After student publicizes allegations of sexual abuse, Haskell president says the university plans to create new position and revise policies related to sexual assault

photo by: Journal-World File

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

Days after a Haskell Indian Nations University student publicly stated that reports of alleged sexual abuse on campus have gone ignored, Haskell’s leader has announced plans to create a new position and to revise the university’s policies related to sexual assault.

As the Journal-World reported, Haskell student Tierra Thomas told the Journal-World last week that after being assaulted by a fellow student in April of 2022, her dozens of reports to 18 employees at Haskell and the university’s Board of Regents have fallen on deaf ears.

The Bureau of Indian Education, the federal agency that oversees the university’s operations, did not respond to questions from the Journal-World related to that reporting until Monday, days after the original story was published last Thursday. The response from a BIE spokesperson was attributed to Haskell President Frank Arpan, who said he and the university “take all allegations of sexual abuse seriously and will work with the appropriate authorities to investigate.” Arpan added that if any allegations are substantiated, then disciplinary action will be taken.

Arpan said the university recently reviewed its student rights and conduct policies related to sexual assault, misconduct and harassment and, following that review, will be revising them to address those topics. He said the updated policies and processes are now in final review and will be implemented soon.

Arpan said Haskell was also creating a “campus advocate coordinator” position, but he didn’t provide any further details about what that role would entail or when someone would be appointed to fill it.

“We are focused on delivering results for the Haskell community and welcome input from everyone who makes up that community,” Arpan told the Journal-World. “It is important that students’ voices are heard when it comes to the direction of the university.”

Thomas told the Journal-World Thursday that no administrators or staff members on campus have followed up directly with her since she made a public statement about the abuse. She said the environment on campus since this time last week has been “tense” for employees, while students “seem relieved, in a way.”

Thomas also said she was informed by local law enforcement that several abuse victims, including herself, could be contacted by investigators with the FBI “very soon.”

“The environment is definitely tense for employees,” Thomas said. “Others see it, too. We really need (the) FBI to take action, and I really hope this is a real thing happening.”

Title IX would generally govern allegations of abuse or harassment on campuses, with universities being required to investigate, adjudicate and attempt to prevent such behavior. However, a Title IX lawsuit against Haskell was dismissed in 2017, when a judge said Haskell couldn’t be sued under Title IX because, unlike most colleges, instead of receiving federal assistance Haskell is actually a federal agency. In that suit, a woman had accused two fellow students of raping her on campus, as the Journal-World reported.

Haskell is one of only two institutions of higher education operated by the BIE. The other is Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


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