Four members of the state’s congressional delegation are pushing the Obama administration to address leadership concerns at Haskell Indian Nations University.
The elected officials — U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback, R-Kan.; U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., and U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan. — sent a letter Tuesday outlining ongoing concerns to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
They say they have been pursuing answers since October regarding alleged “mismanagement of personnel,” “ethics violations” and other “alarming reports” involving Haskell.
The lawmakers have yet to receive any response from Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, they said, and that’s why they are seeking information from Salazar himself.
“I have heard from many Kansans regarding the lack of leadership at Haskell,” Roberts said in a statement. “After speaking personally with Secretary Salazar, I am hopeful we can now get answers to these serious questions. We must work to ensure Haskell students are getting the quality education they deserve.”
Roberts and his colleagues said they were writing to “express deep concern regarding troubling issues” at the school, which has 1,077 students from about 40 states and from about 140 tribes. Haskell’s president, Linda Warner, retains her title but has been sent on “temporary assignment” out of state since September.
Lawmakers expressed concerns that Warner’s efforts to start two new degree programs were dropped last year, when interim leaders canceled visits from an accreditation team.
But Venida Chenault, Haskell’s interim president now that last semester’s interim president, Chris Redman, has returned to work in Oklahoma City, cited the university’s “flat budget” for the past decade as the main reason for halting the degree efforts. Haskell’s annual budget is $14.4 million.
“Our work throughout the 2009-10 year has focused on ensuring that we’re using limited resources efficiently and effectively to meet the needs of tribal people,” she said.