At an October 23 press conference, recently appointed UNC President Margaret Spellings declared a conflict of interest with her new responsibilities. UNC Policy 501 (a) states that, as president, she is “responsible for the presentation and interpretation of all University policies.” That means that she must use public funds to uphold the UNC policy to provide “an inclusive and welcoming environment” regardless of an individual’s “sexual orientation” and to prevent “ discrimination, harassment, or retaliation” against students, staff, or faculty, regardless of sexual orientation.
Spellings seems unwilling to do that. When asked at the press conference about her past comments regarding gay citizens, she responded, “I’m not going to comment on those lifestyles.” Then she explained her demand as Secretary of Education that PBS refund federal money spent on the animated program Buster the Bunny because it included four gay characters among many. Her opposition, she said, was “a matter of how we use taxpayer dollars.”
Part of her job as president of UNC will be to “use taxpayer dollars” to foster a welcoming environment and combat discrimination based on sexual orientation. Moreover, she actually has the responsibility to “comment on those lifestyles” by demonstratively welcoming them to UNC.
North Carolina’s taxpayers, including those who are lesbian and gay, can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense by putting the question directly to Spellings before she is inaugurated: “Will you spend taxpayer money to provide an inclusive environment and defend from discrimination all of your constituents, regardless of sexual orientation?” If she again indicates that she will not, she has no choice but to resign.
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Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore is a professor of history at Yale University. She holds degrees from Wake Forest, UNC Charlotte and UNC Chapel Hill and taught at Queens University of Charlotte.