BCCC faculty takes plea to board

Employees complain to trustees of president's management style

October 04, 2003|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Angered by the management style of Baltimore City Community College's new president, faculty members appealed to the school's board of trustees yesterday after a series of decisions that they say have adversely affected students and threaten the academic integrity of the college.

In a meeting yesterday on the college's Liberty Heights campus, almost 60 of the school's approximately 125 full-time faculty members met and voted 46-9 to forward a petition to the trustees to register their discontent with President Sylvester E. McKay.

McKay has initiated sweeping changes since he took office more than a year ago.

Faculty members say the tactics used by McKay - who has been working to reform the college's troubled remedial program, among other things - have become increasingly hostile and unreasonable.

They referred to an instance last month during which McKay summoned the faculty to a meeting in the college's fine arts auditorium, which he had surrounded by uniformed campus police.

During the meeting, McKay blamed the faculty for things they say they are not responsible for, including theft of a $600 coffeepot, unchanged air-conditioning filters, inappropriate administrative structure, missing computer equipment and people sleeping in the parking lot.

"I think they're past being angry," said Ann Ritter, president of the Faculty Senate. "There have been all kinds of concerns from the faculty. We figured we had to make a stand."

Added Jim Coleman, vice president of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee: "We're not opposed to changes. It's how it came about."

Barbara L. Hopkins, BCCC vice president for external affairs, said the administration has not seen the document written to the trustees or any other statement from the faculty.

"Whatever their concerns, if it's something written, they haven't shared that with us," Hopkins said. "We just can't comment on anything we haven't seen."

McKay did not return phone calls yesterday.

Since he was sworn in as the college's president, McKay has initiated a series of aggressive reforms. One of his efforts has targeted the college's remedial program, which was criticized by the Abell Foundation in a report last year.

The Abell study found that of the students who entered BCCC in 2001, 95 percent needed remedial math.

Upon taking office, McKay began such initiatives as creating a department devoted to "developmental" education and introducing a computer-based curriculum for remedial math. But the president drew fire from some faculty members for a third reform - which requires teachers to have master's degrees in their fields, even if they have been highly recognized educators and have taught for years.

Faculty members insist that they have no problem with efforts to improve the college's programs. But they said McKay's approach is upsetting the learning environment.

The faculty petition approved last night requests a meeting with the trustees within two weeks without administrative officials; a guarantee of no reprisals or adverse actions against faculty or staff who raise the issues about the administration; an independent investigation of the results of recent changes by the president; development of an academic master plan; and regular meetings among the trustees, faculty, staff and administrators.

Rosetta K. Wilson, chairwoman of the trustee board, said board members are aware of some of the issues between the faculty and the administration.

"I think everybody that's affiliated with that school is interested in teaching students," Wilson said. "Obviously, there are some issues that we have to work through."

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