Baltimore Co. campuses are likely to see changes

January 05, 1995|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Sun Staff Writer

The trustees of Baltimore County's three community colleges will meet in a special public session tomorrow to consider appointing a single chancellor, ending a 38-year-old system of independent campuses that college officials say is found nowhere else in the country.

The board members will take up a $15,000 consultant's study of the institutions in Essex, Dundalk and Catonsville at a time when they're worried about the tightening of state and county budgets. The study is expected to recommend a single administration.

Board President Robert J. Kemmery Jr. said that among other issues, trustees are concerned about duplication of academic programs and saving money on administrative expenses, while faculty and staff are worried about job security.

"If you look at the state budget deficit, you realize funding of our institutions will not be generous," he said. "And to raise tuition would further deny access to our students.

"The study and resulting recommendation could cause us to look at some restructuring while enabling each campus to retain its own identity. We would look at the human resource situation very carefully and if any changes were to come, we'd probably find that folks will be secure."

While neither Mr. Kemmery nor the three college presidents say the consolidation is certain, changes appear to be on the horizon for the schools that serve more than 70,000 full- and part-time students on annual budget of more than $76 million.

In the past several months, Mr. Kemmery and other board members have expressed a desire to eliminate or dramatically change faculty tenure, which until now provided teachers with lifetime job security.

The summary firings of 12 tenured faculty and professional staff members last year at Essex resulted in an investigation by the American Association of University Professors. The investigation, expected to be concluded next month, could result in censure for Essex.

Some staff members are worried that a consolidated administration could be the prelude to more of the same treatment.

Others critical of the current system welcome a change. "I'm very much looking forward to a chancellor coming in," said Dr. James T. McGrath, professor of management at Essex who has criticized the college administration for not hiring enough minority faculty members. "A lot of us hope a reorganization would bring a much needed breath of fresh air."

Tomorrow's meeting highlights a system that is considered an administrative dinosaur. According to college officials, Baltimore

County is the only jurisdiction in the country with independently administered community colleges.

"Trustees in other parts of the country look at us in amazement and wonder how we do it," Mr. Kemmery said.

According to Mr. Kemmery, Essex and Catonsville, which opened in 1957, were designed to provide students with access to classes on the east and west sides of the Baltimore Beltway.

Another school was envisioned for the county's central area near Towson. But former state Sen. Roy N. Staten, who served as chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, used his influence to have the third community college built in his home district of Dundalk -- only a few miles from the Essex campus on the Eastside. It opened in 1971.

"Each place is a separate community and Dundalk needed one," said Mr. Staten, now 81 and retired. "The truth is they wanted Dundalk to be an annex of Essex or Catonsville and I fought that. And they shouldn't go tinkering with it now."

The county's legislative delegation blocked an attempt to consolidate the three colleges under one president in 1978 and again in 1979. However, officials say that since then, changes in the structure of the state's educational system have left Baltimore County's trustees with the power to carry out the consolidation.

"The present system doesn't lend itself to coordination," said Dr. Harold D. McAninich, interim president at Dundalk Community College.

"Right now, we're asking three different presidents to report to 10 people on the board who have other jobs. . . . Asking them to coordinate and govern such a system isn't realistic," he said.

At tomorrow's meeting, consultant William J. Mann, former chancellor of the Metropolitan Community Colleges in Kansas City, Mo., will deliver his findings to the trustees, college presidents and faculty members.

"The primary concern is budgetary. How do you make your system more efficient, more effective?" Dr. Mann said.

Dr. Frederick J. Walsh, president of Catonsville Community College, said the concept of a system chancellor "has been kicked around for years and it's a good idea."

"With singular leadership over a multicampus system, you avoid duplication," said Dr. Walsh. "Based on discussions we had with Dr. Mann while he was here, it appears to me he favors the stability such a move would bring, like a central office to handle anything from student registration to payroll for employees."

One frequently mentioned candidate for chancellor has been Shaila R. Aery, Gov. William Donald Schaefer's secretary of higher education. But her spokesman said such reports "have no substance."

The board of trustees for the Baltimore County Community Colleges will meet at 7 p.m. in the board room of the Administration Building at Essex Community College.

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