Kelvin Young, vice-president of the student government association at the University of the District of Columbia, is frustrated by the power held by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the tight-fisted Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the Senate District Appropriations Subcommittee.
For more than a year, Leahy has singlehandedly blocked the spending of $56.7 million allocated for a proposed Mount Vernon Square UDC campus downtown. Leahy claims that university estimates of student enrollment increases that would justify such new building are questionable.
Last month, Leahy accused school officials of having an "edifice complex" for insisting that the new campus, which has been on the drawing boards for more than a decade, be built.
Convinced that Leahy will never approve spending money for the Mount Vernon campus, Young said he is laying plans to haul busloads of UDC students up to Vernon next year to help whoever runs against Leahy. If Leahy doesn't think UDC needs the Mount Vernon Square project, Young contends, the U.S. Senate doesn't need Leahy.
"It's a premeditated attack to stifle education in the District of Columbia. We believe it's because most of us are black," Young said of Leahy's opposition to the Mount Vernon square site. "We believe rather than begging people to do something for us - and since we can't vote for them - we have threaten their jobs.
By going to Vermont, "we hope to let Leahy's opponents embarrass the hell out of him, on the one hand. But we don't want to endorse his opponent because they would probably be Republicans who are further to the right than Leahy."
Young, a street-wise, 24-year-old graduate of Cardozo High School who lives in the Petworth area of North-west Washington, echoes much of the rhetoric of frustration so common among young blacks a decade ago.
Like many others in the District, Kelvin Young is angered by a system of home rule so limited that it allows a single person from distant Vermont to thwart the rule of an entire, elected local government. And from his point of view, the Mount Vernon campus is a good issue around which to organize his fellow students.
"To be frank, sometimes I could care less if there is a Mount Vernon campus," Young said. "But the Mount Vernon campus is the only issue that UDC students en masse can see where they have inadequate facilities and it's due to an outside force."
Young's hit-'em-on-the-homefront approach to changing congressional policy toward the District is not new.
In 1970, Walter E. Fauntroy actively campaigned in South Carolina for opponents of Rep. John L. McMillan, who was then chairman of the House District Committee and strongly opposed home rule. Fauntroy's effort failed that year, but two years later, McMillan was defeated. Fauntroy claimed a disputed low-key effort in helping bring about that defeat.
Fauntroy campaigned primarily among blacks in an area where blacks make up a significant portion of the electorate. His efforts came during the waning days of the civil rights movement and were in support of more selfdetermination for blacks in the District.
In Vermont, the situation would be much different.
It would be odd to see black students, dissatisfied with the fiscal conservatism of a Democratic senator, joining forces with a predictably more conservative and Republican dominated Yankee state.
"It would be bizarre, to put it mildly," said Republican John McLaughry, a former Nixon conservative who, though not likely to be a candidate himself, is considered a major ideological opponent by Leahy's office. "The candidate they would be supporting would not be as liberal as Leahy. The fact that they are black would be different, because we've had hardly any blacks up here."
Leahy has never linked his opposition to the Mount Vernon campus to the race of the student body. His press secretary, Harry Jaffe, said, "Students from D.C., campaigning against his fiscal conservatism down here might not get much of a willing ear."
Vermont Republican McLaughry agreed. "Up in Vermont, Pat cultivates the appearance of being stingy to those beggars in the District.I would find it hard to find a candidate up here to criticize Leahy for that. Nobody's going to oppose him. It's not a vote getting up here."
If Leahy were defeated (so far he has no announced Democratic opposition) the city would lose a co-sponsor of the amendment to grant the District full voting representation in congress.
The next in line to head the District subcommittee is Sen. Dale Bumpers of Arkansas, whose major interest in the District has been right turn on red, and who has taken no stand on the Mount Vernon Square campus.
Kelvin Young said he knows much of this, but he doesn't care. His major goal now is to cultivate political awarenss among UDC students, enlist other support nationwide, and even appeal to Major Marion Barry to join the fledgling "Dump Leahy" movement.
"Then Leahy would be gone," Young said, "which would mean one of the stumbling blocks to self-determination in D.C. would be gone, too."