Message to the University Community
from the Chair of the Board of Trustees,
Dr. Elaine Crider
Board of Trustees
August 14, 2012
To: University of the District of Columbia Community
The University of the District of Columbia has a long and proud history of meeting the educational needs of the District of Columbia. Created as a result of merging the DC Teacher's College, Washington Technical Institute, and Federal City College, the University has grown to include the David A. Clarke School of Law and the University of the District of Columbia Community College. Not only do we educate a large number of graduates of D.C. public schools, we also serve an increasingly diverse and growing population of international students and non-traditional students (e.g., older-than-average, part-time, mid-career students) among our ranks. At present, the University provides approximately 75 undergraduate, graduate and law school degree programs.
As we continue to grow and develop, we have faced significant challenges over the years in many areas including, but not limited to, dwindling financial resources, aging facilities as well as technology infrastructure and service delivery concerns. It should also be noted that the University has not been immune from the growing demand for high quality education at all levels in the public education system by residents and employers within the District of Columbia. These challenges have presented themselves at a time when the University is facing stiff competition for some of the best and brightest students the District of Columbia has to offer. It is against the backdrop of these challenges that we have been presented with a unique opportunity—a chance to determine the direction of the University through a right-sizing initiative that will ultimately shape the University's future and ensure its sustainability for another 160 years or more. Specifically, I am talking about the right-sizing efforts that you may have heard about. Many of you have asked me and your fellow colleagues and students questions about why are we right-sizing, who will it effect and what does it mean for me as either a consumer or provider of services within the University community. In light of these questions and concerns, I wanted to share with you my thoughts about right-sizing and why I think it is an opportunity for the University and something that we as a community should embrace.
It should be noted that while the impetus for the right-sizing initiative came from a mandate given by City leadership, the Board of Trustees recognizes that this mandate is an opportunity to rethink who we are and how we go about providing academic instruction and service delivery for the populations that we serve. The Board of Trustees recognizes the importance of this initiative and has taken a leadership position in carrying out this mandate. Working closely with the University leadership and the larger University community, we are approaching this initiative as a clean slate opportunity that allows us to identify our best options for ongoing operations including:
- Collaborating with key educational stakeholders to define the public higher education system of the District of Columbia;
- Identifying current and future trends that will shape the workforce needs of the District of Columbia in the near future; and, creating academic offerings that prepare students to be active participants and leaders in the employment market place;
- Examining our current practices to identify whether those practices allow us to meet the future needs for employment in the District of Columbia;
- Reviewing, and re-articulating, the mission, roles, responsibilities and scope of the University, the community college and the law school in a way that honors the historical and traditional mission but also embraces the new direction that the University must move in to attain independence from its current constraints; and,
- Identifying key strategies that move the University of the District of Columbia, the community college and the law school from an over dependence on government resources to more stable and reliable sources of funding.
The Board of Trustees welcomes this opportunity. We consider this process to be a critical next step in the "transformation" of UDC towards the improvement of services to students and the better alignment of the University with the needs of the City and the region. We meet frequently and regularly, working hard to develop this plan and deliver it to the Mayor and the Council, as requested, by October 1. We are being assisted by outside, independent, advisors with expertise in higher education. We, and they, will be working with senior staff to collect the information we need to inform our deliberations and drive decisions. While we will not have the final plan with all action items and decisions done by October 1st, our goal is a to produce by that date a comprehensive, realistic, compelling, and cost-effective "map" forward, with benchmarks and timetables around key deliverables, that assures a healthy future for the University. Throughout the process, please know that, above all, we are most mindful of our first obligation, which is to students and seeing their successful matriculation through an institution that they can proudly claim as their alma mater.
While we are actively engaged in right-sizing, you should know that separate and apart from our right-sizing efforts, we are confronting a budget shortfall that must be resolved without any additional economic resources from the City. We must ensure that our very limited resources are focused on what is most important: our core teaching and learning mission; our students; and service to the citizens of the District. Although we do not know what all of our options are at this time to close the anticipated budget shortfalls, we know that hard choices must be made and made quickly if the University is to thrive and continue to be available to the District of Columbia residents so that the right-sizing initiatives can be implemented.
As we progress, we will keep the entire University informed of important developments by regularly communicating with stakeholders and being as transparent as we can be in connection with our efforts. Please bear with us in this most critical planning process. I also invite you to provide suggestions that you might have for improving the University and ensuring its sustainability for years to come. I am confident that working collectively with our students, faculty, staff and other relevant stakeholders, the Board will be able to produce a right-sizing plan that charts new territory for the University in academic excellence, service delivery and institutional reform.
Elaine A. Crider, DHSc
Chair, Board of Trustees