BY WATCHING ADAMS STAFF – 4/25/16
Watching Adams reached out to three undergraduate seniors at Adams State University (ASU) across multiple degree programs to interview them about the Higher Learning Commission’s recent sanction of Adams State University, the Standing Strong for Adams State parade, and other recent controversies on campus.
WATCHING ADAMS: Based only on your understanding thus far, what do you know about ASU’s recent sanction of academic probation by the Higher Learning Commission?
STUDENT A: From what I understand, some teachers for online courses at Adams State University gave undeserved higher grades to a few college athletes.
STUDENT B: The recent sanction of academic probation by the Higher Learning Commission was an unnecessary procedure due to the faculty and staff taking immediate steps after the article regarding the Extended Studies department was published. ASU took all the necessary precautions to ensure this would never happen again. Being a work study in the office that receives most of the phone calls at the time, I too was instructed on the new procedures in place to ensure this could never happen again. These procedures do work and do make it so students cannot cheat for each other. The HLC probation was unnecessary and does not make sense being the fact that they saw the new procedures put in place.
STUDENT C: I understand that a select few of faculty and staff have been abusing their privilege of power to siphon extra money out of the online services at Adams State University. Specifically speaking, an online professor has taken on as many as 600 students to fill his/ her pockets. I understand that online professors receive a specified amount for each credit. I believe Administration has approved this abuse of power, because of social and small town connections. I know that this goes back approximately two years, and we had been asked by HLC to remedy this well before they decided to put our institution on academic probation.
WATCHING ADAMS: President McClure has stated that she believes ASU was unfairly targeted by the HLC to make a political statement and to serve as the accreditor’s “whipping boy.” Do you believe the HLC made a fair decision in the case of ASU?
STUDENT A: I believe that when faced with a problem, President McClure has proven herself to consistently deny any fault to a problem. It seems her go-to phrase is “We did nothing wrong, you must be misinformed”. I’m not sure if the HLC’s decision was to make a statement of us, but I am positive that there were unearned higher grades given to certain students, and her denial is anything but reassuring.
STUDENT B: I do not believe the HLC decision was fair and I fully agree with President McClure. My previous answer explains why I feel it is unfair and unnecessary as the faculty and staff took necessary precautions after the article was published in the higher learning journal.
STUDENT C: I believe HLC has acted accordingly and without malicious intent. It is known by faculty and staff that HLC (as well as other educational regulatory agencies) work in a cylindrical fashion. With the hundreds of higher education institutions, it is common knowledge how these agencies operate. We, Adams State University, know that HLC visits campus in a ten-year cycle. Bearing that in mind, we had received preliminary warnings about our institution’s conduct. The term “whipping boy” fits in with President McClure’s history. Her shotgun scatter attempt to accuse others (students & faculty) of terrorism, patriarchy, sexism, and toxic behavior has gone quite unnoticed. Her antagonistic response to the HLC’s original issuance of academic probation is similar to that of a toddler. I, as a student, would like to have seen her accept the accusations as a leader who will guide our institution through these troubled times. Our president pointing the finger at the agency that aids the collective atmosphere of Higher Learning instead of the people who are responsible for this misconduct is upsetting to say the least. Her lack of honesty and disinformation to our faculty, staff, and students does not embody the virtues and qualities of a leader, president, nor humanitarian.
WATCHING ADAMS: How did you feel when you learned about ASU being placed on academic probation and how has it affected your thinking about your degree – both in its completion and its long term value?
STUDENT A: It is worrying, to think about having all of this debt for absolutely nothing. It feels as if I am being punished for the actions of others.
STUDENT B: I felt a bit of anger towards the HLC for their unfair and unneeded decision. This won’t affect my degree, and once the decision is overturned, it will no longer affect others. I am not worried that the HLC won’t overturn the decision, and I’m absolutely positive if they choose not to do so, another accrediting agency will gladly take on Adams State so there is no need for students to be worried about their degrees. Adams State is here to stay.
STUDENT C: Honestly, I was happy and deflated. Please let me explain before you dismiss this response as delusional account of opinion. It has been a well-kept secret on campus about the conduct with ASU’s online services, but not as well-kept a secret as some would have hoped. As a student attending classes and placing faith in our administration, I was appalled to discover our online program had several discrepancies. I found out the truth early during fall semester 2015, which had been going on under president Svaldi’s and McClure’s watch. I understand and recognize that president McClure had inherited a problem that did not result from her leadership, but her lack of action shows more character than her well-publicized actions since arriving at ASU. I was happy, because we, as an institution, are being held to standards that we expected to exhibit. As a Higher Learning institution our level of conduct and professionalism should set standards, and not hide our shortcomings. A humble and effective leader may not point out their own shortcomings, yet they do not refute accountability and frame themselves as the victim. Politicians do that.
