Archive for Thursday, January 29, 2009

Haskell student says she was ‘graduated’ against her will

January 29, 2009

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Brenda Councillor admits she was a rabble-rouser on the campus of Haskell Indian Nations University.

But it still came as a shock when she discovered over the holidays that she had had been graduated — and kicked out of her dorm room — against her will.

University administrators admit they waived her last semester and a required course, but they deny it was to get rid of her.

Councillor isn’t so sure.

“I get a call from the registrar, and he says, ’I have some good news — you’re graduated,’ “ recalled Councillor, 45, who is originally from Wisconsin. “I feel like I’ve been banished.”

As a member of the student Senate, Councillor had complained loudly about university President Linda Sue Warner’s decisions. Councillor circulated a petition last fall seeking the removal of Warner, who has had a stormy relationship with students and the Board of Regents during her two-year tenure.

But Warner insisted this week that had nothing to do with Councillor being barred from the dorms, locked out of her campus e-mail account and getting her diploma early.

“I can’t imagine that it did,” Warner said.

Warner said the university registrar decided to waive Councillor’s final required course. Warner noted that Councillor already had 10 more credits than required for a degree and has been on campus for four years. She said the university wants students to make academic progress and graduate so other students can enroll.

But Warner acknowledged that the university has “administratively graduated” only one other student in the past, and that other students take five or six years to graduate without officials taking similar action.

Still, she doesn’t understand why Councillor’s upset — even though her name was listed incorrectly on her diploma.

“I would be surprised if you could find anybody who would not be glad to graduate,” Warner said.

University registrar Manny King did not return calls seeking comment. Nor did Russell Blackbird, the acting vice president of academic affairs, who oversees academic policy.

Councillor wrote Blackbird asking him about the decision to award her a degree and refund her student fees and his response came in a letter dated Jan. 6:

“My priority is working with current Haskell Indian Nations University students,” Blackbird wrote. “Your concerns as a recent graduate of Haskell Indian Nations University in American Indian Studies will not be considered at this time.”

But George Tiger, vice chairman of the university’s Board of Regents, called Councillor’s case “worrying.”

“We hear concerns from a lot of students,” Tiger said. “One concern we hear is that there’s a possibility of retaliation if you’re not a supporter of Dr. Warner.”

The Regents represent tribes from across the nation and have only advisory power. The U.S. Bureau of Indian Education oversees Haskell directly. Tiger said he and other regents will meet with bureau officials next week to discuss concerns about Haskell’s administration.

Warner said that the decision to give Councillor a degree is part of a larger effort to bring university policies in line with larger universities around the country.

But the University of Kansas, the University of Missouri and the University of Missouri at Kansas City have no policies forcing a student to graduate because they’ve been on campus too long. In some cases, students risk losing course credits if they take too long to get a degree.

Robert Martin served as Haskell’s president for a decade before he left in 1999 to teach at other universities. He said he couldn’t recall ever forcing a student to graduate because they’d been on campus too long.

“We didn’t have that policy in place at Haskell or at any of the places where I’ve worked,” Martin said.

When Warner took over as president two years ago, she promised to modernize Haskell — the nation’s only federally funded four-year university dedicated to Native American students — and make it competitive with major universities.

She started 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.

Yet some students complained that Warner wanted to raise student fees and hadn’t done enough to address campus security or upgrade computers. The Board of Regents also complained that Warner wasn’t listening to students and wasn’t forthcoming about university finances.

Last summer, the Regents called for Warner to step down and asked for an investigation of her administrative policies. Warner refused and was backed by her supervisors in Washington.

Last fall, 400 of the university’s 997 students signed Councillor’s petition seeking Warner’s removal or resignation. Then earlier this month, the University’s Endowment Association disbanded because it said Warner wouldn’t meet with them.

“She does things on her own and doesn’t consider what it means to other people,” said Martha Houle, an Overland Park, Kan., resident and former president of the Haskell Alumni Association. “That’s not the way to lead Haskell.”

Warner dismisses such criticism, saying that many of her critics are simply resistant to change.

“We’re trying to make the university closer to what one would expect out of a major university,” she said.

