Haskell Faculty Senate unanimously declares no confidence in university’s president, citing ‘disregard for academic freedom’ and free speech, among other complaints

photo by: Chad Lawhorn

Haskell Indian Nations University President Ronald Graham provides closing remarks at a Veterans Day celebration at the university on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020.

Updated at 1:30 p.m. Friday

The Faculty Senate at Haskell Indian Nations University has taken a vote of no confidence in the university’s president, Ronald Graham, according to a resolution certified Thursday.

The resolution states that the Faculty Senate has declared no confidence in Graham’s leadership or use of shared governance at Haskell. The vote was unanimous, with 25 people voting “yes” to the resolution and no one voting “no” or abstaining from the vote.

Graham did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the vote on Friday afternoon. The Journal-World also did not immediately hear back from the media relations team at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Faculty Senate said Graham has failed to call any Haskell Board of Regents meetings in his first year and to engage in shared governance.

Haskell is supposed to have at least one Board of Regents meeting each semester, according to the resolution. The Faculty Senate wrote that Graham’s failure to call a Board of Regents meeting threatens Haskell’s Higher Learning Commission accreditation. They also wrote that Graham has made no effort to engage in the shared governance structure, and instead has delegated the task to the vice president for academics.

The resolution also states that Graham has demonstrated disdain for the free speech rights of students and faculty. As the Journal-World has reported, the editor of Haskell’s student newspaper, Jared Nally, filed a federal lawsuit in March against Graham. The lawsuit came after Graham sent a directive to Nally in October that told the student journalist what he could and could not publish. Only a little over a week after he was sued by Nally, Graham sent a directive to his staff restricting how they can communicate. Graham has continued to draw the rebuke of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonprofit that focuses on protecting free speech rights on college campuses.

In the resolution, the Faculty Senate also wrote that Graham has unilaterally reconfigured the university’s committee system, proposed new degree programs without consultation from the faculty or Board of Regents and excluded the faculty and academic deans from decisions about dual enrollment, online course scheduling and more.

“President Graham has demonstrated disdain for collegial academic culture and the unique Indigenous character of Haskell, as evidenced in his disregard for academic freedom, the free speech rights of our students and faculty, and by the autocratic manner in which he seeks to run, not lead, Haskell,” the resolution states.

Graham, a former division dean of instruction at Victor Valley College in Victorville, Calif., began his presidency of Haskell in May of 2020. Prior to his becoming president, Haskell was led by two interim presidents — Jim Rains and Dan Wildcat — for more than a year. Before that, Haskell was led by President Venida Chenault, who left in 2018 to work on special assignment for the Bureau of Indian Education just days after a federal report detailed allegations of misconduct at the university.


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