Richardson Hall’s 2nd Floor Whisperers Prevent ASU Moving Forward

Watching Adams Commentary – 11/9/15

Adams State University (ASU) President McClure’s latest pep talk in the ASU News for You reveals a glaring deficiency in human understanding.  She talks about “negative forces join[ing] together to try to prevent the forward momentum.” But at no stage does it occur to her that there are things wrong which need fixing before we can advance unencumbered.

The legacy of the Svaldi Administration has been that of inefficiency, improper and even illegal practices, lack of transparency, and immunity from the consequences of poor performance. This has bred the belief by a few people in Richardson Hall that they are beyond criticism. These few are the truly negative people, who want to maintain the status quo, who don’t really want to push forward to a better future for ASU because that may loosen the gluteal clench on their leather chairs.

Employees know we need change – and fast. And President McClure’s appointment brought great cheer to most because she promised to turn ASU around quickly. But instead of putting the stethoscope to ASU’s chest, instead of taking its pulse, instead of listening to the patient, she has barnstormed from department to department, delivering glad tidings and bon mots, asking a few desultory questions before sweeping on to another audience.

President McClure truly listens only to her apparatchiks on the second floor at Richardson Hall, and right now they are only concerned about protecting their own positions.  Let’s have a look at who’s really obstructing “forward momentum.”

HR Director Tracy Rogers has done all in her power to maintain the status quo. For years, adjuncts have been paid illegally late, and for years she has fielded complaints with an “it’s how the system works” shrug. If you don’t like, tough!

She has also refused to entertain any proposal to replace ASU’s flimsy anti-nepotism policies with more robust ones used by other Colorado universities. Given the many examples of administrators who have spouses or other relatives among faculty and staff, an anti-nepotism policy is certainly needed.

She’s ignored suggestions for a dual-career policy that would encourage employee retention. See Policies to Support Dual Career Couples for more on this.

Tracy has been illegally slow at responding to Colorado Open Records Act requests for public information. And many employees have reported that Tracy simply does not respond at all until prompted several times. At the November 4th Faculty Senate meeting, two more cases of HR stonewalling information requests emerged.

At no stage has Tracy attempted to reduce the red tape that ties employees in knots, wastes time and resources, and diminishes the quality of services delivered to students.

Tracy is also responsible for the ID trap that discouraged people accessing the CUPA data (see ASU Sets Privacy Trap for Employees Wanting Public Information).

Tracy is also the likely source of President McClure’s erroneous claims about CUPA salary revisions being approved by supervisors. As several supervisors attested, this claim was patently false and set back President McClure’s credibility as a result.

And is the ongoing rumor true, that Tracy Rogers is the unnamed author of Police Chief Grohowski’s open letter to campus defaming Watching Adams publisher Danny Ledonne? Given the glaring difference in substance and tone between Grohowski’s meeting with Ledonne at his residence and his campus-wide email two weeks later, the inference is entirely plausible.

Then there’s Dr. No. As his nickname suggests, Vice President of Academic Affairs Frank Novotny is the patron saint of negativity. His instinct is to do nothing that threatens the status quo and indeed he actively undermines anything remotely smelling of positive action.

During the 2014-2015 academic year, Dr. Novotny tried to sabotage a bid to redefine the terms of department chair occupancy by circumventing Faculty Senate, writing his own policy that favored his allies, and attempting to ram the policy through without the Senate’s review. His blatant attempt to circumvent due process almost caused a rebellion among professors identifying the issue as a “Threat to Shared Governance;” some senators demanded he be formally censured. Fear of retribution prevented the motion from advancing, but a recent Faculty Senate meeting demonstrates that pressure for a new vote of no-confidence is building.

Dr. Novotny lied to faculty and staff, saying that the CO Assistant Attorney General disapproved of proposed revisions to the Faculty Handbook to restore faculty status to ASU librarians, leading to the unnecessary formation of a Faculty subcommittee and causing an unnecessary delay in the proposal moving forward. Dr. Novotny reported that the contents were legally murky, but none of that was true. An email from the Attorney General’s office said, “I don’t have any legal concerns about the proposed language.”

He prevented implementing an honors program proposal that would have boosted student recruitment and retention. Fortunately, President McClure has now reversed his decision and the honors program is moving ahead.

Yet President McClure seems blind to these negative people standing behind her, whispering poison in her ear. They have scapegoated Danny Ledonne, portraying him as a lonely, disgruntled ex-employee with a personal axe to grind, and that if he is crushed, all signs of “negativity” will cease. But the fact is that Ledonne is not alone and Ledonne is not the problem. His concerns are merely a symptom of a much deeper, chronic malaise.

But because President McClure hasn’t listened to ASU’s heartbeat, she doesn’t realize that for years, employees have bitten their tongues, waiting for the day Dr. Svaldi retired and a new progressive and innovative president took over, one who would encourage an “Adams Spring.”

But it seems that an Adams Spring, in which people can openly identify areas for improvement without fear of reprisal, is already going the way of the Prague and Arab Springs. Dictatorial backlash. Police intervention. Banishment. Curbing of free speech. Guilt by association. Character assassination. As a result, President McClure continues to lose erstwhile supporters, has reinforced Ledonne’s standing among many of his peers, created the risk of a messy and expensive lawsuit, made ASU a laughing stock in the press and among academic peers, and damaged her own reputation as a leader.

So here’s some simple advice for President McClure:

  1. Stop making speeches and start listening.
  2. Back off Ledonne. Rescind the trespass order. Make amends.
  3. Don’t be diverted by the small stuff.
  4. Fire your negative poison-whispers; they have led you into this current quagmire.
  5. Accept criticism as it is intended: positive, constructive observation, which is the first step to fixing problems.
  6. Drop the cheer-leader spin and talk seriously about how you are going to save ASU.