Commentary

CommentaryThis page provides commentary  on current events and observations about Adams State University, a public institution of higher education in southern Colorado.

 


NOVEMBER 28, 2016

Why We Are Still Watching Adams

For over a year now, Watching Adams has published news and commentary articles on Adams State University during a particularly pivotal time in the institution’s history. And during this time, many have asked why such a website was created and why it now persists. In October of 2015, along with our first news articles about ASU’s delayed paychecks for adjuncts, delayed response to open records requests, and burying public data behind login-protected pages, we also published Why Are We Watching Adams? to better articulate the vision and mission of this website. As we close out the year 2016, it seems worth revisiting this question.  READ MORE…


NOVEMBER 7, 2016

Field Notes from the Valley of Fear

Over the past five years living in Alamosa, Colorado, I have collected a few observations about what could commonly be called “small town politics.” Beyond any individual detail on any single issue, I have begun to notice a pervasive, underlying barrier between what people privately believe and how they publicly behave. I have come to name this corrosive phenomenon in the San Luis Valley as “the Valley of Fear.”  READ MORE…


OCTOBER 31, 2016

Three Reasons Why Service at Adams State is for Suckers

Teaching is likely why many of us got into the professoriate in the first place; interacting with students in our areas of expertise is deeply fulfilling and is probably the biggest consolation prize for all the bureaucracy, low pay, and negative office politics we try to avoid. Scholarship is likely the other main reason; researching and publishing on the topics that animate our intellectual lives keeps our teaching relevant and can elevate our career trajectories (and perhaps rub off on a worthy supporting institution). Years ago, I would have written a passionate defense of university service, as well, but not at ASU today. Here are the three major reasons why I believe service at ASU is somewhere between a fool’s errand and flirtation with career suicide.  READ MORE…


OCTOBER 27, 2016

ASU’s “Zip Code Barriers” Continue to Stack Up

I interpret these zip code barriers as ones that not only afflict Adams State University but are evident throughout the San Luis Valley community. The Salazar ranch article touches upon not only very clear and apparent nepotism issues given that Title V is directed by the sibling of the ASU Board Chair; it also reveals ASU’s culture of caring more about personal gain regardless of who might be affected, of quality of services provided, and not to mention General Accounting Principles.  READ MORE…


OCTOBER 10, 2016

Open Letter to Dr. Gilmer, VP of Academic Affairs

With an unhealthy campus culture and dysfunctional shared governance practices, the many serious problems with the Office of Extended Studies haven’t been addressed in a constructive, self-correcting manner within the organization and, consequently, ASU continues to be flagged by outside agencies and industry press outlets for academic violations and non-compliance with national standards.  READ MORE…


AUGUST 31, 2016

How Legal Settlements Work 101

Imagine my surprise when a figure of such influence as the Board Chair for ASU declared that I was not paid one dime! I double-checked my bank account just to be sure. Yes, I did receive a check from the ACLU Foundation and subsequently made a deposit on July 29th for $64,289.48.  If my math is right, that is about 642,895 dimes. Huh. So what’s going on here?  READ MORE…


AUGUST 22, 2016

ASU’s New Strategic Plan is Neither, Nor

If you compare the 2013 – 2016 Strategic Plan (which, by the way, was only ever a draft and was not implemented by the time 2016 rolled around) with the new plan, they are essentially the same. Yes, ASU’s exciting new 2020 Strategic Plan is really just large chunks of the old plan, cut-and-pasted and warmed over into the 2020 edition. Don’t you feel satisfied? READ MORE…


In ACLU Lawsuit, ASU Loses In Court of Public Opinion

After Adams State University (ASU) reached a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the matter of Ledonne v. McClure et al, the parties each issued press releases to announce the terms of the settlement. But the press releases were so factually different in nature that many observers were rightfully confused and left to sort out the aftermath for themselves. In doing so, it became clear that while no party admitted wrongdoing in the matter of former faculty Danny Ledonne being banned from the ASU campus, the university clearly lost in the court of public opinion. READ MORE…


ASU Administration Lied About Ledonne, Over and Over

After four months of litigation in Federal District Court, the involvement of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and the American Civil Liberties Union, and an extensive document discovery process, the matter of former faculty Danny Ledonne being banned from Adams State University campus was settled out of court. It brings to a close almost a year of deliberate and willful lies told about Danny Ledonne by the ASU administration in an apparent interest to remove one of its critics under patently fabricated pretenses. READ MORE… 


ASU Administration Doesn’t Care About You

At first glance, Adams State University certainly conveys a supportive and friendly campus culture that cares about its people. Initially, many prospective students and employees are seduced by the small town atmosphere and friendly people – superficially, anyway. But over time, and with some inquiry, it becomes more apparent that the ASU Administration doesn’t care about you. READ MORE…


