WATCHING ADAMS COMMENTARY – 12/9/16
We believe that readers should receive the article “No toleration for intimidation” from Adams State University’s President, Beverlee J. McClure (as published by the Pueblo Chieftain on December 4th, 2016) with great skepticism. Dr. McClure’s conduct at ASU reveals a troubling pattern of deceit, misrepresentation, and vindictive behavior that is simply unbecoming of a university president. Given this, we believe ASU’s Board of Trustees should relieve Dr. McClure of her duties and terminate her contract.
Intimidation is ASU’s modus operandi and Dr. McClure’s letter is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to cover up her own missteps over the past 16 months in office.
Since Dr. McClure became ASU’s president in July 2015, she has stomped on anyone she considers a threat to her authority. In October 2015, she banned a former employee from entering the grounds of ASU after he objected to substantially flawed hiring practices. She threatened him with arrest for an “indefinite” period of time, never specified the charges against him nor gave him an opportunity to respond prior to the ban. She publicly labeled him as engaged in “terrorism” and portrayed him as a violent threat to students and staff. She repeatedly stated that he was on a “Colorado police watch list” that doesn’t exist. She carried a thick folder around campus referring to the former employee’s “file” and made defamatory claims to the student and faculty senates which, upon discovery in court, contained absolutely no substance.
In July 2016, a retired federal judge oversaw a legal settlement to lift the campus ban on the former employee and awarded $100,000 to the ACLU and their client. At Dr. McClure’s direction, ASU issued a press release headlined “Mediation decides in favor of Adams State University” and declared that the judge “ultimately decided in favor of Adams State.” These totally false statements were later removed from the ASU website. A subsequent ASU press release in August 2016 denied that the former employee was awarded any damages, stating “not one dime was paid to the plaintiff.” This, despite a photograph of the former employee holding up a settlement check for $64,289 just before depositing it in his account.
The willful lying continues. ASU recently issued a statement declaring that it was financially solid because valuations on its property had risen. Anyone with basic financial savvy knows that this is entirely misleading. In fact, ASU is on the brink of destitution and is being audited by the state of Colorado due to four years of negative financial performance. Moody’s Investor Service has downgraded the university’s credit rating to the lowest acceptable investment grade. Campus enrollment has dropped every semester for several years. Student completion is consistently poor, with a four-year graduation rate of only 21% – one of the lowest in the entire country. Employee retention follows a similar pattern. In the last year, there have been over a dozen faculty resignations on a campus with just over 100 full time faculty. These are just some of the worrisome statistics that Dr. McClure has attempted to conceal or otherwise obscure; that she instead writes such a misleading editorial is disturbing.
In March 2016, a site visit from the Higher Learning Commission, the university’s accreditor, found that ASU’s Extended Studies program was failing to meet criteria for compliance in distance education. Consequently, the HLC placed ASU on academic probation and is threatening to revoke ASU’s accreditation. If ASU loses accreditation, it would be devastating for the university and the consequences would extend far across the San Luis Valley.
Dr. McClure responded by pubicly accusing the HLC of unfairly targeting ASU as their “whipping boy” and “to make some sort of political statement.” She released a video message to campus assuring faculty and students that probation was a normal process and that the problems raised by the HLC were already solved, if they ever existed. To the contrary, in August 2016, an independent auditor determined that ASU’s Office of Extended Studies was overrun by egregious practices, institutional dysfunction, and numerous examples of online professors abusing the system with huge teaching loads and insufficient contact hours or set due dates – all to the detriment of students. Clearly, Dr. McClure’s previous statements to the HLC and community have been totally untrue.
Despite Dr. McClure’s assertions, intimidation is rife at ASU. While “inclusive excellence” is trumpeted, campus climate surveys find that women and minorities feel marginalized at ASU. This is particularly true for staff, students, and community members who interact with the university administration, especially those who voice critical opinions. Despite a high percentage of Hispanic and African-American students, there are very few faculty members who share their heritage. Retaining faculty and staff of color has remained consistently challenging given such a hostile campus culture.
Since Dr. McClure assumed the presidency, several employees have resigned without other employment because they had been persistently bullied after raising concerns about administrative conduct. When workplace grievances are filed, the complainants are frequently ignored, ostracized, or publicly humiliated. Dr. McClure has, on numerous occasions, characterized anyone who raises concerns about the ethics of her administration as complainers and whiners who are “negative” and want to “tear us down.” Following constructive criticism, Dr. McClure has even labeled several male employees as “sexist” because she is the first female president of the school.
ASU is not a “safe space.” It is quite the opposite. Under Dr. McClure’s leadership, ASU has deteriorated into an extremely inhospitable space – marred by nepotism, cronyism, and authoritarian leadership. As a result, the motivators, the innovators, the critical thinkers, and the ambitious are fleeing ASU in droves – leaving behind the financially strapped and professionally trapped.
ASU is at the bottom of the Colorado university system ladder and, by any objective measure, is still descending the rungs on Dr. McClure’s watch. Until the administration starts admitting that ASU’s metrics are dreadful and that radical improvements need to be made under new leadership, it will continue to decline.
There is still a window of opportunity for ASU but President McClure is currently doing all that she can to shut it. Denying facts and embracing lies in an effort to save face will not save Adams State from scrutiny by the Higher Learning Commission. Instead, Dr. McClure should immediately resign and allow competent and inclusive leadership to make good on ASU’s public mission to serve its community.
Adams State deserves better, the San Luis Valley deserves better, and most importantly, ASU’s students deserve better than President McClure’s brand of leadership. The time for change is now.
concerned faculty and staff of Adams State University