IN HIS UNDERSTANDABLE zeal to improve the quality of education offered at the University of the District of Columbia, president Benjamin Alexander has made many waves in a few short months-- moving to suspend for a semester those students whose cumulative grade averages are below 2.0 (a C) and insisting that degrees earned at UDC will recognize something more than regular attendance. For the majority of students as well as faculty members who share this commitment, the actions have been interpreted not as an indictment of UDC as it has been, but as another step in making the institution still greater. Not everything Mr. Alexander proposes should be given rubber-stamp acceptance, however, and one plan offered the other day is a case in point:
Mr. Alexander has proposed dismantling the special tutoring, counseling and remedial services now offered as a program called the University College. This college, created four years ago in response to UDC's open admissions policy, is intended to ensure that students who enter with weak basic skills are working at acceptable levels before they begin study in their majors. All entering students are placed in the university college, where they must complete required courses. Mr. Alexander proposes to reassign the University College staff to individual departments.
"It is not our purpose to abolish the services that the University College now provides," Mr. Alexander insists. "It is our intention to move those services" so that "they can be performed with more efficiency." That's a fine objective, but there is a danger attached: fragmenting these services--and hiding them by tucking them under various names and departments--may simply put this help out of sight and out of reach for too many students.
There may well be a case for changing the University College requirements or allowing more students to bypass them. But the mere camouflaging of remedial help will not confer greater quality or prestige on the university. As Marjorie Parker, chairman of the board of trustees notes, the proposal is "a rather sweeping recommendation" that may prove at odds with the university's "philosophy and mission" to serve the needs of all students regardless of their basic skills.
In addition, Mr. Alexander should at least consult with the faculty as well as the trustees before making such changes. Few if any people concerned with the university oppose steps to widen the educational horizons of UDC's graduates; on the contrary, they can, and should, contribute to the process.