The University of the District of Columbia is asking the city for $4 million as it prepares to lay off dozens of professors and staffers whose union protections entitle them to big payouts, school officials told The Washington Examiner.
But Mayor Vincent Gray isn't immediately ponying up, saying he has issues with the university's "right-sizing plan" and wants UDC to put more effort into its request for more city funds.
"We've got to see a lot more than what we've seen," Gray said. "We've gotten a two-page letter from them."
The District's only public university released a plan in October to cut seven departments, cancel two dozen majors, and lay off 25 faculty members and staffers, on top of 30 positions already cut. The university's finances came under scrutiny from the D.C. Council earlier this year as UDC's Community College made a bid for independence only to discover that it couldn't get accredited when its host university's finances were so unstable -- its reserves were nearly depleted. UDC spends $35,152 per full-time student, 66 percent more than institutions of a similar size. Through the plan, UDC would bring costs down to $28,527 per student.
But school officials explained that much of the "bloat" was caused by an accumulation of faculty over the years and that it would be expensive to eliminate these positions because of a strong union presence.
Alan Etter, a spokesman for the university, said UDC expected the city to pick up the tab for the severance packages because the city mandated that UDC make the cuts.
"You have unions, you have collective bargaining, you have to pay severance," Etter said. "You just can't turn people out in the street. You can't."
UDC expects to finalize decisions about which positions to cut by Jan. 1, Etter said. The letter seeking $4 million was sent to city hall in early November.
Rather than simply rubber-stamp the request, however, Gray told The Washington Examiner he was sitting on it for a reason. The report calls for cutting facility costs by moving the community college, headquartered near Union Station, back in with the flagship in Tenleytown. Gray said he believes that is a "huge mistake" as the two-year college tries to establish its own identity.
"We've really got to be able to drill down with much more specificity around not only what those dollars will be used for, but what is the vision going forward for the university," Gray said.