The embattled president of Harford Community College announced last night to the board of trustees that she will retire at the end of the year.
President Claudia Chiesi's decision, rumored among faculty members and state lawmakers yesterday, came hours after a faculty vote to ask the trustees to reinstate the campus Faculty Council, which had been abolished two years ago by her.
Noting that this year is her 30th in higher education, Chiesi said, "Tonight I would like your permission to retire."
Troubles at the Churchville campus have prompted state lawmakers to prepare bills to dissolve and change the makeup of HCC's board of trustees.
Harford's General Assembly delegation got involved in the campus problems last summer after members received about 60 letters of complaint from faculty members about Chiesi's "iron-fisted" management style.
Then a faculty survey, conducted last fall by the American Association of University Professors chapter at the college, found that more than 80 percent of the teachers would give Chiesi a vote of "no confidence."
Among the primary complaints are that Chiesi dissolved the Faculty Council, which had a voice in college governance matters; the nursing school program has a lower pass rate than the state requires and was ranked lowest by the Maryland Board of Nursing; and the president's autocratic rule creates rifts between the board and faculty.
Chiesi has said she is in a leadership role that is subject to criticism, and while there are disagreements over how the college is organized, the problems that cropped up last summer are "resoluble."
State Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Harford Republican, said yesterday that she has drafted a bill to dissolve the board June 1.
"To dissolve the Faculty Council was wrong. To take the nursing department from one of the top in the state to the bottom of the barrel is wrong," she said. "That responsibility has to be shared by [Chiesi] and the board of trustees."
Del. Joanne S. Parrott, also a Harford Republican, said Monday that "with the governance situation being so unstable on campus" she is drafting legislation that she believes would create a stronger board of trustees.
Parrott said that while Maryland law establishes broad guidelines for the board, each college's rules are subject to changes and Harford's need to be "tightened up."
Among changes she proposes are removal of the president from the secretary/treasurer position on the board, and adding two nonvoting members from the faculty and student body.
The trustees and the state delegation are to meet tomorrow in Annapolis.