Many hard-pressed students and other concerned members of the University of the District of Columbia community have been highly critical of the considerable travel expenses of UDC President Robert L. Green. But in a letter to the editor today, Rep. Mickey Leland and Del. Walter Fauntroy have misinterpreted and distorted both the issue and the publicity surrounding it. They attempt to cast these financial reports and the concern voiced about them as an effort to "tear down" a valuable institution of higher education "specifically designed as a public vehicle for educating black and minority youths." That isn't the point; and neither race nor the purposes of UDC has anything to do with it -- as those from UDC who have raised these issues as well as those who have read carefully what has been said can readily discern.

Here's what we said: "UDC deserves support as an important educational institution -- the only one of its kind in the District, answering serious and special needs in productive ways; and as such it can and should demand that every dollar be spent as productively as possible. Without such controls, confidence in the university, from within and elsewhere, is easily eroded -- and that would be bad for everyone."

Why else does anybody -- including the D.C. auditor, who is looking into financial management and controls at UDC as well as Dr. Green's travel expenses -- pay any attention at all to the spending of public money? Should students who never received books as promised not raise any questions about the costs of 32 trips taken in less than two years by the university president? Should city taxpayers be denied this kind of information, or is this precisely what Mr. Leland and Mr. Fauntroy refer to as "reporting which gives the public the information with which to see the whole picture"?

Maybe, as the letter writers suggest, the UDC community should blindly accept President Green's publicly sponsored travels -- including nine trips by his wife, several first-class air tickets and one trip with a stay in a $260-a-night hotel room -- as the normal pattern for university presidents these days. But students, faculty and other longtime supporters of the university don't all see it this way -- and perhaps their concerns deserve more constructive understanding than today's letter seems to indicate.