I was deflated too. I have attended classes proudly since beginning my academic career. I have overcome so much and surpassed my own expectations. I have defended our small secluded institution countless times. I speak of our phenomenal Accounting program. I have discussed our job placement program in the Biology program. I even boast about our Theatre program and the wonderful things they do for connectivity, morale, and academic competitiveness. But with the recent statistics from several sources like the Chronicle and Watching Adams, exposure of pay inequality, and many other unpublicized events, I find myself more deflated than the issuance of academic probation.
I feel that I will have to answer questions in future job interviews and defend my education. I feel that I have a permanent stigma on my degree. I fear that the lack of professionalism and increasing misconduct will affect the future of our students. I really don’t understand what our president is doing to help the school, rather than her image.
WATCHING ADAMS: Recently, the university held a “Standing Strong” parade in support of ASU and in support of President McClure. Did you attend this parade? Why or why not?
STUDENT A: No, I did not attend this parade. Firstly, instead of admitting fault to a situation and working on fixing the problem—instead of being honest with the students and not acting like we are a bunch of mindless children—McClure throws a party for herself and her friends (part of the parade was dedicated to praising her, pretty much) to prove how awesome they are, and we shouldn’t be worried, because they’re just so awesome.
Second, I find the entire parade extremely disrespectful. There was a “Standing Strong” movement at the beginning of the year to show support for Alamosa’s LGBT community. Now it’s getting turned into a thing for the entire school. Why is this a problem you ask? Just like the #blacklivesmatter movement being turned into #alllivesmatter, it is belittling the experiences of the LGBT community and telling them that the challenges they experience don’t really matter because everyone has problems. I could go on about this but I will just leave it there.
STUDENT B: I was not able to attend the parade because I had to work at this time. I would have loved to have been there and I posted my support on my Facebook page and asked other students to attend and show their support as well. If I could have been there, I most definitely would have.
STUDENT C: I did not. I feel that the way the parade was advertised was a manipulation tactic. There were seriously important tenets attached to the “Standing Strong” parade, then there were tenets that were self-serving and inappropriate to include on the flier. I do not support Shared Governance, especially when it was used in a Faculty Senate meeting to shame a professor. I do not support president McClure at this time, because her continued lack of professionalism and conduct unbecoming of a president. I do not support manipulation tactics in any situation.
WATCHING ADAMS: If you were in upper administration at ASU right now, what would you do differently or similarly to the actions taken thus far?
STUDENT A: For starters, I wouldn’t deny everything. I would be honest with students, because they are not children, and that is what they deserve. They deserve to know what is going on, and what is going to happen with their money and their degree. Maybe have someone explain what the probation means to the students, and inform them on what would happen best and worst case scenario. Let the students know what YOU are doing, McClure. There are students posting on things such as the app YikYak, freaking out because they don’t know what’s going on—asking questions only to get an “I think it means” response. This is their future. They are worried. And all McClure has proven is that she cares about her future and appearance more than the future of her students.
STUDENT B: I believe the actions that the upper administration has taken so far are great and needed for our student body. I would not do anything different, and I fully support everything that Dr. McClure and all the upper admin are doing for us and I am incredibly thankful that they are so willing to fight for us. They give a whole new meaning to the term Grizzly Strong!
STUDENT C: I would have held certain individuals accountable for their actions, instead protecting the connected. I would have called accepted the issuance against Adams State, instead of pointing the finger back of the HLC. I would have properly informed the students, faculty, and staff the situation and the severity of the situation, instead of framing it to serve my own image. I would have been working towards the public image of Adams State, and restoring all that we have lost. I would have behaved and acted and Adams State has informed me is just, right, and ethical.
WATCHING ADAMS: Any additional thoughts about how ASU is handling this and other recent controversies (such as the university’s credit downgrade by Moody’s and the lawsuit brought on behalf of Danny Ledonne by the ACLU)?
STUDENT A: I believe, from personal encounters and experiences with McClure in addition to how the school has been handling problems this year, that McClure thinks students are stupid and below her. They do not handle these controversies well, and expect students to be okay with it. When the students are not, they are just being “misinformed” by someone “against” McClure. If she were to be honest and open about all of the information regarding these controversies, there wouldn’t be any problem with so many misinformed people.
STUDENT B: I have no further comments on this or other lawsuits as I do not have enough information to do so. I am in full support of Dr. McClure, the ASU upper administration, and I am standing strong for ASU.
STUDENT C: One thought. I want our institution to lift up campus life, student morale, and connectivity. I may not be proud of our current situation, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be proud of our small school once again. Recognize small town politics serve the privileged and not the marginalized. Recognize that our institution is far from having back a positive image. Recognize that students have a voice, and put down that fucking Netflix, Tinder, and other distractions from the real world. An education is not a certificate; it is a way of living. We only can grow collectively as long as students stop treating education as a ticket to money, and start treating education as key to unlocking the secrets of our world. Many more secrets are held by the ticket makers, and not just the ticket takers.