The University of the District of Columbia has started dismissal proceedings against one of its English professors, Mary C. Rodgers, alleging she violated UDC regulations against having outside employment without permission.

UDC Vice President William Moore Jr. stated in a letter to Rodgers her part-time post as chancellor of the California National Open University violated the UDC regulations.

The Open University, which Rodgers and her late husband Daniel founded in their home in Hyattsville in 1972, is a nontraditional, nonaccredited university based in California.

Moore said Rodgers also was absent without leave from her UDC classes for a week in early March to go to a meeting in California.

Rodgers, who has taught for a total of 13 years at UDC and one of its predecessor institutions, D.C. Teachers College, called the dismissal notice "a ridiculous, absurd attempt to fire a star professor."

"The whole thing is drummed up," she declared. "The whole thing is a ploy to ruin Rodgers and ruin the Open University."

Her lawyer, Hamilton P. Fox III, said Rodgers had received permission from D.C. Teachers College in 1975 to be a board member of the Open University, though not specifically to be its chancellor. He said Rodgers gave special assignments to her four classes here while she was away from UDC in March.

Fox said Rodgers has asked for a hearing on UDC's charges before a special faculty committee. No hearing date has been set. According to UDC regulations, a dismissal cannot become final until the hearing is concluded.

The Open University, which operates mainly by mail and rents office space in Sacramento and a small brick house in Northwest Washington, also is under fire in California.

Last week John H. Peterson, chief of the California Education Department's office of private postsecondary education, said his agency has decided to withdraw authorization for it to operate in California.

Peterson said that, contrary to state law, there was "no evidence that (Open University) provided any instruction to the students who received degrees."

In Washington the university failed several years ago to get a license to grant college-level degrees, but continued to operate under license as a proprietary school.

In early April the D.C. Educational Licensure Commission ordered the school to close because it was not properly authorized.

Rodgers said she plans to fight both the California and D.C. actions aganist the university.

"I have a moral obligation to try to save the university," she declared, "from which hundreds of persons have earned academic degrees."

Rodgers said Open University gives its degrees -- ranging from associate in arts to doctor of philosophy -- based largely on courses taken elsewhere and on job and "life experience" that she and a part-time panel of evaluators deem equivalent college-level work.

To fill in gaps, she said, students sometimes take courses offered by Open University itself, though these usually consist of "personalized instruction" by tutors hired to cover specific material.

The university has granted 412 degrees since 1975, she said, and about 2,500 other persons have paid to have their experiences evaluated and entered in the university's "credit bank." The fee for a doctorate is now $3,100.

Despite the money that has come in, Rodgers declared: "My husband and I have never made a penny from (the Open University). Instead, we have donated $200,000 of our own fortune to create this new opportunity for higher education."