Lawrence The embattled president of Haskell Indian Nations University is standing firm while the university's Board of Regents asks for her dismissal and nearly half of the students have signed petitions seeking her resignation.
More than 100 students and faculty members attended a forum Friday in the school auditorium designed to deal with the storm surrounding Linda Sue Warner, president of Haskell, the nation's only federally funded four-year college devoted to American Indians.
Dozens of students spoke out, accusing Warner of trying to increase student fees while doing little to address campus safety or an antiquated computer system.
"The students are calling for action," said Brenda Councillor, a member of the Student Senate and the author of a petition signed by 400 students calling for Warner's ouster. "I do not follow her leadership." The school has about 1,000 students.
Warner directed questions about her tenure to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education, which oversees Haskell.
Warner has made changes since becoming president of Haskell two years ago. She has added a new campus research center, implemented a new student health program, signed cooperative agreements with other universities and started work to expand degree options. A new personnel policy was established, and some faculty members were reassigned.
Last summer, the regents called for Warner to step down and asked for an investigation of her administrative policies. But since Haskell operates under the federal Bureau of Indian Education, the board is powerless to remove Warner.
Some who spoke Friday said they supported Warner and thought the backlash was just a reaction to change.
During a meeting this week at Haskell, board members continued their criticism. They demanded more information about university finances, as well as copies of housing, student conduct and personnel policies.
Stephanie Birdwell, acting deputy director at the Bureau of Indian Education and Warner's boss, met with the board to hear the complaints. She declined to comment about criticism of Warner and gave a one-word answer when a reporter asked if Warner would be fired or asked to resign: "No."
A team of federal officials reviewed the university's personnel policy and finances last summer and found no problems.
Warner said she had asked her staff to study raising fees to $1,000 per semester in order to pay for new services and to upgrade computers. But she tabled the idea when objections mounted.