A nationwide organization of college professors has censured Essex Community College officials for firing four professors from tenured positions two years ago.
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) acted a committee finding that the school had violated principles governing academic freedom and the traditional job security of tenure, associate secretary Robert Kreiser said yesterday.
"Censure is a statement to the academic community that conditions for academic freedom and tenure are not sound," he said of Saturday's censure vote. "The effect of being on the censure list is that faculty members who are thinking about taking a position [at the school] may think twice."
The addition of Essex to the list of more than 50 schools censured by the AAUP comes after the organization found that school president Donald J. Slowinski and trustees for Baltimore County community colleges dismissed the professors without demonstrated cause or urgent financial need.
Proponents of tenure, a time-honored job-security status granted after a probationary period, say it assures academic freedom without political interference.
Essex officials have described the AAUP report as a "fairly accurate" description of events. But they maintain that they acted in accordance with the group's standards when they fired the professors because programs were discontinued.
In a written statement, Dr. Slowinski said, "It is regrettable that institutions acting in a responsible manner to review, evaluate, and keep academic programs and staffing responsive to today's economic and educational conditions are subject to harsh criticism and the unfortunate action of the American Association of University Professors."
Andrew J. Snope, dean of instruction, said he did not expect the censure to have a "major impact" on the school's ability to hire teachers.
Edward G. Sherin, a former professor in hotel and restaurant management who was among those fired in 1993, said he was glad the AAUP voted for the censure. But he said it was another sad chapter in an episode he described as an "embarrassment" to Baltimore County and to higher education in Maryland.
Mr. Sherin now heads the educational arm of the Restaurant Association of Maryland.