MAY 9, 2016

Drink the ASU Kool-Aid or You’re Part of the Problem

“Drink the ASU Kool-Aid or You’re Part of the Problem.” That’s what one colleague told me the other day. Because in many departments and program areas at ASU, that’s the operating principle. It’s practically written on the walls in red powder and, if one looks hard enough, one can find it buried in every policy document and proclamation of the administrative culture. READ MORE…


Taking the Blue Pill: the Matrix and ASU

This is precisely what my colleague was describing. They are indeed aware that ASU is failing many of its students – literally and figuratively – with poorly-designed programs, practices, and policies. And yet, because they find “putting too much of that perspective into [their] work affects [their] ability to be enthusiastic and present with students,” they consciously choose to avoid considering the perspectives of former ASU students who weren’t successful and the implications this has on the university’s deliverance of its mission. They are taking the blue pill. READ MORE…


APRIL 25, 2016

A March, not a Parade, to Richardson Hall

Rather than a Parade to Richardson Hall, the “Standing Strong for ASU” event should have been a March on Richardson Hall. The many faculty, staff, and students who labor tirelessly to create positive outcomes and a solid reputation for the university had their efforts considerably undermined because ASU was found to be out of compliance with HLC criteria. This begins to make one wonder: if a thorough external audit was performed on the university’s finances, academic standards, and athletic eligibility compliance, what other violations would be found? Is everyone parading to Richardson Hall in unapologetic fanfare willing to bet that Adam State University has nothing else to hide? READ MORE…


20/20 Strategic Plan Nowhere in Sight

It is essentially the same coterie writing the 20/20 strategic plan who scribed the 13/16 plan. Can we really expect them to do any better than before? Will 20/20 become 20/25? Or 20/30? Is this a sharp vision or will it remain a blur? What hope do we have of completing the 20/20 plan before the year 2020 when one senior ASU officer responded to a colleague seeking alacrity with, “What’s the hurry? Things go slow in academia.” READ MORE…


Fred, Red, and the Shed: a Parable about Progress

Fred had young Red over to his old shed
Fred’s shed contained but a rotten floor and creaky bed
They both stood inside, where Fred would reside
and began to argue about just what to do

READ MORE…

 


 

MARCH 14, 2016

Top-Down Governance Creates A Race to the Bottom

 Last week, in casual interactions across campus, I learned of multiple instances of Adams State administrators making unilateral decisions on issues that properly fell within the defined scope of responsibilities of other employees. These decisions were made without bothering to consult employees beforehand or inform them afterwards.  Five instances in one week cannot be chance. It is clear evidence of an administration that has fully embraced and is now openly flaunting an autocratic, corporatized, top-down approach to “managing” Adams State. Has this also happened to you?   READ MORE…


FEBRUARY 29, 2016

Food Insecurity at Adams?

It wasn’t until I got back to my office that the message and ramifications of this notice sunk in. It wasn’t until I put myself back into a student’s shoes that the stress and anxiety over being a broke college student came rushing back. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if I had attempted to purchase FOOD on campus and was not allowed to because of the constant hold on my account. What would I have done? What would you do? READ MORE…


 

A Tale of Two Websites

Take a stroll around the Adams State University (ASU) homepage and news page. One can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of delight and admiration as the university showcases so many culturally relevant and exciting programs. And it seems the university is constantly winning awards and showcasing its achievements. At first glance, there is nothing but sunshine and rainbows at Adams State.

Now visit the Watching Adams news, commentary, and comments pages. You’re already here, right? So you know. It’s all doom and gloom, news from “negativity” and “disgruntled” commentary. To summarize, enrollment is down, salaries are too low and too unequal, ASU is violating confidentiality and ignoring recommendations by the American Association of University Professors, the university’s credit rating is dropping, and employees are living under a shroud of constant fear of retaliation or repression for speaking up. Here, it seems like the university is sinking faster than the Titanic while ASU’s website wants you to go back to the bar for another drink with the administration.  READ MORE…

 


FEBRUARY 15, 2016

The Killing of CAG (That “Rogue Group”)

Is anybody out there wondering what happened to the Campus Advocacy Group (CAG)? They’re still listed on ASU’s website as a shared governance advisory group, yet no agendas or minutes are posted and no initiatives or news have been forthcoming from the group since Spring 2015. Their last significant campus activity took place in May 2015, when they hosted three campus roundtables to obtain input on developing a shared governance communication flow chart. Since then, they’ve fallen silent. Why?  READ MORE…


The Value of Anonymous Speech

In the past week, the Watching Adams Comments page has become a hotbed of activity on the subject of the ACLU lawsuit, President McClure’s administration, and related topics. Predictably, some rhetoric has gotten heated and spiteful, but all commentators have fallen within the sites guidelines and all comments have been posted. Because it is anonymous speech, readers are able to get what is perhaps the most true and candid snapshot of the ASU climate in real time.  READ MORE…


