TRUSTEES AT the University of the District of Columbia have taken several welcome steps that should alleviate the concerns of the regional agency that will decide on the school's accreditation. The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools had warned that the trustees interfered in administrative functions more properly handled by UDC's president. A related problem has been the university's inability to keep a president in office.
In response, the trustees have hired the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities to assist in the search for a new president and to offer them guidance on their proper role in university leadership. The trustees have also decided to shift authority over their own administrative staff. In the future, these employees will answer to and work for the UDC president.
Each UDC trustee now receives $4,000 annually without a requirement to submit receipts for travel-related expenditures. In the eyes of Middle States, this is a violation, because trustees are only supposed to receive reimbursements for costs related to attending board meetings. The trustees have now asked the D.C. Council to pass emergency legislation removing the $4,000 in annual pay from the D.C. Code.
Middle States also expressed concerns about UDC's reserve fund, its overall fiscal state and its financial management system. Again, the trustees seem to be taking appropriate action. They have pledged to maintain the university's $4.9 million reserve fund as a hedge against future fiscal shortfalls and have begun a process to reduce expenditures on nonfaculty personnel and in the renting of office space. The trustees have also begun to develop a new financial planning system.
UDC's trustees have said privately that Middle States' criticisms were inappropriately harsh. Still, the trustees were unwilling to take the chance that Middle States would not renew UDC's accreditation. These actions alone won't cure UDC's worst ills, such as the poor graduation rate of its students, but the deck is being cleared, and that will allow the university to focus on more serious issues in the future.