Are you the fair-minded sort who believes it just may be possible that newly appointed UNC system president Margaret Spellings isn't merely a political hack whose motives have zilch to do with advancing academia? Prepare to be disillusioned.
Spellings—a former G.W. Bush administration secretary of education and University of Phoenix board member hired by a Republican-appointed board of governors to replace Tom Ross, who was fired last year for reasons no one ever really explained—provided further evidence of such hackery last month when she made Cecil Staton the future chancellor of East Carolina University.
Former INDY staff writer Billy Ball, who is now with N.C. Policy Watch, took a deep dive into Staton's past earlier this week. On the surface, some of Staton's background is impressive. He has a business degree from Oxford. He's a successful broadcasting and publishing entrepreneur who's wielded some academic fundraising clout. He was an associate professor and provost for twelve years at Mercer University in Georgia. This past April, he was hired as the interim president of Georgia's Valdosta State University.
His political past, however, does not look so benign—even on the surface.
As a five-term Republican member of the Georgia Senate, Staton moved millions in taxpayer dollars to Mercer, the private university that employed him. He authored a voter ID bill that a federal judge likened to a "poll tax." He was also notorious for pushing police crackdowns on immigrants.
Most bizarrely, he was involved in an email scandal, in which the then-senator allegedly used a fake account and name to spread attacks about a political rival.
"We know Ms. Spellings was a political appointee who has had nothing really to do with advancing academia," N.C. NAACP president William Barber told Ball. "Now it seems birds of a feather flock together."
Faculty members are outraged, but—surprise!—their anger is being brushed off by the board of governors. Staton, who starts in July, will earn an annual salary of $520,000. That makes him the third-highest-paid chancellor in the state.