U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran calls for ‘systemic overhaul’ of federal office that oversees Haskell Indian Nations University

photo by: Journal-World file

A sign at the entrance to Haskell Indian Nations University is shown in this file photo from Friday, Aug. 5, 2016.

In the wake of the public release of an investigative report on wide-ranging misconduct at Haskell Indian Nations University, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran is asking the U.S. Department of the Interior to undertake a “systemic overhaul” of the federal office that oversees the university’s operations.

In a letter to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Moran, R-Kansas, highlights an “urgent need for a systemic overhaul” within two Interior offices — the Bureau of Indian Education, which directly oversees Haskell, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Moran’s office shared a copy of the letter with the Journal-World Wednesday afternoon, days after the report was released.

As the Journal-World reported, the 80-page report covers an investigation that took place on campus starting in July 2022. Its findings include that a separate investigation of former cross country coach Clay Mayes was “frivolous at best,” that the university improperly handled sexual assault allegations, and that the university’s athletic department is “in disarray.”

In the letter, Moran says his office received a copy of the report on April 16. A few months earlier in October 2023, Moran’s staff met with BIE Director Tony Dearman, Haskell representatives and other BIE officials, who confirmed that the investigation had taken place from July 2022 to January 2023 and that Haskell was “working to improve its processes to oversee student wellbeing” in response to the investigation’s findings.

In the letter, Moran says the Department of the Interior — and specifically the BIA and BIE — have “failed to uphold the federal government’s responsibilities to Native American students” by failing to respond to the findings of the report in a timely and appropriate manner.

“One of the primary concerns outlined in this report that I believe requires immediate attention is communication,” the letter from Moran reads. “I am certain the lack of responsiveness to tribal concerns have eroded trust between the BIA and Indigenous communities, especially Haskell students and staff. The failure to notify my office, students and other stakeholders of the severity of findings in the report has diminished any confidence that the issues raised will be adequately addressed.”

Moran calls on Haaland to respond to a series of questions posed in the letter no later than Wednesday, May 8 — two weeks from now. The full list of questions from Moran is as follows:

• When did the department become aware of the findings of this report?

• What steps were taken in implementing meaningful change at Haskell?

• What areas at Haskell are still in need of reform, and what steps does the department plan to take to ensure that the appropriate changes are made?

• How is the Department of the Interior prioritizing Haskell student and staff safety, wellbeing and academic success?

• How do you plan to hold federal employees accountable for the wrongdoing outlined in this report?

• What policies does the department plan to implement to improve communications with Haskell students, staff and Congress?

• How does the department plan to tackle the persistent challenges and deficiencies within the BIA and BIE, specifically those that hinder its ability to fulfill its responsibilities adequately?

• What steps is the department taking to ensure transparency in decision-making processes, enhance accountability mechanisms and foster greater collaboration with Congress?

“I urge you to prioritize reform within the BIA to enhance accountability, improve bureaucratic delays and improve outcomes for Native American students,” Moran’s letter continues. “Significant action within the BIA is not only a matter of justice and fairness, but also a crucial step towards fulfilling the federal government’s obligations to Native Americans.”

Moran also calls on the Department of the Interior to prioritize transparency and accountability in its operations, in part by providing accessible information about policies, programs, funding allocations and decision-making processes.


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