At a reception inside the University of the District of Columbia president's house a few months ago, Robert Green said he was trying to involve the local community in university life and, as it turned out, he was -- to the tune of more than $83,000 in house parties and receptions.
But UDC president Green had things backwards.
Had the university been more involved in community life, had comparable monies been spent to pay university students to tutor in D.C. public schools, for example, there is a chance he could have withstood the pressure on him to resign.
This is not to excuse Green's indiscretions, but the allegations of misspending $13,000 out of what amounts to his personal "representation" fund sounded like a beatable offense.
And as for buying Mother's Day flowers with university funds, he probably could have repaid the money -- with sincere regrets.
This is simply to say that people make mistakes and, if their worth to the community can be demonstrated, they can be forgiven for certain lapses in common sense. Mayor Marion Barry was.
But consider how Green operated since coming to Washington:
During his two years as president of UDC, he virtually surrounded himself with outsiders who obviously had no idea how that university, let alone this city, really works.
His style was to import everything, from food to furnishings to brain trust.
At one reception, for example, he announced his decision to bring in actress Vonetta McGee, whose most recent appearance had been on the television show "Helltown," as the university's "artist-in-residence."
Faculty members in UDC's performing arts department were upset, and rightly so, because they had not been informed or asked about other candidates.
In this city of overnourished egos, Green made it seem that Washington had nothing to offer, that the town was privileged to have him and, therefore, he was privileged to do as he pleased.
His behavior often seemed in stark contrast to his civil rights background -- which he reminded visitors of through numerous framed photos of himself posed with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young and Ralph Abernathy.
But if some of his guests had taken time during some of the parties to talk to the maids, they might have gained a different view of this civil rights advocate.
They might have learned that maids working in the Green household were not allowed to enter the Green residence through the front door. The maids were required to use the back door.
It was no secret that UDC, formed eight years ago with the merger of D.C. Teachers College, Washington Technical Institute and Federal City College, is riddled with factions, any combination of which could tear a president apart.
Thus Green stepped into one of the most politically explosive jobs in town, the third president in eight years, with his flanks exposed.
Not only had he not done his homework, he was often out of town.
Within two years he took at least 42 trips, some of them with Cassandra Simmons, a consultant from Michigan and a former student of Green's who has received at least $37,200 in university contracts.
Indeed, the good works that Green had planned were delayed.
He said that he planned to get the university more involved in local issues, such as housing for the homeless, medical care for the indigent, and new approaches to education in the public schools.
But none of these community-oriented ideas got off the ground in time and, in the end, all that money spent on wining and dining boiled down to less than a nickel's worth of community support -- nothing near the kind of public praise that might have saved him.