The first in a three-part series about a former professor who says he was banned from his old campus for exposing institutional corruption. From the Alamosa Valley Courier.
Danny Ledonne, a former Adams State University adjunct professor who has spent more than a year contesting what he calls a problematic hiring process that left him out of a job, is now contesting the university's declaration of him as persona non grata — a legal designation that prohibits him from setting foot on campus.
Ledonne alleges that the declaration, issued on October 14, was retaliation for a website he created, WatchingAdams.org, that posts university records such as salary data, and articles alleging corruption in the university's administration. The website published its first article on October 11, three days before the persona non grata order.
ASU President Dr. Beverlee McClure sees it differently. McClure said that campus officials have compiled a list of events and behaviors that added up to a picture of a dangerous individual who represented a safety threat to the campus community.
"When we issued the persona non grata, it's a pattern of behavior over two years, particularly that began when he was not selected for a faculty position," said McClure. "A group of faculty, his peers, determined he was not qualified for the position and that's why he was not selected. That began before I came on board, but that's when he began to harass the institution and harass the former president. With me as the new president, he has a new target. You've seen a lot of that harassment on the blogs he has, and the media he's putting out where he's trying to put out a lot of personal information against me and the former president, but more particularly about the institution and trying to harm the university and their mission. Again, because he didn't get a job he wanted."
Ledonne challenged McClure's characterization of the events.
"I’ve never harassed anyone," Ledonne said. "All I’ve ever done is requested meetings. I have not put out any personal information about Beverlee McClure... Just to be clear, the very initial concern for all of this stems from ongoing hiring issues they have still not addressed."
Ledonne said that he and Joel Korngut, the former director of the university's Office of Equal Opportunity, identified "multiple problems [and] flaws in the search process" that led to Ledonne being passed over for a full-time faculty position, and that Korngut encouraged Ledonne to "be persistent."
"I have done so, and I have done so in a civil manner," Ledonne said.
McClure said Ledonne has been less than civil.
"There were patterns of behavior that happened along with the creation of that website, that when we put it all together and looked at the timeline, targeting us and other community members, we took that and went to the Attorney General's office," McClure said. "This was an issue about safety. The persona non grata is not about the website — he still has access to all the information he wants. In fact, he regularly communicates with our Human Resources office. He still has access to all that information. The only thing he doesn't have access to is our students on campus or our classrooms. For the past year, he's been attending employee meetings as a non-employee, which is what brought him to my attention."
Ledonne said the only meetings he attended after he was no longer an employee were an employee meeting he was invited to and a Faculty Senate meeting in September.
McClure said the university's list of instances, events, and behaviors by Ledonne demonstrate that he is a potential threat to campus safety. McClure offered to release the list if Ledonne would approve. Ledonne refused, saying he has not had a chance to privately review the allegations with campus administration.
"The personal attacks and the terrorism against me and the previous president and individuals on campus — we're all under a veil of silence because of the legal matters of that," McClure said.
"The pattern of behavior really left us with no choice," McClure said. "I spent the last 10 years in the private sector, and I would see these violent acts on campuses, and in retrospect, people would look back and see a pattern of behavior, and I would say as a businessperson, 'why didn't they see that? Why didn't they do something?' I found myself in that situation of looking at a pattern of behavior, and going to legal counsel and saying, ‘you know what, we may be wrong on this, but it's better to be wrong on the side of safety.'"
Ledonne took umbrage being characterized as a violent person.
"I’m not a threat to anyone’s safety," Ledonne said. "I’ve never been in a physical fight with anyone in my life. I’ve never had any criminal activity, any activity associated with violent behavior."
In the face of mounting press attention, ASU police chief Paul Grohowski sent out an email to campus staff and others on October 28, outlining some of the charges against Ledonne, including that Ledonne filed two complaints to the university's Office of Equal Opportunity. Ledonne said OEO complaints are supposed to be confidential.
"We did not breach confidentiality by mentioning the findings of the Office of Equal Opportunity, because we did not mention the details of those findings, other than the high-level details we're allowed to release," McClure said.
Grohowski's email also mentioned a video game Ledonne created in 2005, called Super Columbine Massacre RPG! The game, about the killing of 12 students and a teacher at a Denver-area high school in 1999, made headlines. Ledonne said the game is an exploration of the moral and social issues surrounding the massacre, told through the medium of a video game.
"In the game, you win by shooting students," McClure said. "Tell me how exactly that really is good policy or practice or shows what he claims it to be. The game is about shooting students."
McClure said that while declarations of persona non grata are not yet part of university policy, the institution was well within its rights.
"The pattern of behavior and threats and safety does give us the right to say he is a threat to our staff and students, and we acted in accordance with that," said McClure. "If we're wrong about this, I'll say that we were wrong on the side of safety. If people say 'he's a local guy, and I'd bet my life on it,' well, maybe, but I'm not going to bet the lives of 3,000 people on our campus."