Trustees of the University of the District of Columbia have indicated they are willing to abandon hopes of building an extensive downtown campus at Mount Vernon Square.
At a meeting Tuesday night the board passed a resolution that said that while its first choice would be to build a new main campus downtown, It would accept a plan to establish a small satellite campus at Mount Vernon Square and house the bulk of the university at an uptown site at Connecticut Avenue and Van Ness Street NW.
UDC officials said yesterday they hoped the resolution would end a longstanding fight with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), whose Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the District of Columbia has tied up $56 million in UDC construction funds for two years.
"This is an effort to reach some sort of compromise with the senator," said Marjorie Parker, a member of the board of trustees.
Asked whether the resolution represented a retreat from the board's earlier position that major functions of the school should be located downtown, Parker replied, "Yes, it certainly is. We've fought to a standstill."
Parker said the board's top priority now is to get the school's 5,000 full-time and 10,000 part-time students out of 14 leased buildings around the city and onto a centralized campus, even if that campus is built at the Van Ness site.
"We just are ready to do whatever is the most practical thing," said Parker, who serves on the board's campus planning committee. "The situation now is very demoralizing and disconcerting to students and potential students." n
"Our No. 1 goal has always been a full campus at Mount Vernon Square, said board member David Abramson. "But fiscal reality is beginning to make it look more and more like an impossible dream." He said the board's decision to accept the possibility of a Van Ness main campus was "straightforward and painful."
"This is our best guess at what is double, Abramson said. "We hope this can mean getting more students situated quickly.
John Gnorski, a Leahy aide, said yesterday that the senator had not yet been notified officially of the board's action.
Leahy and the UDC board first locked horns in 1978, whey Leahy questioned the board's plans to build major facilities at both the Van Ness and Mount Vernon Square sites.
Backed by a report from the General Accounting Office, Leahy disputed the board's enrollment projections and questioned the need for any major expansion.
That issue had faded somewhat, with the board now accepting the GAO's projection that in 1985 the university will be attended by about 10,000 full-time students, instead of 13,000 as originally projected.
Meanwhile, the board has proceeded with long-planned construction at the Van Ness site, despite its stated goal of housing most of the school at Mount Vernon Square.
Parker said the board's action Tuesday night recognized the fact that the $56 million in Leahy's committee could no longer fund the original ambitious plan of having major facilities at both sites.
She said the university's sizable investment in the Van Ness site, in addition to the construction under way there now, made it unlikely that Leahy and his committee would ever favor shifting the entire school downtown.
Tuesday's resolution was in response to a request by Leahy that the board choose between several alternatives developed by the UDC staff. One was to build everything at Mount Vernon Square and dispose of the Van Ness site, another was to build everything at Van Ness; and the other choices involved having some facilities at both sites.
"We've been waiting to hear what the city wants," Gnorski said. "It's kind of confusing because I understand that they're sending up two plans."
Gnorski said Leahy told UDC officials he would pass along to his committee any decision that the board made. Parker said the board feels no proposal will make it through committee without Leahy's active support.
Thus, she said, the board passed along the two plans -- the unlikely notion of abandoning Van Ness altoghether, and the more realistic idea of expanding the Van Ness site as the university's main campus and building a few facilities downtown.
UDC spokesman John Britton said Board Chairman Ronald Brown and UDC President Lisle Carter would confer with city officials and members of Congress as soon as possible to finally resolve the campus issue.