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Former higher education chief now on leave from college post

New Mexico’s former higher education secretary is now on leave as president of a small public university in southern Colorado. A wave of media coverage details allegations, which she disputes, that she was a bully and wore an offensive Halloween costume in 2016.

Beverlee McClure

Beverlee McClure

But Beverlee McClure blames an outspoken critic for helping craft a misleading narrative about her leave from Adams State University in Alamosa.

McClure said she requested the leave so she and the school’s trustees could negotiate the terms of her departure after determining that they had different ideas about the school’s direction.

She declined to offer specifics about the nature of her disagreements with the board but stressed that her 2016 plumber getup – featuring a fat suit, too-small T-shirt, faux beard and set of bad, fake teeth – was not the issue.

“I am not on administrative leave because of a costume,” she told the Journal.

The trustees offered few details when announcing their Feb. 12 decision to put McClure on leave. In a written statement, they said, “The priorities of the current board are no longer congruent with the priorities of the president,” and she was on leave “while the parties work through the details of a transition.”

In response to Journal questions seeking more information about the decision – including whether reasons included bullying behavior or a costume – an Adams State spokeswoman deferred to the statement as the only comments ASU planned to make at this time.

Adams State has experienced declining enrollment, and the Higher Learning Commission, an accrediting body, placed it on probation in 2016, citing various issues with its online programming. McClure said the problems predated her arrival.

She said she was proud of her tenure at ASU, citing achievements related to fundraising and growth in minority student enrollment.

McClure has been the school’s president since 2015. That followed a series of high-profile positions in New Mexico.

She had been the state’s higher education secretary under Gov. Bill Richardson and later headed the statewide business group, the Association of Commerce & Industry. She is also former president of Clovis Community College.

Multiple media outlets, including national higher education publications, have reported on McClure’s leave this week. The Denver Post quoted onetime ASU faculty member Danny Ledonne, whom McClure had once banned from campus but who successfully fought the ban in court. Ledonne said her costume showed “contempt for the working people” of Alamosa and was indicative of McClure, who Ledonne said had “cultivated this campus culture of bullying and backstabbing.”

The newspaper also cited five other unnamed current and former faculty members who corroborated Ledonne’s depiction.

But McClure contends that Ledonne has “cyberstalked” her for years through his blog and helped twist the narrative around her leave.

“He’s done a beautiful job,” she said. “You have to give him credit.”

Ledonne, however, said he did not believe the costume – which was written about in his blog in 2016 – was to blame for McClure’s leave but that it did create media intrigue. He said she was “substantially incorrect” in her view that he cyberstalked her.

“Beverlee McClure has made a practice of making false allegations against me for years, and the claim that I ‘cyberstalked’ her is just the most recent,” he said in an email to the Journal. “Further, I believe the matter of the Halloween costume has been distorted in the interest of click-bait journalism and that deeper performance issues better explain” the leave.

McClure said she was planning to return to New Mexico, where she would “probably take some time to heal.” She has not determined her next career move but is reluctant to return to public service.

“When people put themselves out there in positions that are considered public (or are a) public official, you really have to give people credit for having courage these days because one perceived misstep and there’s just a feeding frenzy,” she said.

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