Two Letters Re: Adams State University and Danny Ledonne.

“Academe Blog” readers should be well-acquainted with the actions that Adams State University in Alamosa, CO has taken against former adjunct professor Danny Ledonne as Martin Kich has already started a multi-part series of blog posts on the subject. [If you need a quick refresher, try here and here.] I have been in touch with Danny in my capacity as co-President of the AAUP’s Colorado Conference. My Co-President, Steve Mumme of Colorado State University – Fort Collins, and I sent the following letter to Adams State President Beverlee McClure yesterday afternoon:

Beverlee J. McClure
President
Adams State University…

Dear President McClure:

We are the Presidents of the Colorado Conference of the American Association of University Professors and we are writing you about your university’s treatment of Danny Ledonne. While we recognize that Mr. Ledonne is a former faculty member there, we believe that your school’s actions with respect to him affect the conditions under which current faculty can exercise their academic freedom.

As you know, Mr. Ledonne recently received a notice from the university’s chief of police, signed by you, barring him from campus. That order mentioned alleged behavior, but did not specify what that behavior was. We have since learned from Mr. Ledonne that this communication was sent as part of a hastily adopted “persona non grata” policy, passed into effect shortly before you sent him that letter.

We have a number of concerns about these actions. First, we find it remarkable that any campus would need a “persona non grata” policy. Existing laws are more than sufficient to deal with anybody engaging in disruptive behavior and disorderly conduct. The fact that your letter did not even bother to suggest what disruptive behavior Mr. Ledonne engaged in strongly suggests that whatever it was would not have met the standards requiring prosecution under existing law.

Second, we are deeply concerned that Mr. Ledonne’s due process rights as a former professor and a citizen have been grossly violated. It is a basic right of citizenship that you should be informed of the charges against you. Not only that, by barring him from campus, you have sanctioned him without a hearing. Yes, he has the right to appeal this sanction to Denver, but we agree with Mr. Ledonne’s statement in Westword that it is impossible to adequately appeal that sanction without understanding why the sanction arose in the first place.

Lastly, and most importantly from our point of view, we believe that your alarming treatment of Mr. Ledonne and the persona non grata policy that enabled that treatment will have a chilling effect on the free speech rights and academic freedom of current faculty members. Universities and other institutions of higher learning carry a greater responsibility for safeguarding the principles and practices that sustain freedom of speech and scholarly inquiry than practically any other organization in a democratic society. Discharging this fundamental responsibility requires a very highly level of toleration for verbal, written, and representational expression as well as respect for due process, even under circumstances that may otherwise seem disturbing to some students, faculty, and administrators. Why would any faculty member feel safe in engaging in any form of protected speech when they know that they could be immediately barred from campus (in essence, forced to abandon their professional duties) without a hearing or even forewarning?

In fact, we believe the very existence of a persona non grata policy is antithetical to the core principles of academic freedom and shared governance that sustain American public colleges and universities. The fact that you chose to apply it to a former faculty member first only reinforces that impression. We believe that this practice not only runs counter to the practice of good university governance. We think it’s fundamentally un-American.

As representatives of the organization that has created and developed the ideas of academic freedom and shared governance over the last hundred years, we are willing to work with you to create campus policies that are more respectful of these principles. Should you choose to ignore our offer, our next step will be to inform possibly concerned Adams State faculty members about your decision and to pass what we have learned about Mr. Ledonne’s treatment on to higher ranking officers of the AAUP to see if they think this deserves further investigation.

We look forward to reading your response to this letter…

Shortly after sending that letter, Danny cut, pasted and sent us a note from the ASU Board of Trustees that apparently went out to the entire Adams State campus via e-mail. While I can’t vouch for its authenticity (I’m assuming it was forwarded to him), I include it here because it suggests how our letter is likely to be received:

Adams State University Board of Trustees
11/9/15

As the Board of Trustees for Adams State University, we assure you the safety of our campus is of utmost importance. President McClure shares that priority, and we fully support measures she recently took to issue persona non grata status to Danny Ledonne. The action was based on safety concerns and disruptive behavior and taken in conjunction with information from the Colorado Attorney General’s office. The university’s actions throughout this situation have been appropriate and defensible.

What began as an unsuccessful application for a faculty position has been distorted. Mr. Ledonne’s freedom of speech is in no way threatened. He has been given every document that he is entitled to under the law, and he continues to freely communicate his concerns through blogs and newspapers.

This issue has become a distraction from the work of the university. We urge you, our faculty and staff, to continue in your dedicated work to serve students and move Adams State forward in a positive manner.

Sincerely,

The Board of Trustees for Adams State University
Arnold Salazar, Chair
Kathleen Rogers, Vice Chair
Paul Farley
Mary Griffin
LeRoy Salazar
Cleave Simpson
John Singletary
Valentin Vigil
Randy Wright

The Colorado Conference of the AAUP remains extremely interested in both Danny Ledonne’s treatment as an individual and the fate of ASU’s “persona non grata” policy in general. We have reason to believe that events in Alamosa are ongoing. I will try to keep “Academe Blog” readers updated as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: Shortly after hitting “publish” above, I got this statement via e-mail, dated today, from the Assistant to the President for Communications at Adams State:

Nov. 10, 2015

It is unfortunate that a disgruntled, unsuccessful job applicant is misrepresenting information about Adams State University relating to his persona non grata status. Such status is issued only for safety purposes and in conjunction with the recommendation of the state attorney general’s office. Danny Ledonne was issued persona non grata status because faculty, staff, and the former president have expressed concerns about his threatening behavior. There is an appeal process that can be pursued by Mr. Ledonne.

Ledonne claims his “academic freedom” is at stake. This is not the issue, because he is not a professor; he is not in the classroom. The issues with Ledonne have been ongoing and stem from him not receiving a tenured faculty appointment. He continues to have access to all the information he requests from the University, but not physical access to the campus or faculty, staff and students.

UPDATE #2: Adams State uses the “T” word.

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