Haskell Indian Nations University, which has been in a state of flux and administrative turnover for years, appears to have a new leader.
Dr. Frank Arpan, who in May was named as the university’s vice president of academics, is now listed as Haskell’s president. The Bureau has not announced the change publicly, but a source at the university said Arpan was announced to staff and faculty as the new president and is currently undergoing required background checks.
Arpan was previously dean of academics at Sisseton Wahpeton College, a nonprofit tribal college in Sisseton, South Dakota. Prior to that, he has worked at South Dakota State University, Southern New Hampshire University and Aims Community College. He was born in Wagner, South Dakota, and is an enrolled tribal member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, according a May news release. He also served in the U.S. Air Force as an Egress System Mechanic.
Haskell staff members were told Arpan was “tentatively selected” as the university’s next president in early November, according to an email sent by former interim president Julia Good Fox. Once his paperwork is finalized, Arpan will assume the role of permanent president, the email said.
The Bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Arpan’s status at the university had indeed become permanent.
New information also surfaced Thursday on the firing of former president Ronald Graham, who was terminated in May 2021 four days shy of the end of his probationary term in the role, according to a letter obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.
Though Graham made national headlines in his tenure for his attempt to stifle the newsgathering process of the editor-in-chief of Haskell’s student newspaper, the official reason the Bureau of Indian Education gave for his termination was for “failure to properly perform your duties and/or failure to follow procedures as President of the University.”
The Bureau then gave examples of Graham’s misconduct, including failing “to implement and/or follow safety procedures for COVID-19,” and failing to “follow current policy and/or process for getting approval of the Dual Enrollment Program.”
Graham also “did not perform [his] duties properly when [he] failed to interact with Faculty regarding ideas and/or plans related to the education program,” according to the termination letter.R.-Graham-Term-during-Prob-Period_Proposed-Redactions-Ex-6_Redacted.1.25.23
Graham was hired on May 11, 2020 and fired on May 7, 2021, just shy of the end of his yearlong probationary period in the role, according to the letter. Federal employees, the letter said, serve in a two-year trial period so the agency can “assess an employee’s overall fitness and qualifications for continued employment.” The employee serves the agency at-will during the two-year trial period, meaning they can be fired at their supervisor’s discretion and mostly do not maintain the right to appeal a dismissal.
Graham was offered the opportunity to appeal his termination only if he felt it was based on his marital status or political affiliation. It does not appear he chose to appeal his firing.
Haskell Faculty Senate members in April 2021 took a 25-0 vote of no confidence in Graham.
Arpan did not immediately respond to an email, and Graham did not return a voicemail or text message seeking comment for this article.
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Conner Mitchell (he/him), reporter, can be reached at cmitchell (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com or 785-435-9264. If you have sensitive information to send Conner, please email connermitchell (at) protonmail (dot) com. Read more of his work for the Times here.