FEBRUARY 1, 2016

The Care and Feeding of ASU Employees

As an administrator, you don’t interface with customers (or students) on a daily basis; your employees do. Focus on treating your people well, and your people will achieve amazing things in support of your organizational mission. Your people are not an expense; they are your greatest asset, an asset to be invested in. This is a lesson well understood and successfully leveraged by many organizations.  READ MORE…


The Cult of Adams State

While there certainly are differences between a cult and a public educational institution like Adams State University (ASU), some of the similarities that have emerged in recent months are striking and certainly should give one pause about the current campus culture. Particularly as a center for higher education that prides itself on fostering intellectual discourse and academic freedom, ASU’s resemblance to a cult is especially troubling and should be cause for intentional, systemic reform.  READ MORE…


White Privilege at ASU: an Interview with a Classified Employee

On January 26th 2016, an anonymous comment was left on the Watching Adams Comments page which drew many reader inquiries. After several inquiries for more detail, Watching Adams followed up with this commentator and conducted a brief interview to learn more about this situation.   READ MORE…


JANUARY 19, 2016

Academic Freedom at ASU: A Report Card

Gerhard Casper, former president of Stanford University and a recognized champion of intellectual freedom, pithily defines academic freedom as “the freedom to engage in fearless inquiry and to speak your mind robustly and without inhibition.” Stop a moment and consider how this definition applies or does not apply to Adams State. Do you, in your daily endeavors at Adams State, feel free to “engage in fearless inquiry” and to “speak your mind robustly and without inhibition”? READ MORE…


Great Principles Begin Now

In an environment like higher education, the temptations of careerism can supersede any other objective. Day in, day out, the compromises of office politicking can seem pragmatic and defensible. And in many instances, that’s true. Yet over time, those compromises can erode individual principles as well as depreciate the workplace as a whole. READ MORE…


 DECEMBER 7, 2015 

The Charge of “Sexism”: A Means of Suppressing Free Speech

Freely wielding the charge of sexism and lobbing at any male who dares to express a contrary view has much the same chilling effect, and is precisely the effect President McClure desires. When Grohowski, with the backing of ASU administration, stated that “it is my duty to balance the free speech and individual rights against the public safety of the many”, the chill cuts straight through to the bone. McClure may declare that there are no academic freedom issues, no freedom of speech limitations at play, but the bracing winds tell a far different tale.  McClure’s tactic of lobbing unsubstantiated charges of sexism underscores an alarming national trend towards a victimhood mentality in modern feminism. READ MORE…


 ASU Finally Game for Real Shared Governance?

In the locker-room huddle that is ASU’s Administration, it seems possible that they might break with the old play book and try something that resembles a touch-down for shared governance.  After being stung by a series of protocol breaches that directly affected their professional interests, Faculty senators began reviewing, at the December 2nd meeting, broader shared government issues. All this is good news, and the Senate should be applauded for dipping its toe in new waters.  READ MORE…


Shun the Secrecy

The ubiquity of cellphones means that the issue is already cooked. Unless you search all attendees, you can’t prevent it. And besides, despite several lines of inquiry to lawyers, faculty members have not found any clear prohibition against anonymous recordings, or about their dissemination. More to the point, if ASU does indeed believe in institutional transparency – and its website has multiple references to that aspiration – then the discussion is over. As a matter of practice, every Faculty Senate meeting should be officially recorded and the recording posted online so the playing field is level. READ MORE…


Danny’s Scarlet Letter

Rather than question why Danny has been so persistent with his employment dispute, we should question why the university has been so persistent in its determination to render him a “non-employee, non-student”. But such questions might reveal some of the darker realities that also unfortunately accompany small town living –small mindedness, prejudice, and petty politics.  Small town small mindedness was not the exclusive domain of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 17th century novel. It is alive and well today at Adams State and many other institutions of higher learning.   READ MORE…


NOVEMBER 24, 2015

Beverlee’s Bluff: the Real Threat to ASU

No matter how much President Beverlee McClure ups the ante in her claims regarding the threat of having Mr. Danny Ledonne roam free on Adams State University property, the biggest threat to ASU is McClure’s own decisions in this matter. Each time she accentuates the need for banning Ledonne on 10/14/2015, McClure digs a deeper hole, a hole that becomes more risky and costly for ASU. Issuing the persona non grata notice (PNG) against Ledonne before the new PNG policy was even approved was overly hasty, but the biggest mistake in this incredibly flawed process was denying Ledonne due process. READ MORE…