Councillor, however, isn’t leaving without a fight. She has lodged complaints with members of Congress, the federal Inspector General’s office and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

She’s spending her nights at the home of a friend, and spending her days hanging out at the campus library.

“They’re trying to run me off,” Councillor said. “I’m still here.”

Comments

Steve Jacob 6 years, 7 months ago

Good article, but not from a Lawrence writer?

Raider 6 years, 7 months ago

LJW writers are not this original. A lot of the "in depth" stories on this site are from the AP. The LWJ writes tend to cover more of the feel-good "fluff" peices that go on in town.

notajayhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

Warner said that the decision to give Councillor a degree is part of a larger effort to bring university policies in line with larger universities around the country.>>> But the University of Kansas, the University of Missouri and the University of Missouri at Kansas City have no policies forcing a student to graduate ...Whoever wrote it, are they aware that there actually are universities outside of Lawrence, Columbia, and KC?>>> “She does things on her own and doesn’t consider what it means to other people,” said Martha Houle, an Overland Park, Kan., resident and former president of the Haskell Alumni Association.Okay, if Warmer's been there two years, and Martha is a former president of the alumni association - um, was Martha even there while Warner was in charge? Just sayin'...

mom_of_three 6 years, 7 months ago

I don't know how they feel about Dr. Blackbird, but his response to the student is alarming. And about how I felt trying to deal with him when he was principal at South.

Danimal 6 years, 7 months ago

Did I read this correctly that she is 45 years old? I was going to say that when you're attending a Federal institution and it's entirely on their dime they can tell you when to leave, but when the student is 45 years old, I would assert that it's time to be done with school, and glad that you're graduating. I don't see why this is controversial to some. Interesting certainly, but not at all controversial. I wish some institution would just give me a degree I haven't earned.

kmat 6 years, 7 months ago

Danimal says "I wish some institution would just give me a degree I haven't earned."Did you even read the story??? She actually has more credit hours than required and had one more course to take to complete the degree. She did earn it.I know a lot of people that have gone back to school as adults. What's the problem with getting an education at any age? It's not like she's been there since she was 18. I actually went to JCCC in the 80's with a lady in her 70's. Should she have not been there? I've thought about going back to school in my 40's? What's wrong with that? I'm really curious to know why someone older shouldn't get an education. Please enlighten us.75x55 says "I find it odd that people that revel in their “activism” don't seem to think that they may pay a price for their actions."Ooooh, doing a petition drive is such a disturbance. She sure was a rebel, huh? Have you ever attended a university? This was not a reason to kick her off campus.

kittycatty26 6 years, 7 months ago

Get a job and stop trying to suck the system, Councillor! You are 45 years old. Grow up! Start working like the rest of the adults in the world.

SeaFox 6 years, 7 months ago

She’s spending her nights at the home of a friend, and spending her days hanging out at the campus library.“They’re trying to run me off,” Councillor said. “I’m still here.”__While the nature of her graduation is certainly suspicious and perhaps warrants investigation, this last bit just reminds me of some baby throwing a fit. She has her degree (they should fix the name, though), why isn't she out trying to do something with it? You'd almost think she was scared to be done and back out in the world again.A student at another university would show more initiative. but that's because they'd have forthcoming student loan payments breathing down their necks. Right now she's not doing anything different than a college dropout.

jonas_opines 6 years, 7 months ago

"University administrators admit they waived her last semester and a required course, but they deny it was to get rid of her."Riiiiiiiiiiiigght. 4125: Carrying around your "conform" stamp today, I see.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

It's amazing how many of the reactionaries on this board make so many assumptions about Councillor simply because she's an "activist." The only thing that can reasonably be concluded from the information in this article is that the administration of Haskell was getting rid of a thorn in their side, using very shady tactics to do it.

Steve Bunch 6 years, 7 months ago

Regardless of the particulars regarding Ms. Councillor, this business does not speak well for Haskell's academic integrity. This student was "graduated" without having to take one of the required courses for the degree. Academic standards? Hmmm.

