The University of North Carolina is going through an agonizing search for a new president of the state university system. The Republican controlled Board of Governors forced the early retirement of Tom Ross, and then disintegrated into bickering over his successor.
The leading candidate is rumored to be Margaret Spelings. Remember her as a George W. Bush political adviser, then secretary of Education with “No Child Left Behind” as her major legacy, for better or for worse, and then the “Spellings Commission.” Her ties to G. W. Bush (and Karl Rove) make many North Carolinians nervous that she will prove to be a partisan choice.
But here’s another side to the story. That Commission (See Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commission_on_the_Future_of_Higher_Education ) was co-chaired by Jim Hunt, a former Democratic governor of NC. That’s right, a Democrat. They seemed to find common ground on a very tough view of "accountability," a.k.a. as demanding hard evidence that colleges were preparing their students for entry level jobs.
Her past collaboration with Jim Hunt raises the hope that she will be a less partisan appointment than many people fear. Maybe she is a centrist Republican with enough backbone to stand up against the hard liners. But, again, there’s another side to it: Many academics think the Commission had an excessively narrow view of "accountability," and shudder to think what she (with Jim Hunt at her side?) might mean for liberal education at UNC.