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



Have you ever been at work and wanted to recommend a different way of doing something or simply wanted to express that the current leadership is headed in the wrong direction? If you work at Adams State University (ASU), there is a strong chance that you suppressed these inclinations. Either that or you are currently looking for another job because HR Director Tracy Rogers and VP of Academic Affairs Frank Novotny told you that you have until Monday at noon to resign.

Drink the 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. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first for the uninitiated:

“Drinking the Kool-Aid” is a figure of speech that refers to a person or group holding an unquestioned belief, argument, or philosophy without critical examination. It could also refer to knowingly going along with a doomed or dangerous idea because of peer pressure. It can also be used ironically or humorously to refer to accepting an idea or changing a preference due to popularity, peer pressure, or persuasion… The phrase derives from the November 1978 Jonestown deaths, in which over 900 members of the Peoples Temple, who were followers of Jim Jones, died, many of whom committed suicide by drinking a mixture of a powdered soft drink flavoring agent laced with cyanide (with the remainder, including 89 infants and elderly, killed by forced ingestion of the poison).” – Wikipedia

Watching Adams has written before about The Cult of Adams State, identifying the many similarities between ASU campus culture and the warning signs of occult ideology as listed by The Cult Education Institute. These are two such traits: “No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry” and “Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned, it is characterized as persecution.”

Then it is not without irony that banned former faculty member Danny Ledonne filmed and edited a series of promotional videos, featuring ASU President Beverlee McClure, on July 31st, 2015 – just 75 days prior to Ledonne being threatened with arrest for setting foot onto campus (which happened just two days after Watching Adams started publishing articles).

One such video, entitled “Diversity @ ASU” features Dr. McClure speaking extemporaneously about the university she assumed control over just weeks earlier. Emphasis has been added here so please try not to spit out your Kool-Aid while reading this:

McClure: “At some places, diversity and inclusion are buzzwords. Not here at Adams State University. I’m Beverlee McClure, president. At Adams State University, we value diversity, we value the inclusive process in all that we do here academically as well as with our activities. At Adams State University, each student is unique and that uniqueness is very much valued. Diversity in schools of thought, diversity in lifestyles, diversity of opinions – all come together here at Adams State University to create a unique learning experience that is individualized for each one of our students. Welcome to Adams State University, a place where inclusion and diversity are part of the Grizzly tradition.”

Got that? In case you forgot, we are at “Adams State University,” which was mentioned 5 times in 51 seconds. 5 mentions also went to “diversity,” 3 mentions of “inclusion,” and 3 mentions of “unique.” Without these verbal croutons, there isn’t much left in this word salad.

Ask yourself: how aren’t “diversity” and “inclusion” buzzwords at Adams State? How genuinely ARE “diversity in schools of thought” and “diversity of opinions” valued at Adams State? And are these “Grizzly traditions” truly being upheld?

If you answered in the affirmative to Dr. McClure’s claims, you just might be drinking too much of the ASU Kool-Aid. And if you disagree with Dr. McClure’s assertions about diversity and inclusiveness being valued at ASU, then clearly you’re part of the problem! With any luck, you too will have until Monday at noon to resign. Or you’ll just be named a Persona Non Grata and threatened with arrest for daring to question the Kool-Aid stand.

But back when this video was posted in August 2015, there was nothing particularly funny or ironic about these ham-handed statements by the ASU president. Most ASU employees believed Dr. McClure at her word. But one academic year later, finding an ASU employee that honestly drinks this empty beverage of platitudes is harder than detecting cyanide in the Kool-Aid mix. As one Watching Adams comment put it in December 2015:

“Dr. McClure you have indeed transformed ASU. It has gone from a fairly ineffectual relatively benign culture, with some exceptions, to one of suspicion and distrust from an overtly adversarial administration. One no longer has to imagine what people behind the former Iron Curtain experienced. The campus environment is one of bullying and baseless allegations leading to punitive measures where the accused has no reasonable defense.

There has developed an unhealthy schism between faculty, staff and students by this toxic campaign. Anyone who dares walk outside of the clearly delineated path is treated as a heretic to be shunned, ostracized and have their livelihood made to feel insecure. The motto for ASU should be changed to “sit down and shut up” or as we have heard reported frequently by many, “if you don’t like it, you can leave.”

But the good news is this: with low student retention and high employee turnover, it turns out that many are not able to stomach the ASU Kool-Aid for long. And those who blow the ASU Kool-Aid Stand are often left with a bad taste in their mouth.