"It's a very tough thing putting this university together," said Lisle C. Carter Jr., the president of the University of the District of Columbia. "There are a lot of tough decisions coming up and a lot of people may not be happy about them, but we're going ahead with it. We're going to try to find a way . . .
"Whether I can pull it off or not I still don't know. I'm not naive."
Last week Carter, 52, was the target of a faculty strike at one of the university's three campuses and considerable discontent at the other two.
His faculty critics accused him of threatening to downgrade their jobs, curtail their programs, increase their workloads, bring in "outsiders," and undermine efforts to raise academic standards.
Carter himself ascribes most of the criticism to fear of change as the citys three public colleges - Federal City College, Washington Technical Institute, and D. C. Teachers College - are merged to form a new university.
"The faculty is anxious about their situation," he said. "That's inevitable. If I appoint one person to a position where there had been three positions before then two people have problems. In anything that affects people's futures, there's going to be anxiety, but we're trying to involve the faculty in consolidation as widely as we can. We're not going to act arbitrarily."
Although the university was authorized by Congress in October 174 and a unified board of trustees took office almost two years ago, the three colleges are still operating largely as separate institutions with their own courses, programs, and personnel rules.
Carter was named president last August with a strong mandate from the new university's trustees to consolidate programs by the fall of this year. To do it, he hired a hard-driving education professor from New York. Madelon D. Stent, as acting vice president for academic affairs. Stent, in turn, has set up 37 committees - with about 350 faculty members on them - to plan consolidation in every department.
The committees are expect to complete their work by early next month. The trustees are supposed to make final decisions about it by early May, but the process already has run into formidable problems.
Because the university does not yet have its own personnel policies, Carter appointed Stent and other top officials on an acting basis. When university lawyers said the authority of the appointees was unclear, Carter and the trustees persuaded the City Council to pass an emergency law, allowing the trustees to make specific rules for the interim appointments.
To fearful faculty members, the law also appeared to open the way for changes in their rank and assignments. They reacted angrily when it went into effect for 90 days on Feb. 2.
On the Van Ness campus (formerly Washington Tech), a two-day strike forced the cancellation of about half the classes. There was no strike on the other two campuses, but their faculty leaders strongly condemned the law too. On Thursday Carter agreed not to use its powers until after faculty representatives and trustees agreed on saleguards for tenure rights.
Even though courses and programs are still widely different, on the three campuses, Carter decided to use one computer system for spring term registration in January. The rules for academic probation and suspension also differed widely and officials said the computer couldn't be instructed to enforce the three sets.
The solution, announced by Stent in a memorandum Jan. 18, was to drop all probation rules, allowing students to take a full load of courses in the spring term - and collect full grants from federal aid programs - regardless of how many courses they failed in the fall.
Stent said new academic probation rules would be enforced throughout the university next fall, but dropping the old rules before the new ones came into effect drew a sharp response from the faculty.
"Of course we disapprove of it," said Joseph Brent, a history professor at the Mount Vernon Square campus (formerly Federal City College). "It means academic standards are being lowered. That's not what we need now."
In 1976 both Federal City and Washington Tech were strongly criticized by the Veterans Administration for failing to enforce probation rules and allowing students to remain enrolled - and continue to collect benefits - even though they failed courses repeatedly.
Both colleges tightened up substantially last year. Indeed, at Washington Tech about 40 percent of all students were placed on probation.
Yesterday Veterans Administration officials said doing away with rules that require students to make "regular progress" or leave was against VA regulations for schools where veterans can collect GI Bill benefits.
Last year about 2,500 of the 13,000 students at the university received GI Bill benefits, which range from $311 a month for an unmarried veteran to $422 a month - or $3,798 per school year - for a veteran with a wife and a child.
Tuition at the university is $135 a year.
Raleigh Allen, whom Carter dismissed on Wednesday as top administrator of the Van Ness campus because he supported the strike, said faculty members decided to make a dramatic protest because they feared many professors would be cut down to lower ranks as part of the merger.
The campus used to be WTI, a two-year vocational-technical school, and about one-third of its 28 full professors do not have doctoral degrees.
Allen said Carter told him that many of the WTI professors were "under-qualified" for that rank in a university that includes four-year schools and graduate programs and pays all professors on the same relatively high salary scale.
In an interview Carter said, "I'm not interested in reducing anybody's (faculty) ranks" but he added: "That's the kind of question that's being worked out in the consolidation process . . . I'm not making any decisions about it now."
Allen said many faculty members at WTI are discontented because, despite the merger, their standard teaching load is still much heavier - 15 hours per week - than it is at the other two colleges, 12 hours a week at D.C. Teachers College, and 9 hours per week at Federal City.
On the other hand, faculty members at Federal City said they fear Carter will try to increase the number of classes they have to teach. Faculty members at Federal City said the reason for their lighter teaching load is that as part of a four-year college, they are expected to do research.
Part of the university have similar studenel in 1966, as the first American-supplied jet, the Navyhigh school grades. As a result, most teaching is of similar lower-level courses that require little research to enrich them.
Overall, the university has about 725 full-time faculty members and an annual budget of $52 million - about 80 percent of it from the city government.
Last week about 50 faculty members took their grievances to the D.C. City Council, although the council failed to pass the resolution they wanted - it fell one vote short of the required two-thirds majority - and they are treated like important constituents.
Several faculty members said that if Carter and the university trustees try to make changes they strongly object to, they will go back to the council again. Under the law setting up the university, they noted, both the council and Mayor Washington have the power to overturn any new personnel rules that the trustees enact.
One underlying reason for the severe conflicts that the merger has stirred is the trustees' decision to make it so complete. According to a basic structure they adopted last summer, two-year, four-year and postgraduate programs will be placed together in five colleges, based on the subject taught rather than the level of difficulty.
The much more usual pattern around the country is to have separate two-year and four-year colleges with a wide range of programs, like WTI and FCC have been for the past decade. But the trustees rejected this pattern largely on grounds that they did not want to "cut down the option" of all incoming students to get a bachelor's degree.