It appears that as with other past UDC presidents, Rafael Cortada did not fit the board of trustees' mold, thus the current crisis and unwarranted and unsubstantiated attacks on his administration, which led to his firing last month.
The board's primary responsibilities are: 1) to hire the president, 2) make or promulgate policy and 3) carry out fiduciary responsibilities. It would appear from many of its actions and overtures, however, that the board has taken on a fourth responsibility, that of "operational control."
In addition, the board seemed to view Dr. Cortada (an extremely qualified and able administrator whom it unanimously hired in early 1987), much like a principal, expecting him to be accountable for resolving the most minute, routine problems (for example, expediting repair of copiers, replacement of light bulbs, etc.)
There is a historical consistency here. With the exception of the first three years under the administration of Lisle C. Carter and the first year under Dr. Cortada, UDC's trustees have sought to discredit all of the university's presidents when they advanced ideas that the board did not embrace.
So what follows? The deteriorating relationship between the board and the president ultimately results in accelerated micromanagement in which the president is stripped of any real power to lead.
For the first time since the inception of the university, UDC had a president with extraordinary vision and more than 16 years experience at the helm of higher-education institutions. Dr. Cortada had proposed, among other initiatives, a community college that would strengthen UDC's four-year programs. The board disapproved that plan. He established a meaningful partnership with the D.C. public schools, which led to the proposal for a middle college for at-risk high school students, and he has been in the vanguard in calling for development of the Mt. Vernon Square campus in downtown Washington. Most significant, UDC enrollment had increased 23 percent during Dr. Cortada's tenure.
I have come to the conclusion that the basic problems at the university boil down to an inaccurate understanding of roles, and a power struggle by the board and faculty senate. Once the roles of the board, faculty senate and president are understood and accepted, the power struggle with the incumbent in the president's office will end.
I have been an administrator at UDC since its inception in 1976. Most of that time the university has been in turmoil. My earnest hope is that truth and justice will ultimately prevail, and that UDC will be allowed to develop into the premier institution it can be.
NORRIS R. CAPERS Director, Office of Student Recruitment University of the District of Columbia Washington
As an old-line Washingtonian, I am distressed by the happenings at the University of the District of Columbia. Four presidents of the university have come and gone in only seven years; one of these men was voted the Best University President of 1976.
If UDC is to be a viable university in the 1990s, it must have a better board of trustees, one without professors from other local universities. One way to have a better board is to have the mayor appoint members from a list of outstanding candidates proposed by the Department of Education, the American Association of University Professors, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, etc., including a local organization such as the D.C. Federation of Civic Associations. Distinguished people from other states should not be discouraged from serving on UDC's board.