U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran voices ‘grave concerns’ to Bureau of Indian Education over allegations that Haskell employees intimidated students

photo by: Journal-World File

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

After last year’s allegations that employees at Haskell Indian Nations University intimidated student-athletes into signing legal documents, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran has sent an inquiry to the director of the Bureau of Indian Education about the issue, the Journal-World learned Friday.

As the Journal-World reported in April 2022, student-athletes with Haskell’s cross country team have alleged that they were made to sign no-contact agreements stemming from a federal investigation of their former coach, and also said they felt administrators intimidated them into doing so. In a letter sent to BIE director Tony Dearman on Friday, Moran said he first contacted the bureau’s Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs about those allegations in June 2022 and was told the bureau was investigating.

But Moran said that more than six months later, the bureau still hasn’t provided any further insight on the status of that investigation after an additional inquiry from his office. Now, Moran says he has “grave concerns” about the allegations Haskell students raised last year, and he’s asking the BIE to respond to a list of questions by Jan. 20.

“I have growing concern that since I have seen no evidence of institutional change at Haskell and have continued to receive outreach to my office from affected individuals, BIE is not acting in the expedient manner this situation demands,” Moran said in the letter.

The questions Moran is asking the BIE are as follows:

• When did the department first learn of the allegations?

• Once the department was aware of the allegations, what steps did the department take to investigate?

• Did the department refer any of the allegations to the Office of Inspector General or any state, local or federal law enforcement agency? If so, when did the department make those referrals?

• Has the department made or sought changes to the operations at Haskell in response to the allegations?

• Has the department made or sought personnel changes in response to the allegations?

The allegations against Haskell’s administration were first brought by a group of current and former Haskell cross country athletes after coach Clay Mayes was barred from leading practices and was investigated for allegedly cultivating a hostile practice environment. The students claimed that the allegations against Mayes were in error. Rather, they claimed that Assistant Athletic Director Aja McCormick had met with a small group of runners and compiled a list of complaints to lodge against Mayes, as the Journal-World previously reported. The students also told the Journal-World that McCormick, acting Athletic Director Judith Gipp and longtime track coach Al Gipp had been a source of constant and continuing ire and discomfort throughout the federal investigation.

Every athlete on the team was made to sign a memorandum — dated Nov. 4, 2021 — from the vice president of university services, Tonia Salvini, informing them of a no-contact order that barred them from communicating with Mayes or anyone in his family, as the Journal-World previously reported. The students alleged that they weren’t allowed a grievance process and were even warned not to speak with family members about the situation.

Judith and Al Gipp and McCormick are all still listed as employees on the Haskell Athletics website.

“I am sure you agree with me that (Haskell) must be an institution in which young adults can receive a quality education in a safe environment,” Moran’s letter says. “Anything that undermines these basic principles must be decisively addressed.”


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