BRATTON: Do you think it's valid to suggest that East Carolina has had a tremendous impact on the structure of higher education because of pushiness and the rest of the establishments attempts to . . .
JENKINS: Yes, they joined in with us, but I think the big thing that we had to get over, and we still are going to have to get over with it, is the fact that our best weapon is going to be honesty. Keep hitting honesty.
To illustrate my point, and I almost had to call their bluff. They put out the word, "You have umpteen Ph.D.'s to be sure," because at that time we had a higher percentage of Ph.D.'s than any of them. You see we were up to about 50% or 51. When you take all the graduate assistants and this and that, we had more Ph.D.'s than they did. They put out the word that we had Ph.D.'s, but they really aren't Chapel Hill style Ph.D.'s. They aren't, they are ersatz Ph.D.'s not the real McCoy. So I made a study of it. I had [Robert] Holt make a study of it. We found out that we had some forty or fifty Ph.D.'s from Chapel Hill, so I called back up there. I said, "Well, I'm going to take your word for it." I said, "I'm going to ask the board at the next meeting, number one, every Ph.D. who's not tenured from Chapel Hill is going to be fired. We are going to have a constant rule, we never hire a Ph.D. [from Chapel Hill]. We like them. We think they're good. But you say they are ersatz, so therefore, I'm going to take you at your word." "Oh, hell, you can't do that." I said, "The hell I can't. You said it. I didn't say it." "Well, you know, whoever said that didn't mean it." Oh, geez, they backtracked so damn fast that they didn't know what to do.
Then Governor Hodges, who was exceedingly close to the university and didn't care too much for here, as a matter of fact, he said to his friends that he didn't care for what was happening down here. Because this part of the state didn't support the Research Triangle the way he thought they should. He put out the word that the SAT that the youngsters who enter here take is different from the SAT's they take in Chapel Hill. Well, I wasn't going to fight that battle, so I called Princeton. I said, "You fellows are selling this thing. You're getting paid for it. You're getting paid well. Our governor says that you have two varieties, one easy and one hard. If that is true, you ought to tell us that that is true. If not, you ought to defend your own product." And boy they did. They put out a story on the AP and UP and everything else that there isn't anything except one type of SAT. There isn't a hard one and a weak one and that type of thing.
Then another thing we had to fight very desperately in North Carolina. I don't know where it came from. Yes, I do know where it came from. But the people were talking in terms of the pyramid type of education. There should be, the apex should be Chapel Hill, State, maybe State. Historically State wasn't in the act. Historically, State was a junior college and they had a very, very tough struggle to bring engineering over there. People didn't want it to go over there. So they said the Woman's College and Chapel Hill should, and State should be the apex. They should be at the top. They should have the most money. They should have the best instruction and the most difficult courses. In the middle would be East Carolina, Appalachian and maybe West[ern] Carolina. At the bottom of the apex should be the black colleges and the Indian college, Pembroke.
Now, I had, and many of my friends, had to fight very hard to prove the foolishness of that. We said, number one, there is no such thing as easy algebra, medium algebra and weak algebra. There is no thing as easy French, medium French and so forth. I said, secondly, they all pay taxes. They are all entitled, every last person who goes to a publicly supported school is entitled to the best, not the weakest. I said, thirdly, they all mean professional school together. So are you saying now that the man who wants to be a physician, who is at the bottom rung is going to be sort of a weaker physician? He won't really know how to take care of you when you are sick? He's going to be a weak lawyer, he's going to be a weak engineer, or an architect, and this guy is going to be a good one? I said, life isn't built that way. It doesn't work that way. They all must have the same type of education, be supported the same.
I'm willing to admit certain types of instruction is more expensive than other types. I know it's more expensive to train an engineer than it is a kindergarten teacher. We admit that. But if you're going to train engineers in three colleges, they all ought to get A - Number One instruction in the three colleges. If you're going to train public school teachers in ten colleges it ought to be the best in ten. Well, that was a tough thing to fight because per capita appropriations followed that theory. There would be many, many hundred dollars more at the apex and many, many hundred dollars less down here.
We finally got rid of that to some extent. I think most people now agree that East Carolina can hold its own in almost any discipline that I know of with any other college in North Carolina. I really do. Our doctors have proved that. They're as efficient, they get just as high a score as they do from Chapel Hill. Our nurses have proved that. Any place where there was a comparison, we have been able to prove that. The little schools are proving that. The kids from Campbell do as well as the kids from any place else. We are getting a little bit more mellow, a little bit more understanding.
BRATTON: Do you think there is less sectional rivalry now?
JENKINS: Oh yes.
BRATTON: Out of the, what, just progress and the general development or out of the consolidation?
JENKINS: It still lingers, there is no question about that. I think there is an element of either we are fooling ourselves or we're being dishonest when we say that education must be pulled out of politics, there is no place in politics for higher education. All one has to do is look at the Board of Governors. They are appointed politically. They get there politically. They fight for the job politically. And when they get there, if they can use it, they use it. I mean, some are lobbyists. They take care of the people they are lobbying for. We see illustrations of that constantly. That goes, that's part of life and to say that we have to remove that or that it doesn't exist, we're just not being honest. And you're not honest with the students, because they see through this more than we think they do. Much more than we think they do.