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.

The ASU website is not factually incorrect, per se, though articles like Adams State Well-Positioned to Improve Debt Rating are incredibly misleading given that the entire piece is framed as though the university’s debt rating was “adjusted” rather than “lowered” and that Guaranteed Tuition is conveniently cited as part of the solution rather than part of the problem, as Moody’s clearly stated. ASU’s interest in self-promotion is understandable and when ASU’s Social Media Problem demonstrated that the official message is being subverted, the administration responded by drafting a Social Media Policy designed to codify and restrict any messaging not centrally-approved by the administration. “Rigorous academic discourse” at ASU is fine as long as the statements are resoundingly positive towards the institution.

Nor is anything on the Watching Adams website fabricated given its underlying sources within the institution and from publicly-available documents, though ASU administrators have dismissed the website in departmental and campus-wide meetings as being untrue or containing only redundant information to the university’s own website. While most documents have been obtained through open records act requests and weren’t previously on the ASU website until Watching Adams requested them, many such documents are buried or required users to login with an Adams account to do so until Watching Adams reported on the issue. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain; the Great Oz has spoken.

As with any topic, anyone who only gets their news on Adams State from one source is likely to have a limited and even misled view. Given that the Valley Courier, the San Luis Valley’s largest newspaper, has longstanding financial interests in advertising revenue from the university, it is unsurprising that Courier publications on Adams State are typically re-prints of the University’s own statements (such as the blind optimism of the Moody’s credit downgrade). As such, many topics covered on Watching Adams are unlikely to appear anywhere else precisely because it is an independent voice with actual student and employee sources within the institution – identities protected whenever possible given the documented acts of retaliatory action taken by the ASU administration in recent years (see The Killing of CAG for more on this).

As with the recent anonymous donation for ASU athletics travel after Watching Adams reported on nearly $72,000 being spent for the ASU football team in fall 2015 alone, it is clear that the Tale of Two Websites is a contrast in perspective and of outlook – ASU’s site being a centrally-managed tool of state-sponsored propaganda and Watching Adams as a grassroots effort at independent journalism for critical analysis in the public interest.