aerial view of Richardson Hall at Adams State campus

THE Adams State University Board of Trustees greenlighted the start of a new bachelor’s degree in public health, but it was reports of sinking campus morale and concerns around undergraduate enrollment and future recruiting that dominated their meeting on Friday.

The Trustees took action to approve a new bachelor of arts degree in public health, which will be housed in the Kinesiology Department at Adams State. Margaret Doell, associate vice president for academic affairs, said the degree plan will include existing courses and a foundation of public health courses, including a focus on rural health.

Adjunct professors, said Doell, would be relied on to get the program off the ground. Adams State has been working with the Colorado School of Public Health to create a ladder where students who earn their bachelor’s degree in public health from Adams State can then move into a master’s degree program with the Colorado School of Public Health.

Faculty morale at Adams State was the biggest conversation topic during the board meeting. Beth Bonnstetter, the faculty trustee and professor of communications, said morale among her colleagues continues to be very low.

“I want to be blunt with the Trustees,” Bonnstetter said. “When I spoke earlier and said faculty were agitated, I underspoke. They are angry. They are very, very angry.”

She said faculty feel like they don’t have a voice and that when they present concerns to Adams State President Cheryl Lovell, they don’t think their concerns are being heard. “Some are talking of taking more drastic measures, whatever that may mean,” said Bonnstetter.

There was discussion among Adams State faculty during the fall semester about taking a vote of no confidence on Lovell, according to several faculty members. That vote, however, has not materialized.

The Trustees, as scheduled on their meeting agenda, did go into a closed-to-public executive session to discuss Lovell’s annual performance and compensation.

The workload, said Bonnstetter, is one of the biggest issues. “Faculty feel overworked, and people are quitting faster than they can be replaced. They feel like they’re being asked to do more and more and more.”

She said it would be hard to ask faculty to help with student recruitment given the state of morale and the feeling that Lovell is giving “lip service” to concerns on campus.

Adams State lost its top recruiter earlier this year as well as its vice president for enrollment management. Neither position has been replaced yet, putting Adams State in a tough spot for the student recruiting season.

The university is currently working on getting students who attended in the fall to enroll for the upcoming spring semester. Lovell told the Trustees that Adams State is “trying to make up ground” on recruitment, both for the spring semester and next academic year’s fall semester.

The Trustees, upon hearing the reports on lagging enrollment and recruitment and concerns about campus morale, pressed for more information.

For two of the Trustees, Randy Wright and Donna Griego, both of Alamosa, it was their last meeting as board members. Wright had served as a Trustee for nearly 10 years and Griego for 4 years. They will be replaced by Mark Martinez, owner of The Square Peg in Alamosa, and Jennifer Mueller, who is chief financial officer at Friday Health Plans.

The Board of Trustees at Adams State are appointed to four-year terms by the Colorado governor.

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