Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

UDC Battling Back after Major Surgery

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

UDC Battling Back after Major Surgery

Article excerpt

UDC Battling Back After Major Surgery.

WASHINGTON -- It was with poetic irony that Mother Nature dealt the northeastern states one final blow of frosty weather on April Fool's Day. That afternoon, at the main auditorium of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), despite the frigid winds that blew outside, senior administrators delivered a message inside that they hoped would warm the hearts of the faculty, staff and students gathered and herald the beginning of a new season in the life of this battered historically Black university.

"We choose to live, and we choose to act," said interim president Julius F. Nimmons Jr. before an attentive audience of a few hundred members of the campus community. Nimmons had called the meeting to update UDC's various constituencies on the status of the university and to share his vision for the future. He also took advantage of the opportunity to commend them for enduring what he called "the most devastating of events in the history of this university," and asked them to band together as they adjust to the challenges of their newly streamlined configuration.

Only a few months ago, some worried that UDC was on the brink of extinction. In February, it was forced to release nearly one third of its faculty and administrative staff due to an $18.2 million budget shortfall. UDC's current appropriation is $37 million. At one time, it was as high as $77 million.

The budget controversy also affected student enrollment, reducing the student population to 5,917 this spring from its fall size of 7,684.

"I realize that your workloads have increased," Nimmons said, adding that he is aware of how the recent sequence of events have affected morale. "But we've got to move on. We have an institution to preserve."

Despite the deep faculty cuts, the university has been able to retain the core of its academic program and its accreditation status with the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Nimmons said. He also assured the audience that he and the board of trustees have no intentions of turning UDC into a two-year college, an alternative that some officials have publicly considered.

Nimmons said he anticipates no further reductions to the university budget appropriation, and announced that the university plans to begin the fall semester on time in August. Last fall, budget woes forced the school to delay opening until October.

As part of UDC's new budget strategy, preliminary steps are also being taken to initiate a fundraising campaign. An alumni group has already launched a campaign to raise $3.5 million and the institution hopes to pursue donations and grants from corporate, foundation and other private and public sources. Previously, there was no need for UDC to engage in fundraising because its level of support from the city met its needs. In-kind services, corporate partnerships and volunteer expertise will be sought by UDC. A group of students has already volunteered to assist with public relations and student recruitment efforts.

"Whatever it takes to bring this university back to life....I encourage you to do that. Whatever you need to do to purge yourself of the stress and negativity we all have suffered, please do it now," Nimmons said. "Our need for community has never been greater."

Student body president Keith Johnson echoed Nimmons's call for solidarity, urging those gathered to adopt "a new attitude. …

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