Robert L. Green, who will take office Sept. 1 as president of the University of the District of Columbia, yesterday called for "a new era of stability, continuity, and constructive cooperation" at the institution which has frequently simmered with controversy.
Speaking to about 800 faculty members and administrators, Green declared he would "seek out your counsel and heed it often." He added: "I do not intend to move in precipitous ways."
Afterwards, Wilmer Johnson, the president of the faculty senate, warmly praised Green as a man whose background and views are "extremely appropriate to the mission of this university." Johnson had clashed with Green's predecessor, Benjamin H. Alexander.
Albert Mosley, chairman of the philosophy department, remarked that Green "seems to be very realistic about what the problems are, and he seems very realistic about his opportunities and objectives."
Green, 49, a dean at Michigan State University, was given a five-year contract to head the city university by a unanimous vote of the UDC trustees July 19. Alexander, 61, had resigned under pressure a month earlier.
During a stormy year in office, Alexander sought to toughen academic standards and to turn the university's emphasis away from remedial work. His sweeping plans to trim and reshape the school's sizable administration arroused widespread opposition and were rejected by the trustees.
In interviews after yesterday's speech Green steadfastly refused to comment on his predecessor, but in contrast to Alexander, who was feisty and outspoken, Green was cautious and conciliatory. He stressed UDC's remedial role.
"I am not looking for controversy," he said. "I do not see any controversy facing me."
In his speech, which was his first address to a large UDC gathering, Green declared, "I am not suggesting that I have all the answers for the University of the District of Columbia. I have confidence that together we can find ways to move in the direction mandated by our mission."
He said UDC's prime task was to "effectively meet the needs of our urban constituency, especially the dispossessed" in contrast to other universities which "have traditionally been havens for the elite--ivory towers where elaborate theories can be debated."
Green said UDC should continue to admit all high school graduates, "regardless of earlier academic limitations." In an interview, he said he wants to make sure "we meet every obligation we have and even go beyond the obligations we have to give them the support they need."
Last winter Alexander's plans to establish doctoral programs, starting with chemistry, were blocked by UDC trustees as a diversion of effort from the university's job of teaching undergraduates.
Green said he hoped to establish an "applied urban policy research center" at UDC, modeled in part on the urban affairs programs he headed at Michigan State. He said he expects to name a task force by late September, composed of UDC faculty and several nationally prominent scholars, to draw up plans for the center. Within a few years, he said, he hopes it will offer master's and doctorate degrees.
"It is important to remember that poverty and racism are not exclusively black problems," he said. "Unemployment, crime, welfare, and other dilemmas of modern urban life affect all citizens. . . . Our academic programs can address these basic societal problems."
Over the past two decades Green has been a scholarly civil rights activist, serving as education director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference under the late Martin Luther King Jr. and later as a consultant in major school desegregation cases.
Yesterday he said he hoped the new UDC research center "will provide me with an opportunity to train other people to do the things I did in the past."
Green said the first function he plans to hold at the UDC president's house is a dinner just after the March on Washington scheduled for Aug. 27. He said the guest of honor will be Coretta Scott King.