UNC President Margaret Spellings reportedly stepping down

UNC President Margaret Spellings.
Photo: UNC System

UNC President Margaret Spellings. Photo: UNC System

Tyler Newman, News Editor

Margaret Spellings, current president of the University of North Carolina system, is reportedly leaving the university system, according to a report from the News & Observer.

Reported on Oct. 25, the news came after three sources, one of whom had direct knowledge of the situation, informed the News & Observer of Spellings’ apparent departure.

In a Thursday afternoon media release, the UNC System said the board will meet Friday in “emergency session to consider an executive personnel matter.”

Spellings was notably the secretary of education, from 2005 to 2009, under U.S. President George W. Bush, and was hired by the UNC Board of Governors in 2015 to replace Tom Ross, the previous president.

She began her term in March of 2016 with an annual salary of $775,000. Spellings’ five-year contract is set to expire in 2021.

The UNC president faced political hurdles during the past two-and-a-half years of her tenure, including the controversial House Bill 2. Spellings also had to deal with the protests and eventual toppling of Silent Sam, on UNC Chapel Hill’s campus.

In the past, The UNC Board of Governors has been prominently split on Spellings and her role as president, with some viewing her time in office positively, while others question her administration and the job she has done.

Over the summer, the Board of Governors had a shakeup in leadership. The chairman at the time, Lou Bissette, stepped down when his term ended. Bissette was a strong supporter of Spellings and her work.

Bissette was replaced by Harry Smith, who had taken the side of challenging Spellings over Silent Sam. However, Smith complimented Spellings on her work after assuming his position as chairman, calling her a “phenomenal leader” and rallying other board members to get behind her as president.

Spellings has recently involved herself on working for better graduation rates, bringing in more low-income and rural students and affecting the economy of North Carolina through the 17 system campuses.

According to the News & Observer, three campuses have had mostly flat or reduced tuition thanks to an N.C. Promise during Spellings’ tenure. The three campuses are Elizabeth City State, UNC Pembroke and Western Carolina University.=

“The large majority of students here are coming here, looking at Western, having a life experience unlike any other because of NC Promise. It has made college possible, your future possible,” Spellings said during a visit to Western Carolina University on Wednesday.

Spellings has visited UNC Wilmington four times since assuming her role as president of the system.

UNCW Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli poses with UNC President Margaret Spellings as she begins her visit of UNCW and the Wilmington community. PHOTO BY: JEFF JANOWSKI/UNCW

Her first visit was in March of 2016 to speak at Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli’s installation ceremony. The second visit was in April of 2016, the third in October of 2017 and the most recent in March of 2018.

It is unclear where Spellings will go if she does officially step down, more information is expected to be released on Friday.

News Editor Tyler Newman can be found on Twitter @tnewman39.