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Archive for Monday, October 21, 2013

After week of on-campus interviews, Haskell waits for next permanent university president

October 21, 2013

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Haskell's Facebook page released the names of the seven candidates invited last week to interview for the job of Haskell Indian Nations University president. The candidates were:

Venida Chenault

Marie Etsitty

Jonathan Hook

Charles Cambridge

Wayne Johnson

Neil Trottier

James Utterback

After a visit from candidates last week, the campus of Haskell Indian Nations University awaits a decision on the next president of the university.

Seven candidates went through semi-public interviews at Haskell that lasted most of the school day last Wednesday and Thursday in front of an audience of Haskell students, staff and faculty.

Ryan Coody, editor of the Indian Leader, Haskell's campus newspaper, said at no time during the interviews were fewer than 120 people in attendance, which represents a sizable chunk of Haskell's relatively small campus. "I was extremely surprised and impressed by the turnout," he said.

Instead of covering the event for the Indian Leader, Coody sat on the panel created to help evaluate the candidates. The interviews were conducted by the Bureau of Indian Education, an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior. While the campus community could watch the interviews, Coody said they weren't allowed to ask questions, nor was the panel he sat on allowed to ask questions or follow ups.

"It's not at all what I was expecting," Coody said, adding "It's not necessarily they were trying to keep it quiet." Rather, the bureau invited the campus to sit in on an interview process that normally would be held privately.

Haskell posted the names of, but no background information about, the candidates on its Facebook page. Neither Haskell officials nor the Bureau of Indian Education responded to requests for more information on the candidates.

The ultimate decision on who will be the next leader of Haskell rests with Indian Bureau of Education. Coody and other members of the panel, which included students and faculty, offered written feedback and recommendations. Bureau spokeswoman Nedra Darling said from here the agency will narrow the pool of candidates for further interviews.

Whoever is chosen to replace former Haskell President Chris Redman, who left in May, will face several challenges. The automatic federal budget cuts known as the sequester have taken a 5.4 percent bite out of Haskell's operating budget for this school year, representing more than $600,000. That could increase to eight to 10 percent for fiscal year 2014, a loss of up to $1 million in Haskell's budget. The cuts could lead to furloughs, salary freezes, fewer faculty and staff positions being filled, reduced work study and higher campus fees for students.

Along with Haskell's budget woes and low graduation rates among students, its athletics program was placed on probation through 2014 by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, and a U.S. Department of Education report found instances of academic fraud in the athletics department between 2007 and 2010.

Besides someone who can lead Haskell forward through these challenges, the university also needs someone who will stay for the long haul.

"Most important is that we have consistent leadership," Coody said. "It would be nice if they stuck around for a while."

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