THE TRUSTEES of the University of the District of Columbia have now chosen a new chairman, N. Joyce Payne. Her credentials perfectly fit the task: D.C. native; graduate of the old D.C. Teachers College, one of the predecessor institutions merged into UDC; now director of an office for the advancement of public black colleges at the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges. The city is indebted to her for taking on an already difficult job at an especially sensitive time.
Her unanimous selection came after the other leading contender for the job, Herbert O. Reid Sr., removed his name from consideration. Mr. Reid is an important citizen and by all accounts has been a constructive member of the board, but he was right to step aside. His relationship with the mayor, to whom he is legal counsel, would inevitably have politicized the business of the board in a way that UDC can well do without just now.
There are two jobs facing the reconstituted board, one obvious, one not. The obvious is the selection of a new president to succeed Robert Green, who resigned last month under fire for loose expenditures of university funds. We have urged in the past that the board search as widely as possible, not necessarily only in the field of higher education. Someone of strength and steadiness is needed, above all someone who is sensible. A president who did not have academic experience could hire a provost who did. Twice in a row now the board seems to have been led astray by academic reputations. The less obvious job of the board is perhaps the more important, and should precede and be the basis of the choice of a president. The board must decide with more clarity than it has so far what it wants UDC to be. The school as it stands has several competing goals, to some extent also a reflection of the merger from which it was born.
It is an open-enrollment school, an entryway to higher education for young people in this city. This is one of its major virtues. But it does not come without cost. Only a small percentage of those who enter finally graduate. The university has an enormous remedial responsibility. That weighs it down; the trustees should decide what share of the school's resources to devote to this function.
UDC also has a role as a kind of vocational institution. One of the schools of which it was made was a technical institute, the other the teachers college. The university has a large two-year program, which to many of its students is its most important. Finally, there is also the desire, on the part of everyone involved, but perhaps especially the faculty, to have the university respected on conventional academic grounds. It is a university.
In all of this there are issues of te allocation of resources as well as clarity of organization and image. The next president ought to take the university toward its goals. The trustees, perhaps with some help from outside advisers, ought to set those. And they should do that first.