It would be pretty hard to ignore all of the hustle and bustle around campus surrounding the 125 Year Anniversary celebration for NC State. The one thing that may have been lost in all of this is what exactly it’s been 125 years since and why we’re making such a big deal over it. NC State opened it’s doors in 1889, not 1887. Some of the smarter individuals (or just those who have been paying attention to all the buzz around campus) know that 1887 is when the University was founded by the general assembly and 1889 is when the institution first opened it’s doors. What’s weird is that the General Assemble established NC State in 1887 which is a full 5 years after the passing of the Morrill Land-Grant Act in 1882. What took the General Assembly so long?
unc’S FIRST LOSS OF INSTITUTIONAL CONTROL
In 1882, the Morrill Land Grant Act authorized $7,500 in federal funds to be sent to North carolina. That money had long-since been sent to unc-Chapel Hill, and for good reason. unc at this time had been around for 95 years at this point and why would you go to the massive effort of founding an entirely new institution if you already have something that works?
Because unc was f—ing it up; that’s why.
The facts as I have been able to track them down stop just short of any kind of scandal, but I’ll cover that in a bit. For now, it will suffice to say that the public record shows that some farmers and business owners were “unhappy” with unc’s handling of the federal land-grant money and “politely insisted” that the General Assembly form another institution to correctly manage the land-grant money and serve the role of helping the people and the state of North carolina.
unc’S DIRTY DEALINGS EMBEDDED IN NCSU HISTORY
We’ve already established that unc was receiving the $7,500 in federal grant money, which would total around $175,000 in today’s currency. Over 5 years that would amount to almost $900,000 in today’s money. In 1887 when it is recorded that some farmers and business owners were “unhappy” with unc’s handling of the situation and the GA was “encouraged” to establish NC State, it’s interesting that for some reason the state government could only give land to the new college, but not one penny of funding.
So did the $0.9 million just disappear? Did the GA just want to not fund this fledgling university out of spite?
Maybe an anecdote will give us an theory: I had a professor in a CHASS course that was a joint instructor between unc-CH and NCSU. This professor was talking to us prior to a unc-NC State football game and explained to us that the rivalry between the two institutions was far deeper than just some athletic competition. According to some form of research she had done between the two schools (I can’t find it, so take it for what it’s worth), there was a professor in 1882 that was placed in control of the land-grant money at unc as the university received it. His tasking, in accordance with the Morrill Land Grant Act was to perform soil research to assist the farming community in producing better crops. Several years later, when no research was produced, the public began asking what they were getting out of this land-grant program. Turns out that this unc professor hadn’t done any work and when they looked for him for questioning, he was no where to be found… and neither was the funding. Turns out Chapel Hill has been full of money-hungry cheaters far pre-dating Marvin Austin.
THERE IS A LITTLE BIT OF TRUTH TO EVERY CRAZY STORY
Even though this is just the story of one professor, it does match with the facts we know. It explains why the farmers and businessmen of the day would be unhappy with the university. It explains why there was no money for the General Assembly to give to the new ‘North carolina College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts’. It also fits perfectly with everything we know about the jerks several miles west of Raleigh.
Whether my CHASS professor’s story is true or not, the facts still remain that NC State was founded as a correction to a mistake; the mistake being unc Chapel Hill. While unc was busy maintaining the status-quo of elitism and holding contempt for actual economic progress within the state, the people found it necessary to create a university that actually stood for something, that actually accomplished something, and that they could be proud of. That university is North carolina State University and it stands here today as the shining beacon of everything it set out to be. Despite our troubles over the years economically, administratively, and athletically, NC State has always sought to be the driving force of economic progress in North carolina and elsewhere around the nation.
I’m proud of NC State and proud of our foundings in 1887 as the correction to a mistake. Happy Birthday, NC State… and go to Hell, carolina!