Vet School Debate, 1974-1975
The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) pushed for North Carolina to consolidate degree programs so that historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) could compete. When the former Governor Robert Scott urged the Board of Governors to create a Veterinary Medicine School at North Carolina State University (NCSU), HEW saw this as an opportunity to test the UNC system’s commitment to desegregation.
HEW officials argued that by establishing the new Vet School at a traditionally white institution like NCSU, the UNC system was showing a lack of commitment to its desegregation plan. By placing the new program instead at the historically black North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University (NC A&T), it would attract white students and enhance state support for HBCUs.
The Board of Governors responded by agreeing to do a racial impact study that predicted that locating the Vet School at NCSU would lead to an 18 percent black enrollment. While placing the Vet School at NC A&T would result in 20 percent black enrollment. Raymond Dawson, vice-president of Academic Affairs for the University of North Carolina, said in a later interview that he felt the racial impact study was a delay tactic because the location of the Vet School at NCSU was already a forgone conclusion.
In the 1974 December meeting the board approved the location of the Vet School at NCSU over the objections of three out of the four black members of the board. Peter Holmes, director of the Office of Civil Rights, in a later interview said he viewed the Boards actions as symbolic of their lack of commitment to desegregation process.
HEW eventually withdrew the threat of cutting federal funding, but the relationship between UNC system and HEW had deteriorated. UNC system officials came to view HEW involvement as unnecessary federal interference in their academic institutions.