This post will be the first in a series treating the decision of the administration of Adams State University to ban Danny Ledonne, a former adjunct faculty member, from the campus– under threat of immediate arrest should he violate the ban.
In this post, I will provide an outline of the events that led to this action. In the next post in the series, I will provide copies of the e-mail from the Adams State University chief of police and Danny Ledonne’s reply to that e-mail, both of which have been sent to the entire university community. A third post will discuss the Columbine-related video game and the documentary on the national response to the video game that have brought Ledonne to national attention and are now being cited as part of the justification for his being banned from the campus. Lastly, I will look at some of the materials on the website Watching Adams, which is most likely the primary reason for the university’s action.
In the early 2000s, in response to the Columbine massacre, Danny Ledonne developed a role-playing video game called Super Columbine Massacre RPG. His intent was to provoke a discussion of the asserted and actual connections between the interest in violent video games and the inclination to commit mass murder. Although the video game provoked all sorts of reflexive denunciations, some observers did grasp the way in which Ledonne was trying to use the game to provoke discussion, and when Ledonne then produced the documentary film Playing Columbine to explore the reactions to the video game and the issues exposed in those reactions, the critical response was generally much more positive. He has subsequently been invited to speak about the game and the documentary at a number of prestigious universities and at film festivals and other events nationwide.
Indeed, when Ledonne relocated back to his hometown in rural southern Colorado, his experience in producing a broad range of film and video projects, which certainly included the attention that the video game and the documentary had provoked, led to his being hired as an adjunct faculty member at Adams State University. While operating his own video production company, he not only taught courses at the university, but he also began producing videos for the university and to coordinate an annual film festival at the university. The surrounding area has served as a setting for some feature films, and community leaders saw the film festival as a way to highlight the region’s potential as a location for feature-film production.
So, when a full-time position in his discipline became available, Ledonne naturally assumed that he would be given serious consideration as a candidate for the position. When an initial search resulted in none of the finalists accepting the position, Ledonne, who had been a semi-finalist in that search, was offered a one-year position. In that next year’s search, he was surprised, however, to learn that he was not selected even as a semi-finalist.
Suspecting that he had been the victim of some bias, he asked to see the committee’s ranking of the candidates, and when the university eventually did provide that information, it confirmed his sense that his credentials had not received a fair consideration. To be clear, he does not think that the candidate who has been hired to fill the position is unqualified or even less qualified than he himself is. His concern has been with the lack of transparency and fairness in the hiring process.
Changes in the university’s OEO office and in its upper-administration have meant that Ledonne has had to re-initiate already drawn-out inquiries into the issues with the search. The university seems eventually to have decided that what he saw as efforts to go through prescribed channels was both disruptive and troubling.
Eventually, Ledonne recognized that the university was stonewalling him. So he decided to seek recourse through agencies external to the university. And he established a website called Watching Adams on which he and others have attempted to expose practices at the university that are not as transparent as the administration has claimed or as they ought to be.
It seems hardly coincidental that just several days after Watching Adams began to include expository comment of university-related data, Ledonne was informed first that he was banned from administrative meetings on the campus and then, when he inquired as to which meetings those would include, that he was banned from the entire campus and the e-mail explaining that action was shared with the faculty and staff on the campus. Notably, however, the Watching Adams website itself [www.watchingadams.org] has not been mentioned in any university communication as one of the reasons—never mind the primary reason–for that action.