Staff and faculty members of the University of the District of Columbia met with more than 150 residents of neighborhoods surrounding the school's Van Ness campus last week to discuss plans for sharing university and community resources.
The meeting, described as "the first of its kind" between UDC officials and members of the community, was jointly sponsored by the university, the city's Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3F, which includes the North Cleveland Park and Forest Hills communities, and the Forest Hills Citizens Association. (The Forest Hills neighborhood lies between Connecticut Avenue NW and Rock Creek Park, north of the National Zoo.)
Patricia Moskof, recreation chairman of the Forest Hills Citizens Association, said she initiated the idea for the meeting in the hope that the community might share the school's new physical, cultural and intellectual resources.
"This was our first chance to see the campus," she said. "Until now there has been very little chance to know what was in the buildings and the university has not had the opportunity to reach out to the community." The Van Ness campus was opened last fall.
Claude A. Ford, the university's vice president for administrative services, said the board of trustees passed a resolution stating that UDC facilities could be used by the community "to the extent that such use does not adversely impact on academic and other university programs and to the extent that no cost would be absorbed by the university" for such use.
The facilities that members of the community would be able to share under present plans include the print shop, photography lab, tennis courts, soccer field, racquetball courts, weight room, swimming pool with access for the handicapped, diving pool with instruction for scuba diving, dance studio, theater, library, TV studio, radio station, learning labs, computer terminals, auditoriums with projection screens, and a greenhouse.
However, Orby Moss, the university's athletic director, emphasized that public use of many of these facilities would not be allowed to interfere with the regular physical education, health classes and other normal university activities.
UDC also hopes to make available film and lecture series, theater, dance and music recitals and a full range of credit and noncredit courses for adults, special Hispanic programs and a "high school-college" internship program for high school students.
Ford said procedures are now being developed to allow the community to share the university's various facilities. He also acknowleged that UDC was aware of residents' complaints about traffic, parking and the noise associated with outdoor band practice near the Connecticut Avenue side of the campus.
Ford said that although the area used by the band was "an integral part of the university's program," UDC planned to move band practice sessions to a new athletic field in the spring, where noise would be abated by buildings and the surrounding terrain.
In a compromise designed to alleviate some of the problems associated with traffic and parking, Ford said, the university had reduced the number of parking spaces from 2,100 to 650 and established a "stringent parking fee structure" to encourage use of the Metro. UDC also urges students to use car pools and other joint ridership efforts as a means of reducing the number of vehicles on campus.
On the community side, it was suggested that community volunteers could teach courses, staff the library at hours when it normally would be closed and establish a lecture program using the city's "vast resources" of government specialists, many of whom are retired.
Plans were discussed to create an "ad hoc" committee to formulate policy on the use of university facilities, with the community becoming an integral part of the planning process.
Also attending the meeting were council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), who is a mayoral candidate; council member Polly Shackleton, a Democrat from Ward 3, which includes the Forest Hills area; and Ruth Dixon, a political scientist and past president of the D.C. League of Women Voters, who lives in North Cleveland Park.
Tom Kelly of the UDC public affairs office later said university members were "very pleased" with the meeting and "we are quite sure there are going to be positive results that will benefit both residents and the university."
Frank Higgins, president of the Forest Hills Citizens Association, said he thought the meeting "forms an excellent foundation for the implementation of community participation by the fall semester."