LAST WEEK the trustees of the new University of the District of Columbia selected as its first president Randolph W. Bromery, a geophysicist and chancellor of the main campus of the University of Massachusetts. Their choice of Mr. Bromery was significant in two respects: First, because his impressive academic credentials and his opinion that the university should try to develop a superior academic reputation mark him as a man not likely to tolerate mediocrity. And second, because, by choosing someone completely unconnected with higher education in Washington, the board said, in effect, that it wanted to end the bitter factionalism that now exists among the faculty and students of the three institutions from which the university evolved. Now comes word that Mr. Bromery has declined the trustees' offer. The news must be disheartening to the board, which clearly had hoped that his selection would signal their own commitment to establishing a first-rate public institution in Washington.

But there were special circumstances surrounding Mr. Bromery decision that should soften the blow. The offer reached him during the week that his boss, the president of the University of Massachusetts, announced his resignation. Obviously, Mr.Bromery, who is also one of the university's vice presidents, is a leading candidate for the top position there. Thus, his decision not to come to Washington shouldn't be seen as expressing a lack of faith in the D.C. University board. The trustees have made their concern for the excellence of the university clear. We urge them to stick to their high standards as they renew their search.