Adams State Bans From Campus Ex-Prof Who Criticized Pay Scale

Filmmaker Danny Ledonne says he had no reason to expect the chief of campus police at Adams State University to show up at his Alamosa home last week. He was even more surprised when the chief told him he was there to deliver by hand a letter from ASU president Beverlee J. McClure, informing Ledonne that he would be arrested for trespassing if he stepped onto campus property. "Your presence on campus presents a concern to the campus community; is disruptive and/or you have been previously warned that such behavior will not be tolerated," declared the vaguely worded, errantly punctuated missive. "Your alleged behavior is deemed to be detrimental to the well-being of the institution and/or incompatible with the function of the University."

A former ASU film instructor, Ledonne couldn't figure out what he'd done to merit such attention. He had not issued any threats or received any prior warnings. And the timing of this fiat couldn't have been worse; he was the director of the 2015 Southern Colorado Film Festival, scheduled to take place on campus the following weekend, and now he was finding out he couldn't even attend the festival without landing in the hoosegow. "I had to reassign all my duties," he says.

Ledonne is no stranger to controversy. A decade ago he sparked outrage and debate by releasing Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, a role-playing video game based on the 1999 attack on Columbine High School, and subsequently made a documentary about the fallout. He has since been involved in a grassroots group that opposed a decision by Alamosa school officials to sell prime riverfront  property to a local RV park developer at below-market value; the property is now being turned into an innovative "healthy living park." 

But lately, Ledonne says, the only "alleged behavior" he's been engaged in that could be deemed to "present a concern to the campus community" is his ongoing criticism of Adams State's salary policies — particularly its shabby treatment of adjunct instructors. Ledonne worked part-time at ASU, teaching up to three courses a semester, from 2011 until 2014, then one year as a full-time visiting professor, with full benefits; his contract wasn't renewed last spring. Since then he's launched a watchdog website, Watching Adams, that explores publicly available salary data and compensation issues, and accuses the university of violating the Colorado Wage Act by making adjuncts wait until the end of the semester, or longer, to get paid for their work. 

Ledonne says it's been difficult to get university officials to comply with open records requests, but the data he's dug up is startling. "While most ASU faculty and staff make less than 80 percent of their peers at other institutions, approximately 24 administrative positions are paid at 100 percent or above of their peers, some at 120 percent or even greater," the website reports. 

The letter advised Ledonne that he could appeal McClure's decision by filing an appeal with an attorney at the Colorado Attorney General's office. That attorney, Jessica Salazar, did not respond to a request from Westword for comment on the situation. "My attorney needs to review the appeals process," Ledonne says. "I feel like we can't file an appeal until we understand what I'm being accused of."

Ledonne says he doesn't visit the campus frequently and doesn't know what sort of activity, other than the website, would have prompted ASU's action. But because so much of what happens in Alamosa happens on campus, he questions the fundamental fairness of his banishment from a publicly funded institution. "Adams State is the hub of Alamosa," he notes. "There are going to be long-term consequences if this continues."

Here's McClure's letter.

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast

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