[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] It's a reaction that underscores the identity crisis that UDC is attempting to overcome. Just as the university's location may be a mystery to some District residents, UDC trustees and faculty still are debating what kind of institution it should be in a city with several well-established universities.
Recently, UDC opened its expanded campus at Van Ness Street and Connecticut Avenue, taking a significant step toward unifying a faculty and student body that have been scattered in more than a dozen sites around the city.
But the institution is struggling to change a negative image as a second-rate institution with low faculty and student morale. While school officials are laying plans for the future, they also must grapple with the pending replacement of a lame-duck administration, faculty and student accusations that their concerns are ignored, and continuous snags in the university's daily operations.
Cameron says that from her own experience the second-rate image isn't always justified.
While she cites woeful administrative prob lems like excessively long registration lines and difficulties getting copies of class records, Cameron says the university does have some good things to offer.
"The caliber of my science classes are much better than I ever could have gotten at Rutgers," she said. Cameron graduated from Rutgers University in New Jersey with a degree in French, and now is taking courses at UDC in preparation for going to medical school.
Biology professor Jose Jones believes the university's negative image is a carry-over from the problems experienced by the three institutions that formed UDC in 1976. Jones believes many of those old stereotypes no longer are warranted.
"I think (the university) has an image that's not very strong or positive, but that's mostly because it's new and struggling," said Wil Jones, coach of UDC's up-and-coming basketball team. He believes people are "missing the boat" when they assume open admissions means poor quality. He expects the reputation of the school will improve as more people come to know the school. The coach maintains that "Image is time."
But there are good images as well.
Jones and other faculty members say that while there remains some "dead wood" among the faculty, they believe that most of the instructors are tremendously dedicated to students. Graduate student Robert McNeil calls UDC a "pioneer institution" that addresses the needs of "persons who otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity to attend an institution of higher learning."
Teaching students who do not necessarily come prepared for college-level courses can be frustrating. Some instructors say they are disappointed at not being able to teach higher-level courses. Some professors balk at teaching remedial classes, and "there are some who want to do nothing else," said Delores Davis, who directs program development at university college, where remedial skills are taught.
The new UDC is composed of the old and respected D.C. Teachers' College, the Washington Technical Institute, which offered two-year vocational training programs, and the young, militant Federal City College. The three were combined in the interest of creating a diverse public system of higher education for District residents. The 1976 merger was complicated and traumatic; old loyalties died hard.
In many instances the merger brought together three people for a single job. At the outset there were three different sets of perceptions, missions and roles, said university president Lisle C. Carter Jr. There was a great deal of suspicion and anxiety about loss of jobs and identity, he added. Some people even insist that the four-year degree programs are superior to the two-year technical programs.
However, the school that has emerged has a great deal to offer. Compared to other local universities, it's fairly inexpensive and its doors are open to anyone with a high school diploma. The vast majority of the students at UDC are black, but it is by no means a traditional black college.
Its students are not the traditional undergraduate students either. Many of them work full time; their average age is 27.
The school offers a wide range of courses including programs not available anywhere else in town, like mortuary science and respiratory therapy. Some of the programs, like speech and hearing and early childhood development, are widely respected.
School officials now say the university is entering its second phase of development where goals and strategy for shoring up the school's image will be defined.
"We're at the end of the beginning," says Marjorie Parker, chairwoman of the board of trustees. She added that new leadership is needed for the next phase of development. Both the president and the vice president for student affairs are leaving, and the post of vice president for academic affairs already is vacant.
Carter, 56, announced last year that he would not renew his contract next fall. He said he is pleased with the merger and is particularly happy with the new campus, but having accomplished that, he said he is ready to move on. He said in a letter to the university trustees that he was not willing to commit himself to the the "sustained leadership" that UDC will require through the 1980s. Carter, who came to the District from Atlanta University, has given no clues to his future plans.
Parker called Carter "a unique person who has done a good job during this period of our history." She characterizes him as a very low-key man and an efficient organizer. But she adds that "his decision to move on is perhaps an acknowlegement of new requirements of a president."
The search for a new president is being led by Ron Brown, a politically prominent Washington lawyer and the university's first trustee board chairman. Brown, who is responsible for choosing Carter as the first president, said the next president should be "someone to help build credibility . . . a tough, solid administrator . . . innovative (and) sensitive to the internal dynamics of a public institution. It's got to be a person with an urban perspective."
Although board members say they are satisfied with Carter's stewardship as the university's first president, some faculty and students say they are not.
"He's not well liked by the faculty," said Stephen Diner, chairman of the urban studies department. Diner feels the president is too cool and aloof. Students say he is not accessible. "I don't think he's chosen to deal with internal interests like the quality of faculty and programs," Diner said.
Diner said he shares other complaints with his fellow instructors, such as overcrowding in the new quarters on Van Ness, inadequate secretarial help, poorly planned registration, and a general sense that it takes too long to get routine tasks accomplished. Diner said that one of the most important characteristics the new president should possess is an ability "to make the trains run on time."
"The university is managed, not administered, and certainly not led," said history professor William Haskett. For example, he explained, the administration convened several search committees to find applicants for vice president of academic affairs, dean of the college of education and director of the Institute of District Affairs. According to Haskett, in each instance the recommendations of the search committees "were set aside." University spokesman John Britton explained that Carter decided it would be better to let the newly appointed president choose his support staff.
Similarly, the contract of Ewah Fields, dean of the university college, was renewed recently despite the observation by the faculty senate that she could not devote sufficient time to the job because she commutes daily from Cherry Hill, N.J.
Distrust of the board is also widespread. Last week, the board passed a reduction-in-force resolution that affects 25 instructors. The resolution followed a court ruling that the board's initial voting procedures on the RIFs last semester were illegal. According to the faculty, whose union took the board to court, recent retirements and reassignment of faculty have reduced the impact to only a handful of individuals.
UDC has no provision for a board member to represent the faculty. Both union leader George Zachariah and faculty senate president Wilmer Johnson said they are disappointed in the board's uninterest in "shared governance," which would give the faculty a voice in setting university policy.
Faculty and trustees say that despite UDC's problems, the long-range prognosis is good.
History professor Jannette Harris said she is encouraged by the breadth of programs offered to students as well as to the community, including the city's prison community at Lorton, for example.
Trustee Brown wants to see stronger ties to the community, government and private business. He said the development of more graduate programs will fulfill the university's "obligation to provide a full range of educational offerings."
And Diner said the image of the university will improve when faculty members are given money to attend conferences and do research. He added that an improved image, plus low tuition, will attract a broader range of students.