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Chavous calls for better use of UDC facilities

(Published October 4, 1999)

By EMORY JULIAN MILLS

Staff Writer

The chairman of D.C. City Councilís education committee says the University of the District of Columbia should be used as a high-tech instrument for economic development in Washington.

Councilman Kevin P. Chavous, D-Ward 7, speaking Sept. 29 at UDCís fifth annual opening convocation, unveiled his vision for UDC and called on community leaders to use the university to prepare D.C. residents for increasingly technological workplaces.

"I have not seen sufficient effort by the city to date to extend this aspect of economic and employment development reach of its university through community and corporate channels to accomplish this end," Chavous said.

"With the benefit of its wireless and cable broadcasting capacity, Internet and World Wide Web networks, UDC can have a profound impact of coordinating a strategy for reconnecting neighborhoods and community organizations in civic dialogue and training activities," he added.

"It is my belief that public higher education has the best opportunity of preventing a newly emerging form of social segregation based on access to knowledge and economic participation in the economic mainstream," he said.

He called for the university to be developed into a citywide source of after-school learning and encouraged UDC to promote personal computer networks to meet inner-city youthsí social needs.

Chavous also suggested several ways to make UDC an academic leader in the D.C. area. He called for the university to certify teachers upon graduation and urged the school to explore creating a scholarship to reduce tuition for UDC students who teach for three years in D.C. public schools. Chavous urged the university to operate the D.C. public school systemís proposed technology high school east of the Anacostia River.

He also criticized Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who earlier this year attempted to move the UDC campus from its Van Ness location to a spot east of the Anacostia River.

"We can and will have a university presence east of the Anacostia," he said. "That is something I have been fighting (to get) for years. But hear me and hear me well: We will never shut down the main campus of UDC. I admire the cool-headedness of the student body this year in resisting any move."

UDC was established in 1975 when three existing institutions were consolidated into one. The schoolís mission is to prepare students to immediately enter the workforce or to go on to higher educational levels.

Chavous praised the school for achieving this mission and commended it for having the highest enrollment of any predominantly black college or university. Despite its academic success, the university has endured severe budget cuts and staff reductions that nearly caused the school to close. These financial problems, he added, rendered the school vulnerable to threats posed by "dark forces" who want to shut the university down.

"These dark forces are insidious, conniving, deceitful, greedy and self-serving, and they are dangerous," Chavous said. "Some are in the Washington Post; many more are in the Washington Times and some are in our government. Many of those forces cloak their treachery with a concern for fiscal responsibility and competent management," he said.

Despite their efforts, UDC survived the crisis and reported a 70 percent enrollment increase in 1998, he said.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator