Fort Lewis College administrators placed Brad Clark, an associate professor of political science at FLC, on administrative leave after his arrest Oct. 6.
All five of Clark’s courses will be taught by FLC faculty for the remainder of the fall semester, Justin McBrayer, the department chair for philosophy and political science, said.
McBrayer searched for substitute instructors internally due to the short time frame left in the semester, he said.
All of the instructors filling in for Clark are FLC faculty who have offered to take on an additional course, he said. These instructors will now have 15 credits to teach.
The normal workload for the college’s faculty is 12 credits, he said.
Clark originally had four courses at the beginning of the Fall 2019 semester, but he added an environmental studies course to help out the environmental studies major, McBrayer said.
“We owe all five of these people a debt of gratitude for stepping in midstream to help students out,” McBrayer said.
The Durango Police Department arrested Clark in connection with a fire at South City Market, which started Oct. 5, according to arrest documents.
According to the affidavit, Clark is accused of lighting a bag of tortilla chips on fire the evening of Oct. 5, causing the grocery store’s sprinkler system to go off while about 50 patrons evacuated the building.
According to arrest documents, DPD charged Clark with first-degree arson, a class three felony in Colorado.
If found guilty of a class three felony, Colorado State Law penalties include a minimum of four years in prison and/or $3,000 in fines. Maximum penalties include 12 years in prison and/or $750,000 in fines and a mandatory parole period for three years.
While the disciplinary process is pending, a faculty member may be placed on administrative leave with pay when the president or the provost believes the faculty member’s continued performance poses a significant risk of harm to persons, property or the best interest of the college, according to the FLC Faculty Handbook.
FLC Provost Cheryl Nixon sent an email to faculty the morning of Oct. 8 to inform them about Clark’s incident.
“The administrative leadership—President Stritikus, Dean Peters, and I—have placed Prof. Clark on immediate paid administrative leave,” Nixon said in the email sent to faculty, which was obtained by The Independent. “He is also barred from campus access. Prof. Clark has agreed to comply with these terms.”
All personnel matters concerning how incidents similar to Clark’s impact their future status with the college are private, FLC spokesperson Lauren Savage said.
The college learned about Clark’s arrest Oct. 7. Clark’s classes were cancelled Oct. 7 and 8 before new instructors were assigned to these courses, McBrayer said.
Regardless of the outcome of his trial, Clark will not return to teaching this semester, but he can return to conduct research if he is exonerated, McBrayer said.
Students will be using the same textbooks for Clark’s courses, but their syllabi may be adjusted to the instructor’s expertise, McBrayer said.
Any adjustments to the syllabi will still have to fall under the course objectives and description, he said.
Grace Robinson, a student in Clark’s Environmental Policy course, said fill-in professor Jared Beeton has adjusted the class’s original lecture-based instruction to group-oriented projects.
“As far as the structure, it’s very different,” she said.
McBrayer and Beeton both came into class during the transition period to clarify Clark’s incident and answer any questions that students had, she said.
Robinson said she received an email from Clark on Oct. 7 before he had been placed on administrative leave. Clark expected the class to resume Oct. 9, she said.
According to Clark’s email, it included an apology if the developments of the incident would indirectly affect students, that he expected his attorneys to have his case resolved by November or December and that there is more to the story, she said.
Robinson said she doesn’t know what Clark meant by mentioning there being more to the story and was intrigued by it, she said.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” she said. “We’ll miss having him, even if it’s going to be different.”
The Independent was unable to contact Clark directly or through his attorney.
Clark’s other involvements with FLC include the Water Center, Academic Standard Committee and the Grievance Council.
He has been working at the college since 2006, according to his FLC faculty bio.