As an alumnus of the University of the District of Columbia, I feel outrage as each new scene unfolds in this drama that somebody is certain to call "Universitygate." Because of UDC I was able to liberate myself from the shackles of poverty and ignorance that still bind most of my age cohort in the public "housing project where I grew up.
I am a first-generation college graduate. The combined formal schooling of both my parents was less than 10 years. Yet from earliest recollections, I can hear them saying to their four sons, "Get yourself a good education."
In my neighborhood, a good education was just making it to high school. College was unheard of.
When I completed Dunbar High School in 1967, my grades and my SAT scores were good enough to allow me to enter almost any school I desired. However, my socioeconomic background had not prepared me to make a flying hurdle from the projects to an Ivy League campus. Fortunately, there existed an institution known as D.C. Teachers College. This forerunner of UDC allowed me to earn an accredited degree without being subjected to the devastating expenses and the emotional trauma often associated with higher education.
My entire undergraduate college education cost less than what is charged for one semester's tuition at most private institutions. And what about the quality of the education I received? I would match it with anyone's. It must be understood that, after a certain point in our academic development, we get out of school what we put into it. A shirker at Harvard learns less than a dedicated student who is taking a correspondence course. Since I earned my undergraduate degree in 1971, I have earned two graduate degrees, and I know I can hold my own anywhere in the academic world. UDC laid a firm foundation for me.
I use this personal example only because it typifies the mission of public higher education in this city. I am not an exception; the majority of the alumni of UDC could probably tell this same story. Futhermore, these are not success stories as such. Instead, they are testimonials to the need for the hope that is given by public education.
Our children's hope for a better tomorrow is in dire danger today. I cannot help speculating on what is being thought and said by lawmakers in the District Building and on Capitol Hill. Have they been able to draw the necessary line of demarcation between Robert Green and the University of the District of Columbia?
Supporters of President Green have tried to make the crisis at UDC appear to be an attack on him. Such is not the case. The attempts to appeal to the public's emotions must not obscure the real issues. Attempts are even being made to discredit those of us who are simply trying to have public information disclosed to the public so that an informed and intelligent decision can be reached by that public.
Although I shall continue my quest to have Robert L. Green banished from UDC, my top priority is to have all financial records of the university given to the D.C. Auditor. We must then hire a temporary president for UDC who has a public mandate to rid the university of the many factions and infestations that have long plagued it. The next permanent president should be able to start with a clean slate. Grafting a new head onto a diseased body is an exercise in futility. Futhermore, the board of trustees must be held accountable by the citizens of the District of Columbia. It is the tax dollars of the people of this city that support UDC.
Just as an aside, Green has told the board that he has received telephone calls of support from Jesse Jackson, Benjamin Hooks, Andrew Young, Coretta Scott King and many other well- known individuals. Although I have never been one to be impressed by "big names," perhaps some board members are. I simply wish to remind my colleagues that, of all the people named by Green, not a single one pays a penny in taxes to the District of Columbia. The University of the District of Columbia must survive so that it can continue to serve as a bastion of light, knowledge and hope, so that the citizens of the world's capital will always have the opportunity to reach their full potential.