Across the campus of the University of the District of Columbia these days, students of summer move in and out of classes, most casually dressed and often deep in thought about schoolwork or upcoming social events.
The mood is in stark contrast to a declaration issued last week by the school's Progressive Student Alliance, which read, "As students, we do not plan to sit back and take glee in the fact that one of our administrators is being tried in the media by leaks or pending reports, taken out of context by innuendo and rumor."
Like members of the school's Student Government Association, the PSA -- a group small in numbers whose philosophy is held by more than a few -- believes that UDC President Robert L. Green is being attacked because he is black. But there have been no protests, no demonstrations -- just a petition supporting Green signed by a few hundred students and a letter to the editor of a local newspaper saying, in effect, back off.
The fact is, for most of the school's 14,000 students, there is no choice but to sit back. Taking time to fight for an embattled school president appears to be a luxury they can't afford. Yet, if anyone ought to be upset, it should be the students -- but not because the school president is being picked on. It is they who are being shortchanged.
Less than a year ago, it appeared that UDC finally had a president with staying power. Green, 51, is the school's third president in eight years.
Then came the audits. Most recently, D.C. Auditor Otis H. Troupe found that Green had misspent $14,000 of university funds on travel, consulting and flowers sent to personal friends.
Newspaper reports of UDC records showed that Green had billed the university for travel to funerals and a wedding, as well as for $80,000 of catering and nearly $18,000 of household expenses since he took office in September 1983.
Green had had no public comment on the matter until Tuesday when he submitted a report to the board of trustees. But while Green had been silent, his administrators have not.
Says the declaration by the Progressive Student Alliance: "It is disheartening to have a minority of our middle management administrators and faculty members constantly state 'the president's days are numbered' or 'members of the [D.C.] City Council already have his successor in mind.' "
Listening to ordinary students, a picture of exasperation emerges. Most of them don't even want to be identified, either because of embarrassment or for fear of taking a public stance against an embattled black official.
"I guess we just have to wait and see," one chemistry major said dejectedly. "I really don't have time to keep up with the developments, but from what I hear it doesn't sound good. I just wish there was some way we as black people could avoid this kind of controversy."
Another student said, "It makes you feel kind of secondary because you can feel that the teachers are preoccupied."
Michael Olga, UDC student government vice president, says his group still stands firmly behind Green but will issue no more statements about the matter until Green responds. "It would be foolish to comment before he does," Olga said.
Although Olga would not say so, there is growing concern among students about the status of $14 million in student activity fees, which are included in the university's post-secondary account, the records of which Green has refused to turn over to auditors.
To make matters worse, the entire affair has overlapped with hearings in the House of Representatives for allocating $110 million to 104 historically black colleges. UDC is not among those being considered for that money, but headlines about allegedly inefficient management by blacks have been noticed on Capitol Hill.
Many in the city are taking a wait-and-see attitude -- waiting to see if this controversy hurts students at UDC and black students struggling for a higher education around the country.