June 20, 2021
Lawrence, US 80 F
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Bureau of Indian Education rescinds 2 employee speech directives issued by embattled Haskell administration

The Bureau of Indian Education — the federal agency that governs Haskell Indian Nations University — on Tuesday rescinded two March directives that sought to limit how faculty and staff at the tribal university could express themselves.

On March 11, Haskell President Ronald Graham issued and signed a directive which forbade all employees, including faculty, from expressing opinions about his administration. Doing so, he claimed, was “inappropriate” and a manner of expression not protected by academic freedom.

The second — issued just more than a week later by Graham’s vice president for academics, Melanie Daniel — prohibited faculty from mentioning their Haskell employment when speaking with the media. Tony Dearman, the director of the Bureau of Indian Education, told the school’s employees in a letter Tuesday that “after discussion with Dr. Graham,” the two directives have been rescinded and are no longer in effect.

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“The Bureau of Indian Education is committed to providing Haskell students, faculty, and staff the freedom to express themselves on matters of importance,” Dearman wrote.

BIE-Notice-to-Faculty-and-Staff

The BIE’s rescission of Graham’s directives came just a week after Haskell’s Faculty Senate issued a unanimous 25-0 vote of no confidence in Graham’s leadership.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an independent and nonpartisan advocacy organization, has lambasted Graham and his administration over the past few months — related to the aforementioned directives and a past high-profile incident in which Graham sought to prohibit the editor-in-chief of Haskell’s student newspaper from basic newsgathering duties.

“Haskell’s latest directives sent a clear message to faculty: The administration is watching and is prepared to violate the Constitution to protect its reputation,” FIRE Program Officer Lindsie Rank said in a press release Wednesday. “We’re relieved that the BIE finally stepped in to preserve faculty rights, but the Haskell administration has repeatedly tried to suppress dissent, and the BIE — which operates the university — should have acted long ago to end the pattern of rights violations endemic to Haskell.”

FIRE in March sued Graham in his personal capacity on behalf of Jared Nally, the student journalist Graham briefly prohibited from conducting basic newsgathering practices, and also sought to restore $10,000 in funding allegedly cut from the newspaper’s budget in response to critical coverage of the university.

Graham and the BIE media office did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Lawrence Times on Wednesday.

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