In a letter to 1,300 university employes, Rafael L. Cortada, the president of the University of the District of Columbia, has denounced as "a loathsome act of libel" an anonymous eight-page newsletter attacking administrators, trustees and faculty members.

The newsletter, entitled "The Oracle, Volume One, Number One," was widely circulated on campus last week. Addressed to Cortada, who became UDC president Oct. 1, it contains allegations against about two dozen people at the university, including accusations of financial and academic corruption and graphic descriptions of sexual misconduct.

Cortada described the newsletter as "pornography {that} is completely unacceptable." He said "its publishers and distributors are purveyors of filth" and threatened that if he finds out who they are, "I will utilize all university legal resources to provide them with options outside academic life."

The Oracle is the most recent, and most lurid, in a series of anonymous letters distributed over the last few years at UDC, which has been beset by complex factional disputes. The infighting intensified after major drops in enrollment prompted cutbacks in faculty and administrative employes.

About 10 percent of the faculty was laid off last summer. Over the last eight years UDC enrollment has decreased by a third with the steepest decline -- 13 percent -- occurring this fall.

Reaction to the newsletter has followed factional lines.

A group of 19 senior faculty members, many of whom had dominated the Faculty Senate for many years, signed a statement that labeled the newsletter "despicable and cowardly." The signers, headed by Andress Taylor, an English professor, said, "Whoever wrote such degrading and libelous material cannot possibly belong in an academic environment and must be viewed as a threat to everything a university stands for."

Emmanuel D. Chatman, who opposed the old Senate leadership and was elected Senate president last spring, took a more tolerant view.

Chatman, who also serves as vice president of the Faculty Association, a union affiliated with the National Education Association, said Cortada's statement was "appropriate." But he added, "I think the Oracle probably captures the essence of what many faculty and staff members are feeling . . . . What bothers me is to what extent {the charges} are true. If they are -- and they are serious -- we hope something will be put in place to correct it."

Chatman urged Cortada to "check out the content" of the newsletter's allegations. "If something is brought to your attention, no matter how inappropriately, it should be checked out, as well as checking into who wrote it," Chatman said.

In his letter, Cortada said he normally would pay no attention to "shadows and ghosts lurking behind the shield of anonymity," but he said he decided to write to every university employe because of the "extraordinary ugliness and hatefulness visited upon the {UDC} community" by The Oracle. The newsletter, Cortada said, "stands out as the ultimate example of self-hatred."

Cortada declared, "I say to the writer and the contributors to the publication right here, right now: The Oracle henceforth is defunct . . . a dead issue. Never again will I permit such filth to impose upon my time or engage my attention for a single moment."

The discord at UDC is described in the current issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, a weekly newspaper on American colleges that published a long article about Cortada's plans "to invigorate troubled University of D.C."

The Chronicle article, which does not refer to the appearance of The Oracle, quotes Chatman as saying the trustees have "no leadership, selfish motives and ignorance of administrative procedures." N. Joyce Payne, the board chairman, responded in the article, "We cannot allow the faculty union to dictate academic policies. We cannot allow them to reinforce mediocrity."

Payne, who is the target of The Oracle's longest attack, said Cortada did not consult with her before writing his letter. Cortada showed it to the trustees Tuesday night and, aides said, the letter was reproduced for distribution on campus yesterday.

"Strategically, it probably would have been best if {Cortada} said nothing," Payne said. "The letter may just give it more attention. But I think the president felt he just had to respond to it."

Payne called the newsletter "psychotic . . . character assassination."

Cynthia Smith, the president of the undergraduate student government, said The Oracle was "disgusting . . . . It's hard for students to believe that professional people could stoop to this."

Trustee Joseph Webb said he is "sorry, really sorry, about the personal attacks," but added, "I think it indicates that there's an environment that gives rise to something like this. Even a garbage can might have something of value."