Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), whose Senate committee has held up funding of a multimillion-dollar downtown campus for the University of the District of Columbia, said he believes the problems can be resolved this month.
Construction of the downtown campus has been delayed since last spring when the Senate subcommittee on D.C. appropriations withheld $56.7 million earmarked for UDE. At that time, Leahy and other members of the subcommittee questioned the need for an additional campus in light of declining enrollment projections.
Leahy said he still is not sure if UDC needs the new campus at Mount Vernon Square in addition to its present Van Ness campus off Connecticut Avenue.
"I just want to make sure there is not too much emphasis on building for building's sake," he said. "One problem with schools which have open admissions policies is that you can't spend all your money on bricks and mortar, you have to spend money on education."
Leahy, who met with Mayor Marion Barry several weeks ago concerning the funding, said he is planning another meeting with the mayor soon to resolve issues that are still preventing the release of the appropriated funds.
The senator, who was contacted in Vermont by telephone, said: "I talked to Mayor Barry about this issue several weeks ago. I told him it would be a top priority and that we would try to come to a final conclusion as soon as the committee is organized."
One of the issues in the debate is the projected student enrollment of the university, which now is estimated to be less than earlier indicated by UDC officials.
A new master plan for consolidation was developed after Congress asked UDC officials to rethink their construction plans in the light of figures that showed enrollment was presently declining. In the revised plan, the university would be able to accommodate a toatl of 9,600 full-time equivalent students. This revision would mean 25 percent fewer students would be accommodated at UDC.
At the Van Ness campus, where construction is already underway, the new buildings will house 5,100 students in classes that include life sciences, physical science, engineering and technology, education and human ecology, said UDC President Lisle Carter Jr. Construction of the Van Ness campus, which was funded prior to the 1978 budget, is expected to be completed in 1981.
The proposed downtown campus would accommodate 4,500 students in classes that include a business school, liberal arts college, graduate program and research-center.
Carter said as a result of the revised master plan, some of the construction money for the downtown campus will now go for improving research and classroom facilities for a four-year science degree and graduate program at the Van Ness campus.
Carter, who noted that plans for the Mount Vernon Square campus have been approved by the mayor, the City Council and the House District Appropriations subcommittee, said construction of the downtown campus is necessary to "accommodate all growth and development that we anticipate." He said the location is convenient to students who live in Northeast and in the southern sections of the District and that the proximity to government offices, downtown businesses, museums and art galleries would be invaluable to the university and its students.
One congressional source said there is still a possibility of constructing additional facilities on the 11-acre site adjacent to the VAN Ness campus in the 4200 block of Connecticut, allowing UDC to maintain a single campus.
Leahy said he does not know if that is possible, but said he is exploring all options.
However, UDC president Carter said that, aside from losing the conveniences of a downtown site, a single campus at the Van Ness site undoubtedly would raise environmental questions from Cleveland Park residents, who might object to the increased traffic in the area.
UDC, which holds classes in more than 20 buildings throughout the District, is attempting to change its image as well as build a stronger academic environment, according to Carter.
One of his greatest challenges, he said, is to stem the tide of students leaving the District for colleges in other jurisdictions.
Carter said consolidation of the university into two large campuses would mean more space for teachers and students and the ability to create the university atmosphere that UDC now lacks.
"The faculty right now is dispersed over a number of buildings," Carter said. "There is little chance for interchange. They don't find it encouraging to stay around."
He added that it also would create a more cohesive academic atmosphere for students, who often select classes based on location rather than atempting to take classes in proper sequence.