Trustees' ouster sought at BCCC Faculty petition cites plan to cut tenure, related policies

December 06, 1996|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Citing allegations of secret meetings and incompetence, faculty leaders of Baltimore County's community college system the largest in Maryland -- are demanding that the system's board of trustees resign amid a rancorous reorganization.

The call from professors at Essex, Catonsville and Dundalk comes after the 10-member board proposed eliminating tenure for new faculty members and other related policies. The professors say the moves undermine academic freedom and quality education for the system's nearly 67,000 full- and part-time students.

A petition calling for the board's ouster will be delivered to its members next week. Gov. Parris N. Glendening and other county, state and federal officials will also receive copies of the document, a symbolic vote of no confidence by 1,280 faculty members.

Glendening received a letter from concerned professors in October, and while he was "empathic to their concerns," he advised them in a letter to work through the system's chain of command to address concerns, a spokesman said yesterday.

Under other guidelines approved last month by the board, the colleges' full-time instructors would be paid less for teaching summer-school classes, sabbatical leaves would be curtailed and department heads would be required to spend more time in the classroom.

"The board members are not advocates for public education," said Margaret Guchemand, head of the music department at Essex and president of the college's chapter of the American Association of University Professors. "Most know little about education and use the appointment to the board as nothing more than a political steppingstone or an item on their resume."

Added Michael Cain, an English professor at Catonsville and AAUP representative: "The board has little or no understanding of teachers or teaching. They threaten the survival of our institutions."

Some board members and public officials, however, criticize the petition. They also deny that board members violated Maryland's open meeting law in preparing a memo outlining proposed changes.

The board member who wrote the memo, Timothy M. Kotroco, said yesterday that the document "was not a mandate but just a guideline to get feedback. And there was nothing clandestine about the memo; I wrote it on my computer at home about issues that have been around for years and were never resolved."

Before the board began to recast the three independent schools into a single system last year, said board Vice Chairman Thomas E. Booth, "these issues of tenure and putting teachers back in the classrooms were never resolved."

"We don't think it's unreasonable to expect teachers to teach, mentor, work with students and spend 40 hours a week at their jobs just like everybody else in society."

State Sen. Michael J. Collins, an Essex Democrat, said faculty members are concerned more with turf protection and the historical application of tenure -- designed to guarantee academic freedom, not a lifetime job.

"The faculties have crafted the institutions to serve their interests first," he said. "How can senior full-time professors expect any sympathy from taxpayers, people who might work two jobs, when they work 28 weeks out of the year, 15 hours a week, and get extra pay if they teach in the summer?"

County Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz, who led the move to cut the system's budget by $2.6 million in the spring, said he is disturbed by allegations that the board violated the open meetings law, "and I don't want to dismiss those concerns."

"But like all other government agencies undergoing a downsizing process, [the professors'] anger is just a symptom of economic reality. I am not interested in raising taxes in order to maintain an underutilized academic process," he said, referring to an 18 percent enrollment drop in the past six years.

System Chancellor Daniel J. LaVista and some board members are scheduled to brief the council Tuesday on the reorganization.

"The petition is a shock to me," LaVista said. "I was aware the faculty has been objecting strenuously to the issues raised at last month's board meeting, but I had no idea the dissent had gotten to this point."

The board's move to abolish tenure for new professors and other recommendations, he said, "reflects change from cultures developed in the past, ways of doing business that were established. I've never seen anything like this, calling for the board's resignation, but I suspect we'll see more of it across the county, former independent schools converting to systems as the economy drives it."

Since being appointed chancellor last January, LaVista has drawn criticism for downsizing the administration and eliminating programs -- a mission he accepted from the board.

Officials expect to save $5 million from the reorganization, money that will be used for new teachers and equipment.

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