WHATEVER OTHER strengths he may bring to the University of the District of Columbia, Robert L. Green--who takes over as president come September--already has two important things going for him: 1) a unanimous vote of 13 members of the UDC board of trustees and 2) strong initial support among the faculty and staff members who turned out for his first press conference. Given the degree of difficulty attached to the presidency of this young public university, Dr. Green should treasure and exploit this support while it's there; it can have a way of fading quickly.
We wish him well. UDC is a most precious local institution, one that cannot afford to lose momentum in its march to become a top-flight urban center of education. That requires strong administrative abilities, honesty in addressing university weaknesses and an insistence that academic standards not be compromised to camouflage serious shortcomings in basic student skills.
Dr. Green, described by longtime friends as an "activist academic," says his philosophy "is that education is the major force in a democratic society to escalate the role of individuals who don't have opportunities." To this end, he advocates bolstering tutorial programs and establishing new links between the university and the city. This includes establishing an urban policy research center that will "stress applied research and focus on the major, identifiable problems . . . health, housing, unemployment."
With 23 years in various positions at Michigan State University, including the last 10 as a dean of urban affairs programs, Dr. Green brings considerable experience to this urban-center idea. Similar emphasis should be directed to the administrative capabilities of the university to function efficiently, to protect students from the cruel effects of grade inflation and weak promotions, permissiveness and overlapping teaching and staff jobs.
The students and others who learn and/or live in this city hardly need sales pitches on the potential contributions of black people in general or UDC's student body in particular. That is given--and known firsthand. What's needed now is a good map for getting people to the best places to make those contributions that will prove the point anew.