I am writing in response to editorial about the public university for the nation's capital ["The High Cost of UDC," Aug. 28] because The Post's view on the subject of its analysis lacked its usual clarity. By failing to take into account all of the facts provided by the University of the District of Columbia to the newspaper's editorial staff, the writer offered readers a distorted and underdeveloped picture of UDC's unusually strenuous efforts to behave responsibly as a public institution during austere times. Most regretably, the editorial writer, unlike The Post's new reporter who first wrote of the issue, left the erroneous impression that the universtiy had done nothing to reduce or contain costs and, presumably, was planning to do nothing unless prodded by The Post.
Persons knowledgeable about higher education administration have expressed surprise as to how far the university has moved since 1977. Not only do we have a consolidated structure, reaffirmation of accreditation and a single set of personnel policies, but three years after consolidation of three diverse institutions of higher education, we are about to adopt a coherent, long-range plan that will set out priorities for the university.
The plan will also include our strategy to lower the ratio of faculty to students, eliminate unwarranted duplication of academic programs and reorganize staff assignments to fit the needs of the newly merged university. All of these measures are designed to bring costs into realistic alignment with our mission of providing quality higher education to residents of the District of Columbia.
The editorial's implication that the university has been exempt from budgetary constraints and has not suffered its share of the education community's financial burdens is simply an incorrect interpretation of the facts, some of which are the following:
The universtiy has filled about 100 fewer positions than we are authorized to fill, and even further reductions are anticipated in the forth coming years. Our prudence in operating for some time far below our authorized budget ceiling for staff has helped the university to avoid the need to terminate employees through reductions in force.
The planning manual developed for UDC reported that the typical ratio of support staff to faculty at urban institutions ran 1.7 to 1, whilat UDC the ratio is less than 1.2 to 1. Accordingly, it is not true that the administrative work force is terribly out of balance. What is true is that consolidation resulted in some administrative areas being over-staffed while others were understaffed. Obviously an orderly, well-managed realignment to correct that sort of imbalance is a part of our plan.
Contrary to the editorial thrust, the university has not been exempt from budget cuts. Owing to D.C. government requirements that we absorb certain increased costs and to mandated reductions in our budget base, we expect that by FY82 the university will have absorbed in the range of $10 million, an amount equivalent cumulatively to 20 percent of the university's appropriated budget.
In the past year alone, we have managed our budget shortfall without causing an adverse impact on academic programs by not filling vacant positions; by failing to purchase critically needed supplies and repair services, as well as equipment, to support university programs; and by instituting and enforcing internal cost-containment policies. Moreover, we cut back by 50 percent on the level of operation of our summer academic program.
I have stressed time and again, in legislative testimony and other public statements, that we are attempting to manage our affairs at the university so that we can meet the fiscal requirements of the District and, at the same time, make needed adjustments in staffing, not arbitrarily and disruptively but in furtherance of analysis and plans for development of the university. By FY82, we will have met that goal.
It is even more vital now than before that the community understand that those of us charged with the responsibility for managing the university fully recognize the inherent problems of consolidation and of the need for fiscal prudence. We are dealing with those problems daily in a way that will permit UDCto fulfill the pruposes for which it was established at a defensible cost.
The university's long-range plan will be available to the community this fall, once adopted preliminarily by the board of trustees. D.C. residents will then have the opportunity to express their views on the priorties, prudence and responsibility of the university.