I am a student at East Carolina University. ECU is an amazing school, and one of 16 in the University of North Carolina (UNC) System. This public higher education system is one that has been a model for many other states. Not anymore.
Margaret Spellings was appointed President of the system in October 2015. She previously served under George W. Bush as a political consultant and senior advisor, and when he became president, she became the Secretary of Education in 2004. She has been known to make anti-LGBT statements and earlier this year she decided that all of the schools in the UNC system must comply with House Bill 2 (a.k.a the Bathroom Bill). This bill does a couple of things:
- Requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their biological sex, instead of the gender that they identify with
- Rejected city ordinances that protected LGBT people from being discriminated against in the workplace
- Prevents cities and counties from setting their own minimum wages
- Eliminates a way for workers to sue for discrimination in state court
Spellings made it so transgender students could not even feel comfortable at their own schools. She later reversed her decision on HB2 and its enforcement.
As it relates to ECU, Spellings recommended Cecil Staton to the UNC Board of Governors in the search for a new chancellor. He was elected Chancellor of ECU and today was his first day on the job. Let me give you a little bit of background on Mr. Staton as it relates to this issue:
- He was a Republican Senator in Georgia’s state legislature for about a decade // he became Majority Whip in 2010
- He sponsored a bill that requires voters to show an ID in order to cast a ballot (similar to what we saw happen in our own NC legislature)
It is known that the voter ID laws we now have in North Carolina, similar to those Staton supported in Georgia, disenfranchise minorities and college students. I am a believer in equality, and I have been fighting this entire summer for fair voter rights. It was a little disturbing to me to know that our new chancellor supports a law that puts our students at a disadvantage. So I voiced my opinion.
These are not aggressive or threatening tweets. These are legitimate concerns that I know many of my fellow students and friends from across the state have. I figured these tweets would be ignored by both Spellings and Staton. Spellings did just that, but Staton did something very different.
He blocked me. A man who is chancellor of a higher education facility blocked one of his students on the first day of his job. Instead of reaching out and trying to offer an explanation or positive sentiments, he reacted in a way that is similar to a teenager who gets their feelings hurt over a Twitter argument. I expected a man who gets paid $450,000 to listen to his students instead of blocking out their voices.
I am a proud ECU Pirate, but today I am disappointed in our university. I am fearful for the future of our education system under Spellings and Staton who are #alreadysilencingstudents.
A friend sent this to me. The Chancellor’s Twitter bio now says “Fair warning: social media bullies and trolls will be blocked.” The tweets I sent out above neither bully or troll the Chancellor, and I never received this “fair warning.”
His bio should actually say: “Fair warning: if I don’t like what you have to say, you will be blocked.”
Here we are again. In addition to being a “bully” and a “troll,” I am now an “abuser.” When I posted those two tweets I was not voicing political views, I was voicing my concerns as a student at ECU.
All of my anxieties are now coming to fruition. I was worried that he wouldn’t be a good leader for our university, and I think he is proving just that.
The Chancellor unblocked me.
Through this entire ordeal I have been called many names and accused of doing all of this as a “publicity stunt.” The biggest insult to me is that people are saying I am doing this to hurt the university. I love this school. I have been a Pirate since I was a very little girl. To accuse me of trying to destroy the school is utterly preposterous. The reasons I voiced my opinion in the first place was because I was concerned about the future of this beautiful university! I am a student who loves their university. I do not have some dark, evil, hidden agenda.
I know there are quite a few people out there who dislike me and even hate me; you make speak poorly of me and call me names. That is fine, but know this: I wish you no ill will.