KansasVoter 6 years, 7 months ago

Does anyone else think that it's funny that Haskell still uses an Indian as their mascot? You'd think that if ANYBODY was going to change it would be them.

kcwarpony 6 years, 7 months ago

Hmmm, spends all day in the library…I know a lot of people who are out of work who spend a lot of time in the library…looking for a job! Newspapers, computers, all resources helpful in finding work. For all you know, Ms. Councillor could be looking for employment in Indian Country and if that is the case, Haskell library seems like a logical place to find information on employment opportunities.The student who complained the loudest and circulated a petition calling for the removal of Ms. Warner is the one student who has been graduated early, without a required course, and suddenly kicked out of the dorms, made homeless with no warning.Ms. Councillor, you go right now “rabble-rousing”. Something is not right here.

whiskeysour 6 years, 7 months ago

Shady tactics or not - and I will agree that it does seem a bit nefarious on behalf of the registrar/university - what legitimate reason would a 45 y/o woman have for wishing to remain in student (dorm) housing? Someone said it best earlier, she has achieved her seemingly stated goal (obtaining a degree) so what does she want to remain for? Is this like Red in Shawshank Redemption, where she's been in "the system" so long that she can't function outside of it?

okgirl 6 years, 7 months ago

Great article! Empowering to see someone stand up to Warner. Maybe this will finally get some attention from Washington. Go Brenda!

badger 6 years, 7 months ago

notajayhawk, the reason KU, MU, and UMKC are relevant is that they're the closest universities to Haskell, and therefore demonstrate what might be considered 'normal' in the area.She didn't complete her course requirements. Now, if what she missed out on was, say, a required general class that wasn't degree-specific, then maybe that's not such a big deal. I don't worry about a Business Major missing a Physics class or a Chemistry Major missing a Communication class. But if it was actually a course required for her focus of study, a required class she missed in her major, then that presents a real problem with regard to the quality of degree she received and the need for completion of a curriculum.So now when she applies for a job, she has to decide whether she informs an employer that she was awarded her degree without completing the course of study. For some jobs, you have to provide a transcript and might be considered to be mis-representing yourself if you don't state that you were graduated without completing the course requirements.It also makes me question the value of a degree from Haskell. Some people go to college to learn, to get an education and to better themselves, not just to get a piece of paper that says, "I graduated from college." Haskell's just said that in the interest of quelling an outspoken student, they're willing to set aside that student's desire to actually learn and shuffle her off with the piece of paper. That's kind of not kosher with me.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

"what legitimate reason would a 45 y/o woman have for wishing to remain in student (dorm) housing?"Maybe she thought that she was going to get to take the last remaining course for her degree, and continue to stay in her home while doing it? Usually, it takes a special request by the student for a university to waive graduation requirements. Having the university take action on their own, and locking them out of their home indicates an administration trying hard to silence its critics."Is this like Red in Shawshank Redemption, where she's been in “the system” so long that she can't function outside of it?"Did you even read the article? She's in a four-year degree program, and she's been there for four years. Even if she goes a semester or two over 4 years, that's hardly unusual at any university.

jenng 6 years, 7 months ago

I did not get my A.A. from Haskell (before transferring) because of 1 class. I was there for 3 years in a 2 year program. May I petition for my diploma?

whiskeysour 6 years, 7 months ago

bozo - your right that her time spent there isn't unusual, but her desire to remain there is. Before you mention the myriad of Van Wilder's on KU's campus which spend 5 or 6 years, I would point out that most of them are still in a stage of life that society encourages one to "find themselves" (the merit of the phrase I'll leave alone for now) but that by 45 she should be eager to engage in a more productive endeavor (career).

Potawatomi 6 years, 7 months ago

Councillor needs to beat it on down the line. She should be happy that she got a degree and get on with her life. I went to HINU as an off-campus student, but I could have stayed on-campus in the dorms and been fed 3 squares a day for another $35 a semester. I think it is a little more than that now but you can't beat that price any where else. She's just milking it for all it's worth. Pathetic waste of time and money. Beat it.

