WATCHING ADAMS COMMENTARY – 4/25/16
I enjoy a parade as much as the next person, but it was a most peculiar thing to witness a “Standing Strong for ASU” parade after Adams State University (ASU) was placed on a two year academic probation by the Higher Learning Commission. Is this really the response that the university wants to send to students, parents, community members, and the HLC itself? And this after the university president made a transparent effort to deny responsibility, shift blame, openly insult and question the integrity of its own accrediting body?
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. Multiple violations in Extended Studies coursework were found only when an embarrassing news article in the Chronicle of Higher Education prompted the HLC to begin a more thorough investigation of the university’s practices and procedures. And just in the small scope of their investigation, HLC auditors identified multiple violations far beyond the simple matter of testing verification as described in December 2014’s “Confessions of a Fixer.”
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? With their six-figure salaries and assertions of administrative power, ASU leaders knew or should have known that Extended Studies has been cutting corners for years to paper over the university’s financial problems. It is apparent that administrators were willing to look away or simply failed to do their due diligence until these negligent practices were exposed and the university was sanctioned with academic probation as a result.
The value of every student’s degree is now on the line. The reputation of every faculty member’s academic career is on the line. And in a very real sense, the economic stability of the entire San Luis Valley is on the line. Yet no one within Adams State University has been identified as being responsible, no one’s employment has been censured or terminated, and no thorough accountability or admission of wrongdoing has been communicated as a result of these violations of the university’s academic integrity.
What we have seen instead is indeed a parade – a parade of making excuses, pointing the blame at everyone else, assuring the public that nothing is wrong, and normalizing academic probation as if every university goes through this without cause or consequence. At some point, individually or collectively, the stakeholders for the future of Adams State University should march on Richardson Hall and hold to account those responsible for this failure in leadership and oversight.