Community colleges' faculty, students push for change They ask House delegation to alter plan to recast board


Faculty and student leaders at Baltimore County's troubled community colleges launched an effort yesterday to break up what one called the look of an "old boy network" on the system's board of trustees.

Appearing before the county's House delegation in Annapolis, faculty senate presidents and student leaders from the three colleges asked for changes to a legislative proposal that would recast the board.

Retaining trustees who have run the board for years is wrong, said Jan Allen, president of the Essex faculty senate. Noting social and political ties between several veteran board members and state senators, she said that the board "begins to look like an old boy's network to us."

Last month, trustees fired their hand-picked chancellor, Daniel J. LaVista. In the tumult surrounding that move, County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger stepped in to craft a proposal that includes naming his friend and political ally Francis X. Kelly, a former state senator, as board chairman.

The proposal, which has not been scheduled for legislative hearings, calls for expanding the board from 11 to 15 members and appointing two members from each of the seven County Council districts. The last member would be chosen countywide, and the governor would designate a chairman this year, though later leaders would be elected from among the membership.

Board members such as Alan J. Ferguson, who has served since 1979, could be appointed to one more five-year term. New members would be limited to two consecutive five-year terms.

But the faculty and student leaders yesterday called for other changes. They want:

To block current long-term trustees from serving new five-year terms.

To give County Council members -- who control much of the colleges' budget -- some say, along with state senators, in recommending new trustees.

To establish minimum qualifications and training for trustees.

To allow views of others in the college community to be represented on the board -- from students to community activists.

In addition, the board is now all-white, though minority enrollment ranges from 17 percent at Dundalk to 30 percent at Catonsville, the college presidents said in response to a black delegate's question.

In response to the suggestions, delegation Chairman Joseph J. Minnick, a Dundalk Democrat, named a subcommittee of eight delegates headed by city-county Del. James W. Campbell to study the issues.

County Council Chairman Joseph Bartenfelder and several delegates said that they favor at least some of the proposed changes. But Ruppersberger has objections, according to Michael H. Davis, his spokesman.

"If you're not careful, there won't be any changes done," Davis said, explaining that the legislative proposal, Senate Bill 616, is already the result of "a delicate compromise." Pressure to make substantial changes might dissolve that consensus, he warned.

Adding a nonvoting student member, however, a suggestion that several delegates embraced, might not upset that balance, Davis said.

Catonsville student government President Mark Williams, a business administration major who works full time, said students "are definitely not included" in the board's deliberations.

Essex student government President Heather Hollingsworth said it is "unbelievable" to her that a trustee who has served for 18 years has never taken a course at the colleges. "I want somebody whose going to fight for me," she said.

Other speakers complained that board members have no background in higher education and are bungling the effort to consolidate some services under a chancellor.

Pub Date: 2/08/97

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