On April 25, 12-15 students gathered at the back entrance of the Weatherspoon Museum to protest Margaret Spellings’ visit to campus.
Of the Spellings protest attendants, a majority also participated and organized UNCG’s HB-2 protest. Throughout the protest, participants chanted: ““Hey hey, ho ho, Margaret Spelling’s has got to go! When students’ rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back! When black lives are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back! When HBU’s [Historically Black Universities] are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back! When trans lives are under attack, what do we do, stand up fight back!”
The Spellings protest followed a similar format to the UNCG HB-2 protest, but on a smaller scale. Like the UNCG HB-2 protest, participants formed a small circle to introduce themselves and dance, while chanting.
UNCG alumni and protest organizers, Zach Easterling and Jonathan Garris, were two of the prominent voices in this introduction chant and dance. “My name is Zach, yeah, and I’m first on the list, I got the power cause I do it like this,” Easterling said as they proceeded to dance, while the remaining protesters shouted: “P-O-W-E-R we got the power, cause we are, the collective!”
Garris then followed, “My name is John, yeah, and I’m queer on this list, I got the power cause I do it like this,” and also proceeded to dance in the middle of the circle of protesters.
Unlike the UNCG HB-2 protest, however, Spellings’ protesters were met with more resistance. Many passersby sent protesters annoyed glances and yelled snarky remarks. Of these passersby, one said, “You catch more honey with flies,” while another said, “get out of here.”
The energy of the protest, however short-lived, persisted, as protesters continued to chant, “Ain’t no power like the power of the people, cause the power of the people don’t stop! If I can’t get it, shut it down. If you can’t get it, shut it down, if we can’t get it, shut it down!”
Easterling, organizer of the UNCG HB-2 protest as well as the Spellings’ protest, said they decided to protest Spellings, because, “Essentially, we kind of take offense to the fact that [Spellings’ visit to UNCG] was done secretively. Like, it was a large opportunity for people who might otherwise disagree with Margaret Spellings to speak to her and voice their opinions. I feel like this event was kind of, like, tailored to make her feel good about her support of UNCG, and I guess, like, we’re here to show that it’s not all daisies, and that we’re very much here…”
Jonathan Garris, UNCG alum and Spellings’ protest organizer, expressed similar sentiments to Easterling.
“[I’m protesting] Margaret Spellings, [because of] the fact that a lot of the times that when you have a new person appointed, the institutions that they fund are not in the interests of the students. A lot of times, institutions are defunded, strictly like HBCUs, or even departments, like you have your liberal arts department that also are not getting a lot of funding. Due to the fact that Margaret Spellings views college as a business, and not like an institution of higher learning,” said Garris.
Alex Rae, Spellings’ protester organizer and UNCG alum, said they believed Spellings’ appointment set a bad precedent for trans students and workers rights.
“[I decided to protest] because we found out that Margaret Spellings was going to be here, which of course was a secret to everyone, because everyone kept where she was going to be on the down low, because she knows protesters are going to be there. Everyone in the UNC system is really pissed at her, in general, because a: she’s like an evil demagogue, b: because she recently came out with a really weak statement about HB-2, basically saying that the UNC system was going to comply with HB-2, which puts trans students and workers in danger,” said Rae.
Sam Naber, protest organizer and UNCG freshman, said they decided to protest because they believe Spellings is out of touch with students in the UNC System, and that her policy and beliefs are problematic.
Students were heard expressing their outrage over Spellings, particularly her past comments about the LGBTQ+ and black communities. Her approach to governing came under fire by the protestors, as did her history with the Bush Administration. The perceived secrecy of Spellings’ visit to UNCG amplified anger on-campus, leading to complaints that she is unwilling to engage with the students of UNCG in a meaningful way.
“[Spellings] is making it seem like she wants to talk to our students, but, like, is actually just having these private events that she gets to talk to our chancellor, and not get to have an open conversation with students, and pretends that she cares about what the UNC school system looks like, but she doesn’t,” said Naber.
Nhawndie Smith, Spellings’ protester and A&T junior, concurred with Naber.
“[I’m here] to stand in solidarity with Spartans and other students across the UNC system that don’t agree with the lack of transparency in regards to Spellings becoming appointed.” said Smith.