Student reporter sues Haskell University president

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 12:38 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - An organization specializing in defending the rights of students and employees at American universities is suing the president of Haskell University on behalf of a reporter and editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, filed a federal lawsuit against Haskell President Dr. Ronald Graham, who issued a “directive” forbidding routine newsgathering and shorting funding for the student newspaper by over $10,000 without explanation.

Jared Nally, a Haskell student and editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, the Indian Leader, says he was “silenced” for 90 days under Graham’s directive. In October of 2020, Dr. Graham allegedly forbade Nally from reaching out to the Lawrence Police Department regarding the death of a Haskell employee. It is standard practice in journalism to reach out to authorities for information. However, Graham told Nally he did not have the authority to contact government agencies and threatened him with disciplinary action for attempting to do so.

Graham rescinded his directive in January 2021 after FIRE sent him a letter on Nally’s behalf. In the letter, Graham wrote that he took an “incorrect approach” in forbidding Nally from reaching out to government agencies. He says the university will no longer interfere in the affairs of the Indian Leader.

Nally is also asking the University to restore the over $10,000 in funding that the university has cut from the paper and approve its registration as a student organization. Because it is not currently recognized as an official organization, the paper misses out on funding and does not have regular, reliable access to its student bank account.

“Haskell is making it very clear that they put institutional reputation above student rights,” said FIRE attorney Katlyn Patton. “We’re not only defending Jared’s constitutional rights, but the rights of all Haskell students, and student reporters across the country. In doing so, we’re showing public institutions that the First Amendment is non-negotiable.”

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