohnM

    I’ll tell you what they have in mind, the destruction of public education at all levels.

    • Cosmic Janitor

      Bingo BJohnM! As for Alex Jones’ comment: sure he may be a smart guy – perhaps even likable, but if Andrew Kelly is not a political hack, then what is he doing working at the American Enterprise Institute? Generally speaking, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s a duck. And the same holds true for Spellings, that’s why the NCGA zealots were so rabid to replace Ross. This trend to take over and privatize the NC. education system for ‘profit’ is also apparent in the rapid maneuvering of the NCGA to incorporate charter and virtual charter schools with practically no oversight, accountability or standards – and at tax payer expense, while the NC. public education system is financially strangled.

  7. Jay Ligon

    Like so many arms of the Koch think-tank empire, organizations which claim to be committed to a philosophy of free enterprise, are really dark money conduits promoting a narrow agenda. Rather than evaluating truly free markets, the scholars are committed to promoting business interests of secretive billionaires. The American Enterprise Institute would probably not exist without Koch funding.

    For example, a philosophy of pure free enterprise would at least examine the possibility of the profit potential of alternative energy sources other than fossil fuels. There are significant profits in future technologies, but AEI scholars are charged with complaining about regulation of polluters, not the examination of benefits of industries which do not pollute the air and water.

    Ms. Spellings is drawing key players from the dark world.

    The Kochs are committed to desegregation and de-funding public schools no matter what advantages may exist in a world populated with literate people or a society which is not segmented by color. AEI, like all of the tentacles of the Koch-tipus, is not independent or purely interested in a search for intellectual achievement. It is a public relations branch of the Koch empire masquerading as an independent research operation.

    Like you, I have been trying to keep an open mind regarding Margaret Spellings. She came to North Carolina tainted by anti-intellectualism of the Bush Administration and their hostility to improving public education. She is a politician, not an educator. Her connections to right wing groups did not improve her qualifications. The right believes in private education. After leaving the Bush Administration, she has been associated with the gray area of education occupied by “for-profit” universities some of which offer little education and few employment prospects at grossly inflated tuition costs.

    There is nothing wrong with profits, but many graduates of these private institutions emerge from their course of study with a mountain of debt and no way to repay it. Their resumes are not improved by a degree from a second-rate or third-rate institution. In fact, it may hurt their chances for some jobs.

    Clearly, a prestigious university system like the University of North Carolina could have easily found a president with a more impressive, less controversial resume. The right wing zealots are not themselves intellectuals. Many are not learned even about free markets or economics. Their selection of Ms. Spellings was an ideological choice, not in the best interests of an historically important institution like UNC.

    If Ms. Spellings is committed to a UNC system molded in the image and likeness of a Koch-inspired, for-profit anti-intellectual scam,she should take her vision and controversy elsewhere.

    • adrienne ochis

      SOOOOOOOOOOOO true about the Koch brothers university infiltration .Look at George Mason Univ. Everyone should read the new book
      Dark Money… The Hidden History of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right by Jane Mayer………….an eye opener, and very scary.

      • Jay Ligon

        “Dark Money” explains so much about how we got to where we are now. There are literally hundreds of sources of the same ideas, all funded by the billionaires. It looks like a lot of different sources agreeing with each other. In fact, there is only one source echoing throughout the media and academia. George Mason University is ground zero. They have never seen a Koch dollar they didn’t like.

      • Hawkeye

        I am so pleased you mentioned Jane Mayer. She was on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air ‘ just yesterday , talking about her new expose of Right Wing tunnel rat James O’Keefe , who accidentally voice-mailed planning of his dirty tricks.

        I hope to find the transcript in the next few days , so I don’t have a url for it yet.

        She has examined the Black Money funding of spreading lies , and putting moles and sneaks into liberal campaigns and orgs , like ACORN , in order to destroy them.

        O’Keefe has $$millions , from who knows , to run his evil schemes.

        His sort uses fake names , fake purposes and then edits hidden camera video to smear decent people .

    • Vincent Kopp

      Will UNC become a shell with a for profit virtual campus that trades on the historical university name? I think this is not only possible but likely. Esse Quam Videri.

  8. Alex Jones

    I don’t mean this as an endorsement of Spellings’ leadership, but Andrew Kelly is a legitimate hire. He’s not a Heritage Foundation/Pope Center hack. Liberals like Tim Noah would tell you that Kelly brings real insights to the table.

    • Someone from Main Street

      What insights? I’ve been impressed with how Spellings has been advocating for faculty raises and student achievements, but the ECU hire is very troubling. What does Andrew Kelly bring to the table? Hoping it’s not how to privatize this prestigious public university system.

  9. hayes mcneill

    Sounding a lot like a right-wing occupying force. The most dangerous are the ones who appear presentable.

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