Below is a letter to the editor of the Daily Tar Heel written by members of the American Studies Graduate Student Association. I am proud to have written and published this statement with my colleagues and collaborators.
To the Editor of the Daily Tar Heel:
We, the undersigned, are members of the American Studies Graduate Student Association.
We write now in the spirit of our Department’s commitment to study and teach the democratic structures and practices of our nation’s history and present, the cultural and historical significance of an American public university, and the manifold meanings of what it is to identify as an American. It is in this spirit that we wish to express our disappointment in the actions of the Board of Governors since the wrongful dismissal of University system President Tom Ross and our disapproval of President-elect, Margaret Spellings.
Former Board Chair, John Fennebresque, by circumventing the Board’s search committee to push forward his candidate under a partisan agenda, violated the governing structures which are in place to ensure no board member runs a monopoly over the Presidential search. Members of the Board of Governors should be ashamed that they have let Fennebresque break down egalitarian structures of university governance to produce a President-elect who is unfit for the position.
Margaret Spellings, in her own words, is not an academic, a teacher, or a researcher. She holds to her record being a board member of the Apollo Group, the parent company of the much criticized for-profit school, the University of Phoenix. As Secretary of Education, she was the chief enforcer of the No Child Left Behind Act, legislation now almost totally removed from federal law because of its widespread and systemic failure to use accountability as a tool for reform. The University system has had a long and turbulent relationship with conservative factions in the state who have tried their hand at controlling it. Spellings’s record proves her unqualified to navigate this relationship and prioritize students and staff over her politics. Though Spellings is one in a line of conservative partisans, unlike others who have come before her she has no sense of our system’s history of progressive and public scholarship and teaching, making her especially dangerous.
However, what moves Spellings’s relationship to the system from danger to outright threat is her ignorance about what identifying as LGBTIQA means. Though she is not an academic, a teacher, or a researcher, Spellings should know that being LGBTIQA is not a “lifestyle.” Affirming that homosexuality is a choice, not an identity, is a deplorable ideology, one unsupported, not just by academics, teachers, and researchers, but by a vast majority of the public. Under Spellings’s leadership, students across the state have reason to worry that their intolerant President does not understand, let alone respect, their identities. If our University system seeks to uphold the values of our public promise to North Carolina, we need leadership that values our system’s historical and cultural significance and the students who comprise it at every university across the state.