IN THE LAST of his five hectic but highly productive years as president of the University of the District of Columbia, Lisle C. Carter has had good reason to look out his window and like what he sees. As he wrote on our pages two months ago, "With students registering without a hitch in a new gymnasium and thronging the plaza between classes, and with the libraries jammed and lines in the bookstore, the university became a visible, believable entity." But little did Mr. Carter know then just how instantly visible and important UDC would become in its own community and across the country--thanks to a certain fine piece of work by one group of determined students.

We've mentioned this group on several recent occasions in this space, because its achievements have generated unusually intense local and national interest. While it is thoroughly understood on campus that basketball alone is no full measure of a university's strength, the fact that UDC's Firebirds are national champs--winners of the NCAA Division II-- is important in ways that go well beyond the fun and fanfare of collegiate sports.

What has been delivered along with that great big trophy won last Saturday in Springfield, Mass., is a spirit, a school identity and a pride of very special significance to the mostly black student body that wants others simply to take UDC just as seriously as it does--as a newly cohesive, productive and improving institution of learning. No longer is UDC a raggedy merger of older institutions and disparate faculties catering to part-time drop-ins with low-to-average expectations; but sending out this message of progress has taken time, just as the changes have.

For too long now, UDC's students have been saddled with stereotypic characterizations that are as false as they are offensive. And the fact that a team of young, gifted and black athletes may have awakened more of the world for a better look at this city's investment in the future is worth cheering from all parts of the community.