AjiDeGallina 6 years, 7 months ago

Haskell needed new blood and I was a strong supporter of Dr. Warner, and I still think she has good ideas.She has, however, failed.A leader knows how to include the community they lead, how to get them to embrace the change, or listen to them when they won't and find a way to work together.She can not do that, she has lost the confidence of most of the students, staff and community. She should resign.

okgirl 6 years, 7 months ago

The bottom line is she was graduated without proper degree requirements. She is not "milking" it and I think it is disgusting that people keep focusing on her age. Non-tradtional student make up a large number in the dorms so there is nothing unusual about her wanting to COMPLETE her degree and live on campus. The dorms are there for students and she is a student. Again, she is just standing up to sour administration. This isn't the first problem someone has had with Warner.Time for another petition!

Christine Pennewell Davis 6 years, 7 months ago

as for being 45 there is no age limit on education.

frustratedwithsponges 6 years, 7 months ago

I think this is a poor use of journalism with our economy tanking and people struggling to get by and this newspaper decides to run a front page story on a cry baby. Listen lady I spent 7 years getting my degrees and had to pay every penny and still paying 15 years later. You had your free ride now it is time to pay back to society instead of continuing your sponging ways. Why don't you find a job and become a productive member of society instead of crying that you don't have free room and board anymore. You are not homeless lady you are 45 and lazy. Instead of bashing Dr. Warner and the administration of Haskell your time would be much better spent trying to put the free degree you have to work and pay taxes to help other students go to school at Haskell. You never know with the economy in the state that it is in the government may cut funding to Haskell just something to think about.

notajayhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says… "Maybe she thought that she was going to get to take the last remaining course for her degree, and continue to stay in her home while doing it?"Tonight's scheduled Winter Games in Hades have been cancelled - it was too frikkin' cold! I can't believe I find myself agreeing with bozo (at least mostly) twice in the same day. (This better not be habit forming.)I said mostly. I guess I'm looking at it a little differently. I, too, was a non-trad. I went to school straight out of HS and it was a waste of time. I returned and finished my first degree when I was 29, and went back and earned my masters when I was in my early 40s. Non-trads are usually excellent students - most of the people in my bachelors program were non-trads, and the real-world experience they brought to the table enhanced the quality of the educational experience beyond measure (not everything you learn in school should be from the professors). As a result virtually every one of us was holding a 3.7 avg or above.But while I have no problem with someone being in school at that, or any age, I wonder why she was living in the dorms in the first place. If what okgirl says is true, times certainly have changed, 'cause I seem to recall nobody wanting to live in the dorms even by the time they were traditional upperclassmen.However, be that as it may, as I said I actually agree with bozo (sorry, took me a couple of minutes to get that out). I agree that the problem here is that she was suddenly and unexpectedly rendered homeless. Most of you have assumed, correctly or not, that she is unemployed, and now she finds out she has to find a home, and a way to pay for it, virtually overnight? Regardless of whether the University's motives were Lily-white pure, that was somewhat improper. I wonder how many of you could just pick up and find a new place to live within the next two weeks if you weren't even working. I've been in that situation, too, and it isn't fun.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 6 years, 7 months ago

"Brenda Councillor admits she was a rabble-rouser on the campus... But it still came as a shock when she discovered... she had had been graduated... against her will."No wild child left "the grind!"

Sigmund 6 years, 7 months ago

Just how screwed up is Haskell? Just where are the "journalist" at the World Company? Too busy hyping Sunflower Broadband, copying and pasting stories from police reports, and "touting" higher taxes from City Hall?

kulinebacker 6 years, 7 months ago

I am wondering how one would feel to find themselves, promoted in thier company overnight then told they were forced to retire as they could no longer advance within that company? While I am sure I would welcome such a degree as Ms. Councillor was 'given', I just do not see the basis as to where the registrar would assume that she learned all she needed to learn and therefore, was no longer welcomed on the Haskell Campus. Haskell has embarrassed thier academic integrity by allowing this to happen. I hope all Haskell students start petitioning for thier degree without having had all requirements met, but I doubt they would compromise thier own integrity for this kind of nonsense.

kuhusker 6 years, 7 months ago

Starting today, every single page I visit on LJWorld.com pops-under an ad every time I click. Thus if I visit 6 pages during a visit to the site, I have 6 ads pop up. This is new behavior today, and is very annoying. I am using Safari. Has anyone else experienced this?