ASU Administration Fails to Act in Students’ Best Interests

School shootings have become increasingly common. Each shooting magnifies a primary concern of students and parents: safety. Unfortunately, the recent actions of Adams State University (ASU) Administration do not appear to be in students’ best interests. Administration banned Mr. Danny Ledonne from all campus property and publicly attacked his character in campus-wide emails and the Valley Courier (11/7/2015). According to FBI and Secret Service reports, these actions could have increased danger to students and employees, IF he had ever been an actual threat. So, why did Administration choose to take these particular actions, as opposed to some other – safer – course of action?   READ MORE…


 NOVEMBER 9, 2015

Richardson Hall’s 2nd Floor Whisperers Prevent ASU Moving Forward

Adams State University (ASU) President McClure’s latest pep talk in the ASU News for You reveals a glaring deficiency in human understanding. She talks about “negative forces join[ing] together to try to prevent the forward momentum.” But at no stage does it occur to her that there are things wrong which need fixing before we can advance unencumbered. READ MORE…


Staff Cuts, but ASU Cops get Shiny New Cars

When staff at Adams State University (ASU) leave, they are not being replaced because they are told ASU’s precarious financial situation prevents it. This excuse has been used for years to impose a sinking-lid staffing policy in various departments. Yet ASU campus police seem to continue their expansion in the name of “campus safety.” READ MORE…


Hey! What’s the Big Idea? – A Dual Career Policy

Contrary to what some might assume, the majority of employees at Adams State believe the institution can be very successful because they know for a fact that Adams has brilliant faculty and staff with great ideas on exactly how to make this institution successful. In this first edition of Hey! What’s the Big Idea? we’ll explore an idea presented to administration by some of our colleagues and how it was dismissed before it was even reasonably considered: Policies to Support Dual Career Couples. READ MORE…


True Tales - Danny Ledonne


OCTOBER 26, 2015

“Negativity” is negative, President McClure. Time to Change the Tune

Current ASU President Beverlee McClure has introduced her own version of this vice. Anyone who is not happy with the status quo is “negative.” In almost all of her recent meetings with campus groups and departments, she has used the words “negativity” or “toxic” in reference to people whose ideas are critical of the policies and practices of ASU as an institution. READ MORE…


ASU Ready for Actions to Match Rhetoric

Recently, Adams State University (ASU) President Beverlee McClure was the guest speaker for the San Luis Valley Lean In Lunch Series and for the Adam State’s Women’s Affinity Group luncheon. Both were well attended by campus and community members eager to hear McClure’s thoughts on issues that touched upon leadership, success, and organizational change. Energized and keenly challenged by her rhetoric, many walked away reaffirming their decision to choose her as the new campus president. However, actions, as they say, speak louder than words and there is a contradiction between McClure’s message and her recent actions. READ MORE…


Explanation Non Grata

President McClure writes, “there have also been questions about the persona non grata issue. Persona non grata status is designed to protect the safety of our campus. We would never issue this as retaliation.” Really? Safety of our campus from what? How does a piece of paper protect the campus? An invisible paper barrier against what? What does this mean? READ MORE…


Facebook Users respond to McClure Banning Ledonne

The recent Westword article, “Adams State bans from Campus Ex-Prof who Criticized Payscale” has been shared over 600 times on Facebook. Here is a brief synopsis of comments from article shares. READ MORE…


GUEST COMMENTARY: ASU Taught Me the Lesson of Due Process

I was saddened to recently learn of ASU President McClure’s decision to ban a former adjunct instructor from campus; I understand that in extreme cases this may be warranted, but as a fellow administrator, I would take such drastic action ONLY after providing the accused of due process. READ MORE…


GUEST COMMENTARY: Opposing Dr. McClure’s Decision – a Letter from a Former Student

I must say that while being at Adams State, I met incredible friends, professors, mentors and administration staff. They all developed the importance of critical thinking and primarily research. But Dr. McClure’s decision just created a new status quo where criticism is not valued and will result in termination. READ MORE…


Is Ledonne a Threat to Campus Safety?

A recent campus ban of former Adams State University (ASU) faculty member, media producer, and Watching Adams publisher Danny Ledonne by President Beverlee McClure has raised the question: is Ledonne a threat to campus safety?  READ MORE…


Neither Cassandras nor Pollyannas, please. Let’s get Real.

I respectfully suggest that while we do not need Cassandras, doomsayers and cynics, neither do we need Pollyannas and pathologically positive thinkers. ASU has problems and they won’t go away if we pretend otherwise. In order to achieve what President McClure exhorts us to do, we need to get real. READ MORE…


OCTOBER 12, 2015

Why are We Watching Adams?

Watching Adams is not just about “watching” Adams; it is about putting the institution’s top decision-makers on notice that their policies and procedures are being carefully scrutinized by the broader community. READ MORE…