Recently, I read with interest the viewpoint of Yale History Professor Glenda Gilmore (Nov. 2 O-pinion) regarding UNC System President Margaret Spellings and her legal obligation to promote an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, including those in the LGBT community.
As context to my comment here, it is important to note that I am an openly gay man and a member of the faculty and administration at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. SMU, like the UNC system, has policies that protect the rights of its LGBT faculty, staff, and students; prevent discrimination; and create a welcoming and inclusive environment.
I have known Ms. Spellings for nearly 20 years. In the late 1990s, we worked closely together on the Texas Reading Initiative. During her time as U.S. Secretary of Education, I was involved with federal efforts she led to improve reading outcomes for children nationwide. Currently, I work with her on collaborative efforts between Southern Methodist University and the George W. Bush Presidential Institute. Despite the fact that we have our disagreements about issues and policies, my sexuality has never factored into our productive work relationship. In fact, Ms. Spellings has always gone out of her way to inquire about my partner and our family and we have always been included as a couple in social and professional events she has hosted where spouses and partners were invited.
Ms. Spellings and I have had a chance to talk recently about her appointment to the presidency of the UNC system. Like many others, I have given her my unsolicited advice about higher education leadership. I hope she is successful at leading one of the finest university systems in the world.
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Like all higher education leaders, Ms. Spellings has many challenges ahead. I anticipate that she will be looking for ways to support faculty and staff across the UNC system to maintain high standards, expand accessibility, and enhance the system’s global impact.
She will need the best minds UNC has to offer, regardless of their sexuality, gender expression or gender identity. The Margaret Spellings I know will be interested in her colleagues’ knowledge and expertise rather than their LGBT status.