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 6 years, 7 months ago

Been too busy walking the talk with shy stalker... it never ends....

kcwarpony 6 years, 7 months ago

blue73harley (Anonymous) says… “Too funny! Big HINU supporters, warpony and bozo, defending a rabblerouser who definitely holds her own self-interests above the institution! Okay, more power to her. You go girl!”Yes, I’m a supporter of Haskell, which means I want what is best for Haskell and the students. I have yet to be convinced Ms. Warner is what is best. I support any student, alumni, regent, or employee who stands up and speaks out on what they feel is a problem or anything they feel needs to be improved or changed. That does not mean I will always agree with their opinion but I will respect anyone who genuinely tries to make Haskell a better place for our people.

crazylikeafox 6 years, 7 months ago

This is the most ridiculous and saddest story this paper has reprinted. First off, this student is basically homeless and I feel sorry for her. How many of you really know the true story behind this? I went to Haskell and had this lady in a few classes. The school is providing an education for students and is accredited and it is unfortunate that leadership is to blame. I think if you look at it across the board students should be glad they can get an college education without paying tuition. I recently transferred and am paying tuition, fees and books that are quadruple to what I was paying at Haskell. And with major cuts in education, students and staff at Haskell need to pull together and make it a better place. Is it really that hard?

ksnvhogoku 6 years, 7 months ago

Haskell is going down. No classes, no money, no leaders, no instructors, no followers, what's next.

RedRocker 6 years, 7 months ago

At first I thought this woman's issue was ridiculous. Who wouldn't want an early degree and their money for the semester given back to them? After reading some of the comments, I have to concur that the other issue here is probably her being made homeless. I think this is could be seen as deliberate and punitive. It's one thing if she had been given advanced notice, even by a month. This would have given her time to begin looking for a place to live as well as a job. From all accounts she didn't apply for early grad and didn't plan for it. When you are a student, you also might have work study or grants you are counting on for the next couple of months. I don't know if this was the case with her but, if it was, having it taken away when you were following the rules and had committed no violations would be a big shock. Now if she had known this was going to happen and didnt plan properly, then it would be her tough luck. But, it looks like she was caught totally off guard by an action that seems to be based on her campus activism, which is totally legal and legitimate from what has been written here.

notajayhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

kuhusker (Anonymous) says… "Starting today, every single page I visit on LJWorld.com pops-under an ad every time I click. Thus if I visit 6 pages during a visit to the site, I have 6 ads pop up. This is new behavior today, and is very annoying. I am using Safari. Has anyone else experienced this?"Happens in Opera, too, but I'm only getting one.

buzzy 6 years, 7 months ago

Hello.... a 45 year old woman who does not want to graduate from college and after she does she hangs around lawrence and at Haskell's library. Does anyone else see anything wrong with this picture ? You can't stay at Haskell forever time to grow up, go home and get a job like the rest of America. Quit living off of the government their are others who need to attend Haskell, good for them for showing you the door !!!!!

rusty2 6 years, 7 months ago

same thing happened to me at KU but i was so stoned in the seventies i went ahead with the degree......................

George_Braziller 6 years, 7 months ago

Multi - I went through the EXACT same situation with the J-School. Had an AA when I transferred to KU with extra hours but I ended up having to put in about 100 hours over my entire final semester working for free as a photo intern for UPI at the State Capitol to get the .25 credit I needed to graduate. That 1/4 hour of credit cost me about $400 in film, paper, and gas not to mention the time I had to take off work to do it. By that time I had already decided that I didn't want to go into journalism but that 1/4 hour was all I needed to get my degree._______Multidisciplinary (Anonymous) says… My first husband was .003 of what was needed to finish his degree at KU. Did they give it to him? NO. Did he have extra courses in his background, Yes, he got an AA at Seward, and had year at Hayes, and a lot of those credits they just tossed, and he had to retake them at KU. And this wasn't med school, it was journalism. I sure that .003 would have made all the difference in any future job performance.

jonas_opines 6 years, 7 months ago

4125: " “conform”, lol! Leftists, academics and teenagers are the greatest conformists there are."Oh, I'm not so sure about the "greatest." I can think of plenty of other examples that give these demographics a run for their money. Stereotypically, of course, but that does seem to be the level we're working on right now.

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