After commencement ceremonies on Friday, the 2010 graduates of Haskell Indian Nations University are on their way. Unfortunately, the school they leave behind is still struggling with a lack of leadership and direction while federal officials continue to drag their heels on addressing the situation.
Haskell’s president, Linda Warner, has been absent from the campus since September, when the Bureau of Indian Education sent her to the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, N.M. In January, she was moved to the BIE’s regional office in Oklahoma City where she was said to be awaiting a decision on the hiring of a new BIE director, a post for which she was named as a finalist.
On Friday, it was announced that Keith O. Moore, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, will be the new BIE director. He reportedly is the person who will determine whether Warner will return to Haskell or someone else will replace her as president. In the meantime, Haskell is without a fully engaged president and is struggling to maintain its funding and direction for the future.
During their meeting last week, the Haskell Board of Regents approved for a second time a “no confidence” resolution aimed at Warner. At the same meeting, Haskell’s chief financial officer reportedly told the regents that the university would have to leave 24 positions vacant and cut several coaching contracts to meet a $3.4 million budget shortfall for the next school year.
What was the BIE’s response to these serious concerns? The announcement of a public relations campaign. BIE officials attended the Haskell regents meeting to tell them about a new “Haskell Gives Back” program to promote positive stories about Haskell to counteract the negative impression that some elected officials are getting about the school. Probably counted among those officials is U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who has called for an investigation of complaints involving mismanagement and ethics issues at the school.
Lana Redeye, a member of the Haskell regents, was quoted in an area newspaper as responding to the BIE’s campaign, “The best thing that the federal government can give back to Haskell is stable leadership.”
We agree. The new BIE director should waste no time in assessing the situation at Haskell and putting the current leadership controversy to rest. The school doesn’t need a public relations campaign; it needs a strong leader who can attract needed funding and get Haskell back on track.