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Barber-Scotia Community Task Force dissolved six years after founding

The Barber-Scotia Community Task Force was founded in 2017 to help restore the campus after it fell into disrepair.

CONCORD, N.C. — The community task force implemented to revitalize Barber-Scotia College has been dissolved, Concord city officials announced Thursday.

In a statement, Concord City Council said the dissolution comes after Barber-Scotia College officials "refused to work in partnership with city officials and continuously obstructed the work of the Task Force." 

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Barber-Scotia College was founded in January 1867 by Rev. Luke Dorland, who was commissioned by the Presbyterian Church, to establish an institution for the training of African-American women. The college lost its accreditation in 2004.

The Barber-Scotia Community Task Force was founded in 2017 to help restore the campus after it fell into disrepair with six of the 15 buildings currently deemed uninhabitable and another three with violations. 

JC McKenzie, a Concord City Council member and former task force co-chair from 2018 until August 2022, said there were several issues that plagued the working relationship. 

McKenzie said the task force tried to get an assessment of the college's buildings to see how structurally sound they were. 

"At the last moment, I mean, literally minutes before I was going into a council meeting, to ask for that funding from council, I got a text, you won't be allowed on campus. And no other explanation," he said. "That was the final straw."

It’s been years since anyone has graduated from Barber-Scotia College with an accredited degree. 

The once vibrant college, which produced the likes of civil rights icon Mary McLeod Bethune, now sits empty with no trespassing signs all around and buildings in disrepair.

"It's gone from being the bright spot of those surrounding communities to a detriment," McKenzie said. 

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McKenzie said the city could make a drastic decision on the property.

"Declare it blighted, and through eminent domain taken," he said. "That's a tough word to say, and counsel did not want to make that decision. We need the community, the surrounding community, to help us make that decision."

McKenzie said he wouldn't support this decision unless he knew the community was behind it. 

"If leadership were to re-engage with us and re-engage, honestly, that we're still open to that we're not turning our back on this property in the middle, or this campus or this school," McKenzie said. "We just haven't had any cooperation of the new leadership."

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Here's Concord City Council's full statement regarding the dissolution:

"Six years ago, City Council established the Barber-Scotia Community Task Force with the genuine hope that working collaboratively with college leadership, alumni, and the community, we could identify and implement a viable revitalization plan for the college. It was our hope then, and continues to be our desire today, to see the campus restored to its former place of prominence as a premiere center of learning, entrepreneurship, innovation, and community.

Barber-Scotia College, located downtown in the heart of our city, has for generations been a vital part of our history, source of pride, and a beacon of hope. Regrettably, in the nearly 20 years since the college lost its accreditation, the campus has fallen into disrepair with six of the 15 buildings currently deemed uninhabitable and another three with violations. It has been years since students lived and studied on campus, and 18 years since the last degree was awarded by the school.

City Council created the Task Force to work in partnership with Barber-Scotia’s leadership to address these significant challenges and identify a path forward that preserves the college’s iconic buildings and honors its legacy as a historically black college. We signed a formal Statement of Collaboration with the college, and hired expert outside consultants to advise the Task Force and help guide their collaborative work. Task Force members held countless meetings and we provided substantial resources to support their work, including an extensive community survey. These efforts and more generated new ideas and possibilities to reinvigorate the campus. Unfortunately, all of them were met with resistance by college officials, and often times met with no response at all. We also offered financing for a comprehensive engineering and construction study on all of the campus buildings to understand renovation and repair costs so the college could develop a rehab plan and raise necessary funding. College officials cancelled the study at the last minute without explanation.

For any task force to be successful it takes a shared commitment and true collaboration. As Members of City Council, we have earnestly tried to engage Barber-Scotia College officials, and have been transparent and genuine in our support of the college and the work of the Task Force. Despite our efforts and financial commitment, Barber-Scotia College officials refuse to work in partnership with us, and have continuously obstructed the work of the Task Force. We no longer believe it is possible for the Task Force to work effectively in pursuit of a revitalized campus. For this reason, we have decided to formally dissolve the Barber-Scotia Community Task Force.

It is our sincere hope that one day we may still see a vibrant, restored campus buzzing with activity and thriving with renewed energy and purpose. Our city is growing and it is our deep desire for the college to grow with us. Even as we close this chapter and disband the Task Force, we hold onto hope that Barber-Scotia College’s legacy will not whither and the college will continue to inspire generations to come."

WCNC Charlotte has reached out to Barber-Scotia College for comment regarding the dissolution.

Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. 


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