New dean of students announced at Haskell in wake of recent nepotism complaint

photo by: Conrad Swanson

A sign at the entrance to Haskell Indian Nations University is shown Friday, Aug. 5, 2016.

In the wake of a recent nepotism complaint filed against Venida Chenault, the president of Haskell Indian Nations University, Chenault’s son is no longer the acting dean of students at the school.

An email obtained by the Lawrence Journal-World states that as of Sept. 1 Joshua Arce, Chenault’s son, is no longer “acting” dean of students.

The email was sent to 12 university employees on Monday. It says that Janet White and Tonia Salvini will take over Arce’s former responsibilities.

Salvini is Haskell’s vice president of university services, and White is listed on the university’s website as a program support assistant.

In the spring of this year, Theresa Milk, a professor of American Indian Studies, said she filed a nepotism complaint with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of the Inspector General.

Milk said federal policy requires two levels of supervisory separation between family members who work at the university. That gap, she said, does not exist between Chenault and Arce.

When Milk filed her complaint, Arce was working as both the school’s chief information officer and the acting dean of students.

According to the Bureau of Indian Education’s policies, relatives must have a “minimum of two intervening levels of supervision within the chain of command to show clear separation.”

In addition, the policy also states public officials shall not unfairly favor relatives for a position over other candidates.

Wednesday morning, Steven Prue, executive assistant in Chenault’s office, confirmed that Arce is no longer acting dean of students and said Salvini had taken his place.

Prue would not say when, exactly, the staff change took place or why, directing all other questions to the Bureau of Indian Education.

Neither the BIE nor Arce returned calls seeking comment on Milk’s complaint.

Milk said she heard about Arce’s change of duties, but was not on the list of employees who received the email announcing the shift.

“They’re trying to say ‘we’re taking care of it,’ but it’s just a memo, and I don’t see any action that goes along with it,” she said.