Haskell faculty takes vote of no confidence in university president

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The faculty of Haskell Indian Nations University has taken a unanimous vote of no confidence in the school’s top leader. 

Haskell President Ronald Graham joined the university in May 2020, according to his online bio


The Faculty Senate voted 25-0 to release the resolution to support a vote of no confidence during a meeting Thursday.

Among many listed concerns from faculty, some of Graham’s actions in his first year have drawn public attention and criticism from advocates for freedom of speech. Some have accused him of trying to silence a student journalist and censor faculty and staff members.

As the Kansas Reflector reported last month, The Indian Leader, Haskell’s student newspaper, has filed a lawsuit against Graham, the university, the Board of Indian Education and its director. The lawsuit stems from a directive that was issued by the school’s president in October 2020, giving student editor Jared Nally a list of rules outlining what he could and could not do while newsgathering, after he’d published articles that were critical of the school and its administration. 

The Indian Leader also reported in February that Graham had directed faculty to “remove things like she/her/etc” from their email signatures, though he walked that directive back after faculty pushback. 

Vice President for Academics Melanie Daniel also sent an email to the faculty March 21 saying that they may not speak to the press or post on social media using their university titles without prior permission from the Department of the Interior. 

“You have the right to say or do as you please, as an individual,” the email stated. “You do not have the right to represent, speak, write, post on social media, or communicate in any way using the Haskell name and/or your title at Haskell unless and until you have DOI approval prior to the action.” 

Other concerns faculty members listed in the resolution, which The Indian Leader posted in full on its website Friday:
  • Graham has “made no effort to engage the Haskell faculty” in shared governance and has expressed that he didn’t want to meet with the faculty senate during his first year;
  • Graham “proposes new baccalaureate, masters, and Ph.D. degree programs without any engagement or consultation with Haskell Faculty Senate or the Haskell Board of Regents”;
  • Graham “disregards our mission statement that supports tribal sovereignty and the trust responsibility.”

According to Haskell’s website, three of seven top administrative positions at Haskell are currently vacant: director of athletics, director of facilities management and chief financial officer. 

The Times has reached out to the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ media email seeking comment but did not immediately receive a response Friday. 

Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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