Mess at county community colleges Baltimore County: Sensitivity and a clear vision would help college officials avoid chaos.


LAST SPRING, the Baltimore County Council justifiably torched officials of the county's community colleges for failing to adapt to an age of stagnant revenues. The council cut $2.3 million from the colleges' budget and told them to get serious.

So now the BCCC Board of Trustees has gotten serious, abolishing tenure for new faculty, among other changes. This is the route taxpayers, through fiscally conservative elected leaders, have been urging. To that extent, the board's recent decision cannot be criticized.

But its insensitivity to the college community and lack of communication with it and elected leaders is making this reorganization rancorous rather than merely difficult. Any xTC institution enduring change needs leadership -- someone to unite its factions in pursuit of a common goal and inspire public confidence that the pain will be worth it.

When the board hired Daniel LaVista as chancellor, it was assumed he would be that leader. Now it seems the board intends to use him mainly to carry out its edicts. The board has taken the lead, but is doing a poor job.

Consider last month's vote on the faculty issues. A faculty committee had been studying these matters and was due to present its findings soon. But the board voted without waiting to hear from it. That's the kind of thoughtlessness BCCC officials exhibited earlier, when they required employees to stand in line all night to secure a spot in a buyout plan.

Granted, much of the faculty's anger is a predictable reaction against change in the educational culture. While there is no doubt of faculty members' commitment to education, their public actions have smacked of a desire to protect their turf. This is unfortunate, because privately the faculty raises concerns the public and elected leaders should know about: Why are the colleges making do with 30-year-old lab equipment and insufficient materials? Why cut instruction but leave separate presidents, deans and bureaucracies at three campuses?

Board members can still get this reorganization on track if they address these concerns, treat faculty and students with respect and communicate a sense of what they intend the colleges to look like at the end of all this. Perhaps the board has a clear plan and a vision. If so, it is high time to share it.

Pub Date: 12/13/96

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