The News & Observer reported
in August on e-mails showing that conservatives expressed delight when the board voted on Jan. 16 to oust Ross (who earned
a base salary of $600,000 in his final contract year):
The selection of Spellings was so controversial, even within the governing board, that its chairman, John Fennebresque, resigned a few days later. According to NC Policy Watch
, “just three days after she was hired, the chair of the UNC Board of Governors announced he was resigning from the board, following calls from his colleagues to step aside as a result of the acrimonious search process and the jumbled dismissal months earlier of Spellings’ predecessor, Tom Ross.” Fennebresque had, NC Policy Watch reported, said with tears in his eyes after Spellings was appointed that he hoped she would prove to be a great UNC leader.
Spellings oversaw the initial implementation of No Child Left Behind when she was education secretary under Bush, from 2005 to 2009, and she currently is the head of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. While education secretary, she convened the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, which in 2006 released a report with controversial recommendations, including a call for colleges and universities to focus on training students for the workforce and supporting research with commercial applications. She also served on the board of directors for the Apollo Group, the parent company of the for-profit University of Phoenix, which paid her more than $300,000 for her involvement.
The choice of Spellings has sparked savage criticism by students and faculty, who have said that she is not a suitable president for the vaunted UNC system and that she was chosen as a political move because she is likely to accept changes in UNC priorities much easier than Ross would have. Her résumé was one target, as was a statement she made shortly after being asked how much politics would play a role in her leadership of the UNC system. She responded: