BY JONATHAN REES
I spent much of last weekend with two of my colleagues from the Colorado Conference of the AAUP at Adams State University in Alamosa, CO, helping to form a brand spanking new AAUP chapter. Hello everybody in the Paris of the Valley! [JR waves enthusiastically.] Turns out their chapter will be helpful faster than anyone ever expected as Adams State’s accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission (or HLC), has now put that university on probation.
Ease of entry into the system, not to mention ease of classes, made Adams State an easy mark. Mr. White showed The Chronicle test answers he had obtained for five Adams State classes, and his notepad includes the names of dozens of players who appeared to have been enrolled there.
Emails he shared with The Chronicle showed how he had instructed students to complete assignments.
“Copy the attachment handwritten,” he wrote to one player in January 2012, sharing eight pages of homework answers to “Finite Mathematics.” Another student, to whom he had provided the same answers, emailed Mr. White a PDF labeled “fintie math assignments,” with a note saying, “Coach this is all the work. Thanks.”
Part of Mr. White’s success hinged on a series of Adams State lapses: For many years, its instructors had reused the same tests, Mr. White found, with lax oversight of exams. Even when instructors changed the tests, he says, they sometimes labeled the different versions.
The President of Adams State, Beverlee McClure, the same person responsible for Danny Ledonne getting banned from campus, sent this letter to all its accreditors after learning of the punishment:
“We are stunned that all of our academic programs are placed on probation for a very small percentage of online courses of concern. Concerns that, in fact, have all been addressed.”
Now I have no special insight into how Adams State works, but I did spend most of a day learning a great deal about faculty concerns there. For example, Danny himself told me during a podcast we taped (that has yet to air) that faculty who teach online at Adams State get a lot of extra money if they sign their online courses over to the university. I also heard a long report on a shared governance survey that went before the Faculty Senate there this very afternoon. It turns out that governing board members there think shared governance is going great. The administration there thinks it’s pretty good, and the overwhelming majority of faculty think it’s a disaster.
Why does shared governance matter here? Because shared governance is actually one of the standards that the HLC uses to determine accreditation. So while President McClure’s letter makes it seem as if the the online tail has nothing to do with the rest of dog, the evidence I’ve seen and heard suggests the exact opposite. Shared governance problems throughout the university explain the online course problem, as well many other faculty complaints I heard about last weekend. All those complaints hurt the quality of education offered in Alamosa, not just the online programs.
So congratulations my new Adams State AAUP colleagues! By helping your university regain its footing on the shared governance issue, you are helping to keep ASU accredited! You’re not only saving your own job, your helping to save the jobs of every administrator there who has been disrespecting you folks for so long. Somebody get my new friends some AAUP buttons! That way everyone in Alamosa can thank them when they wear them around town.