Federal bureau agrees to changes in Haskell president position designed to attract more candidates

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

A historic Haskell sign along the Massachusetts Street entrance to Haskell Indian Nations University is pictured on July 20, 2021.

A leader of Haskell Indian Nations University is optimistic a behind-the-scenes change in the structure of the university’s president position will attract a broader pool of talented applicants for the open job.

Brandon Yellowbird-Stevens, president of the Haskell National Board of Regents, confirmed that federal officials have reclassified the Haskell president’s position to a pay grade that will make it one of the higher-paying positions in the federal government.

“It is a reflection of the (Bureau of Indian Education’s) and the administration’s support of Haskell,” Yellowbird-Stevens said. “They are trying to create a higher profile for the position.”

Specifically, the federal government elevated the position to a Senior Executive Service status on the federal pay grade scale. The change easily could add another $50,000 to $60,000 to the annual salary of the president’s position, according to published pay grade schedules for the federal government. Those schedules show the position earning anywhere from $130,000 to $200,000 per year under the new pay grade, while the previous pay grade, known as a G-15, topped out at about $140,000 per year.

Yellowbird-Stevens said he thinks that will increase the likelihood that tenured faculty members at other universities may be interested in pursuing the president position at Haskell, which generally is considered the largest Native American university in the country.

“Haskell is definitely resilient and it is on the right track in a search for a new president,” Yellowbird-Stevens said.

He said the application period for the president’s position is expected to close in the near future. He said the Haskell Board of Regents, which has had a less-visible role in the university in recent years, is expected to participate in interviewing finalists. Ultimately, the decision on the hire will be made by the Bureau of Indian Education, but Yellowbird-Stevens said the Board of Regents will “have a strong voice in that choice.”

Yellowbird-Stevens also gave a vote of confidence to Haskell’s acting president, Tamarah Pfeiffer, who also is the chief academic officer for the Bureau of Indian Education.

“She is excellent,” Yellowbird-Stevens said. “She is really working to get the school back on track. She is getting positions filled and posted, which can be a real chore in the federal system.”

Pfeiffer took over the school’s top administrative position after Ronald Graham was removed from the position following an internal investigation and criticism that he was stifling free speech rights of students and faculty.

In addition to the president’s position, Haskell’s website shows several other top management positions are vacant or being filled by acting appointments. The vice president for academics is filled by an acting appointment, while the director of athletics, director of facilities management, director of information technology and chief financial officer are all listed as vacant.


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