CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – Despite starting her job more than seven months ago, Margaret Spellings was inaugurated as the 18th president of the University of North Carolina system Thursday morning.
Security was tight at the event that saw elected officials, leaders of individual UNC universities, and Dan Forest, lieutenant governor of North Carolina.
Spellings was met with thunderous applause as she entered Memorial Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill to set the tone of her term as president of UNC.
Access to education was the theme of her speech as she said education should be a civil right, and that everyone should raise their expectations for higher education.
She also posed many questions, including whether or not the school is adhering to some of its most basic philosophies.
“No one in our state is denied a college education because of a lack of money. Are we keeping that historic promise?” asked Spellings.
She preached inclusion and explained the power of education to an audience of hundreds of students, staff and state officials.
“With 17 institutions working toward a shared mission, we have the scale and imagination to tackle any problem,” she said.
The only time Spellings mentioned House Bill 2, a divisive issue for the school system, was after the ceremony.
She addressed a recent ruling by a U.S. district judge saying three plaintiffs are allowed to use restrooms corresponding to their gender identity on UNC campuses.
“The university is caught in the middle. We are good public servants that show up every day trying to follow state and federal laws and we find ourselves in a conflict here,” said Spellings.
Spellings concluded her vision for the UNC system by saying the University has a proud history, but the best is yet to be.