The president of Haskell Indian Nations University will be away from campus for at least another four months, reassigned to another out-of-state job.
Linda Warner’s reassignment comes as at least two former colleagues continue efforts to support her initiatives, and a United States senator seeks answers about the university’s current leadership — both in Lawrence and in Washington, D.C.
Russell Blackbird, who retired last week as Haskell’s dean of education and vice president for professional schools, said the school had canceled an upcoming visit from an accreditation team — a team being brought in to review plans for adding four-year degree programs in liberal arts and community health.
Warner had pushed for the additions for two years, before the Bureau of Indian Education in Washington detailed her in September to Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in New Mexico to help with that school’s accreditation process. On Monday, the bureau confirmed that Warner soon would transfer to the bureau’s regional office in Oklahoma City to work with tribal community colleges.
The shift comes as Warner’s own accreditation efforts in Lawrence are being undone, said Ted Wright, who spent a year as Haskell’s vice president for university services.
He’s contacted lawmakers in Washington, seeking an investigation into management practices at both the bureau and, specifically, at Haskell.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., is among those looking for answers.
“I am concerned with reports in the media and from constituents regarding leadership problems at Haskell Indian Nations University,” Roberts said. “I question the logic of assigning a Haskell president to an office in Oklahoma when her duty is to the students and faculty in Lawrence. Currently, students have a limited number of accredited bachelor’s degree programs and there are reports accreditation visits have recently been canceled.
“We must work to ensure Haskell students are getting the quality education they deserve. The Bureau of Indian Education has some serious questions to answer.”
Blackbird, who retired in 2005 as principal at Lawrence’s South Junior High School, said the Haskell community deserves answers.
“One of the many reasons I resigned is because I feel there is some lack of support and unprofessionalism,” Blackbird said.
Nedra Darling, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs — the office that oversees the bureau — confirmed Warner would start her new duties in Oklahoma on Jan. 4.
Darling also said she was unaware of concerns raised by Wright or questions posed by Roberts.
In Lawrence, Haskell officials continue to work under the leadership of acting President Chris Redman, an education specialist with the bureau and who is based out of Oklahoma City. He was not at Haskell on Monday, as he was headed to Washington, D.C., to meet with other bureau officials.
“There’s a big meeting that’s looking at budget issues right now,” said Dan Wildcat, Haskell’s acting vice president for academic affairs.
Wildcat said that he, too, was unaware of calls for an investigation into the leadership of Haskell.
“We’re just getting ready to wrap up this semester,” he said.
Haskell has 191 faculty and staff, and 1,053 students enrolled from 40 states. The school provides tuition-free education to American Indians and Alaska natives.
The university is the lone four-year college operated by the federal government for American Indians and Alaska natives. It offers four bachelor’s degree programs: American Indian studies, business, elementary education and environmental science.