WATCHING ADAMS COMMENTARY – 3/3/17
The sudden and untimely resignation of Dr. Chris Gilmer, Adams State University (ASU) Vice President for Academic Affairs, brings about a common and familiar theme for employees at the struggling institution. While especially prominent and with disastrous timing given the university’s academic probation status and upcoming site review by the Higher Learning Commission, what happened to Dr. Gilmer is really just par for the course at ASU.
That’s because at Adams State University, great “resignations” begin here!
As I write this, I think back over the many desks at ASU that have been cleared in recent years – almost as if they were disappeared into the night and thrown down the memory hole. Several such departures have happened in the past two months and one of whom was told “resign or be terminated” just last week. So many “resignations,” so little time.
Concerning these “resignations,” the use of quotes is quite deliberate. It is no small secret that many if not most such resignations at ASU are not consensual and self-directed decisions; they are the defensive, coerced career maneuvers of any cautious person who wants to work again in the very competitive, dwindling field of higher education.
While we know when a more prominent administrator-in-good-standing “resigns” because there is pomp, circumstance, and feasting, most of the plebeian personnel losses at ASU are picked off in the darkness. Who? What department? We dare not speak of them or we might be next! We always wish them the best, naturally, but we also know they have just been put through the worst.
As an at-will employer, ASU is free to dismiss staff members without explanation or “just cause.” But even in the case of tenured faculty, the ASU Faculty Handbook is frequently and shamelessly violated in favor of pressuring professors to resign without a full understanding of their right to due process. ASU makes a standard practice of getting the employee cornered in a small office, giving them limited time to respond (let alone consult an attorney), and getting them to sign on the dotted line.
Many ASU employees in recent years have “resigned” after being told by their supervisor, “you have until Monday at noon to resign.” After all, if the employee then “resigns,” ASU is under no institutional burden to defend its actions because the employee simply decided to leave at their own volition.
By officially rendering these deliberate oustings as “resignations” rather than contested personnel matters (resulting in termination and potential cause for legal action), the culture of repression at ASU can persist unabated.
Surely there is no problem with the university itself! People randomly resign all the time! It must be something in the water, or the altitude, or maybe they just weren’t up for the task of working at such an incredible institution. Ignorance is strength.
If one wants to know what is true about ASU, just read between the lines of their smarmy, sycophantic press releases and then infer the opposite. In the case of Dr. Gilmer’s “resignation,” the unambiguous emphasis on his willing departure is all one needs to see:
“While Dr. Gilmer’s tenure at Adams State University was short, it was productive ,” said Arnold Salazar, chairman of the Adams State University Board of Trustees. “Dr. Gilmer voluntarily and at his own initiation resigned his position.”
There you have it. The Great Oz has spoken.
And now that Dr. Gilmer’s Release and Settlement Agreement and Mediation Agreement with Dr. McClure are online, the terms of this dismissal-by-another-name are more clear. Dr. Gilmer was sworn to secrecy with a non-disclosure agreement, threatened to be sued by President McClure if he violated it, given a modest severance package of $66,825.44 (the remainder of his annual salary), agreed not to seek future employment at ASU, and made to sign a “statement” that contains identical language to the “President’s Message on Cyber Bullying” released a week later.
As one Watching Adams commentator mentioned when comparing these two documents, “the style is very similar and unusual phrases like ‘Internet mob’ appear in both. This makes it very likely that Dr. Gilmer’s ‘statement’ was actually written by Dr. McClure and required to be signed by Dr. Gilmer before he could resign in good standing.”
It wasn’t enough for the competent yet embattled academic to “resign” “effective immediately.” Dr. Gilmer had to kneel before President Beverlee McClure, sign a document she very likely authored, and secure his release-in-good-standing by disavowing accusations of “creating hostile work environments” and “retaliation against those she does not like.” Sound familiar? It should, because many ASU employees have experienced rampant intimidation for years – especially during McClure’s presidency.
ASU officially maintains that Dr. Gilmer’s “resignation” resulted from “the friendship which President McClure and [Dr. Gilmer] formed quickly and easily” … “dissolved and has begun to affect the university in a negative way.”
Yes, ASU actually wants the public to believe Dr. Gilmer moved from rural Mississippi to rural Colorado so that he could, “voluntarily and at his own initiation,” resign from a $140,000 annual salary just seven months into his first year since his personal relations with his boss soured from a misunderstanding that, of course, was not President McClure’s fault. Because nothing is President McClure’s fault.
Now that is indeed a “great story” that began at Adams State University!