Colleges told: End tenure, cut pay Faculty upset as Essex, Catonsville, Dundalk given new guidelines

November 22, 1996|By Marego Athans | Marego Athans,SUN STAFF

Tenure would be abolished for new faculty at Baltimore County's community colleges, full-time instructors paid less for summer school classes, sabbaticals curtailed and department heads required to spend more time teaching under strongly urged guidelines approved by the colleges' board of trustees Wednesday night.

In an unannounced move at the end of a five-hour meeting, the board that oversees Essex, Dundalk and Catonsville community colleges voted 8-2 to direct the chancellor to use the guidelines during the colleges' restructuring, now in its second year.

The guidelines, which could become policy as early as April, are part of an effort to make up for budget shortfalls from declining enrollment. It touched off angry protests among some faculty.

"They're trying to save money, but they're cutting our legs off to do it," said Margaret Guchemand, president of the Essex chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and head of the music department at Essex Community College.

"There's not going to be anything left worth having."

In a separate but related move earlier in the evening, the board voted to extend the life of contracts for nontenured employees from the current one year to two, with annual evaluations.

That move is designed to improve the quality of faculty and offer more stability among staff, colleges' spokeswoman Deborah M. Hudson said yesterday.

But the new guidelines sparked outrage among some faculty members, who said the 11th-hour vote was a backdoor way of imposing the board's will on the faculty, which is supposed to be participating in the reorganization process through seats on committees.

Jan Allen, chairwoman of the faculty senate at Essex, said the colleges can't attract top candidates with two-year contracts.

"Young people looking for jobs will always choose tenure," she said. "The best will, so what we're doing is settling for mediocrity."

Taking away "released time," in which department heads and faculty members with extra duties get time away from teaching to perform administrative tasks, will compromise worthwhile activities such as orchestras and honors programs, which reward top-achieving students, Allen said.

"These are crucial to the integrity and excellence of the institution," she said. "These are things the taxpayers pay for, the students want, the college wants, and the community wants."

The guidelines come as the colleges struggle to make up for revenue shortages from declining enrollment.

The number of credit-earning students at the three colleges dropped 7.8 percent in the past year, from 22,695 to 20,920, largely due to cuts in a federal job training program that offered tuition reimbursement.

Also to blame is an improved economy that has reduced the number of workers returning to school for retraining, a community college specialty.

"You want to keep tuition increases to a minimum, but when your enrollment goes down you certainly have to look for ways to capture the money needed to take care of a shortfall," said Hudson, the colleges' spokeswoman.

College officials have not yet calculated how much money the changes would save the three schools, which have a combined $76 million budget this year.

The new guidelines would not become actual policy until they filter through a number of committees and then formally return to the trustees, probably in April.

According to a memorandum, written by board Chairman Bruce Chaillou and Vice Chairman Tom Booth, they specify that:

"The board envisions the absolute abolishment of tenure for all new employees and all employees who are not currently on the tenure track."

Current nontenured employees would have two-year rolling contracts with provisions for annual renewals. A new employee would have annual contracts the first two years, with intensive reviews, before advancing to the two-year rolling contracts. Current tenured employees would not be affected.

Full-time faculty, who are currently paid a higher rate than part-time faculty for teaching summer school and special

midwinter sessions, would now be paid at the lower rate.

Members of the faculty -- such as department heads -- who currently get "released time" for handling administrative duties, would lose that time and be required to teach a full 15-hour classroom schedule.

Sabbatical leaves would be restricted to employees who need to meet requirements for advanced degrees or activities that "substantially enhance" the ability to teach.

The memorandum explains that the guidelines are meant to avoid problems created last year, in the first year of the system's reorganization, when the board did not give Chancellor Daniel J. LaVista clear direction on what it wanted him to do.

Among other action taken Wednesday night, the board approved a restructured salary scale and performance evaluations for all 1,500 or so full-time employees, which would -- raise salaries at the top end of the scale.

That provision, which will be included in next year's proposed budget, requires approval of the county executive and county council.

Pub Date: 11/22/96

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