The naming of a new, permanent president is great news for Haskell Indian Nations University.
After almost two years without a full-time president on campus, the school is in serious need of consistent and visionary leadership. Hopefully, Chris Redman, who will take over as Haskell’s president on July 3, will provide that kind of leadership.
Redman comes to the job with some experience that should be helpful. He has worked for Haskell since 2008, including two stints as the school’s interim president. Before that he worked in various positions for his tribe, the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and then for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Indian Education Programs in Washington, D.C.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa and a master’s degree in human relations from the University of Oklahoma. Knowledge of both business and human relations should come in handy for the new president.
Haskell is an important part of Lawrence and an important touchstone for the American Indian community. In recent years, the school has taken giant strides in providing higher education opportunities for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Nonetheless, it continues to face challenges.
Although it has a board of regents, it is only an advisory body with no power to make policy decisions. That power remains with the Bureau of Indian Education, where policymaking often becomes mired in the bureaucracy of the federal government. The lack of any independent governing body for the school makes it difficult for Haskell to attract private donations from tribal organizations and others.
Any state university in the country knows how important private money is to maintaining or building its reputation and excellence. It would be a revolutionary act, but why couldn’t the federal government establish a relationship with Haskell that resembles the relationship Kansas has with its state universities? State lawmakers are responsible for providing some tax support for those schools, but policy decisions are delegated to the Kansas Board of Regents which is more limber in responding to various university needs. Not every decision requires an act of Congress.
Haskell has important ties to the past but it also is a key portal to the future for many American Indian students, as well as the tribes they represent. As we noted, the school has taken great strides over the last decade or so, but more needs to be done. We hope Redman won’t be afraid to think big and take a few risks to move this unique school forward.