Haskell students will not return this fall; all classes to be held online

photo by: Conrad Swanson/Journal-World File Photo

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

Updated at 5:15 p.m. Thursday

Haskell Indian Nations University students will not return to campus in August. Haskell President Ronald Graham told the Journal-World Thursday that all classes would be held virtually for the fall semester.

In March, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Haskell suspended its commencement ceremony and asked that students not return to campus following spring break.

The cancellation of in-person classes is a different approach from other nearby colleges, such as the University of Kansas and Baker University, which will welcome students back to campus but shorten the fall semester to end with the start of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Haskell’s enrollment for the 2019-2020 school year was 789 students, according to data collected in September. Neither Graham nor Haskell spokesman Stephen Prue responded to inquiries about how many students Haskell expected to enroll in the fall of 2020 — should the university have held in-person classes — nor how many students the university now expects to enroll virtually.

COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities, including some Native American communities. In May, for example, the Navajo Nation at one point surpassed New York state for the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the United States, CNN reported on May 18. At that time, the Navajo Nation had 2,304.41 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people, and New York state had 1,806 cases per 100,000 people.

The limited resources of tribal clinics and rural hospitals, the large number of Native Americans living with pre-existing health conditions and the sheltering of extended families in one household are some of the reasons tribal nations are facing a severe crisis, the New York Times reported in May.

Further information concerning Haskell’s decision to cancel in-person classes was not made available on Thursday, despite multiple inquiries from the Journal-World.

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