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Federal official rescinds Haskell orders on employee speech

(WIBW)
Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 4:08 PM CDT
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The director of the Bureau of Indian Education has rescinded directives that regulated public communication for employees at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence.

BIE Director Tony Dearman notified Haskell faculty and staff in a letter Tuesday that he was rescinding a directive that forbids Haskell employees from publicly discussing issues they had with the school without going through a chain of command. A second directive said Haskell employees could not talk to the media without prior permission.

Dearman said the BIE supports free speech rights for staff, faculty and students. He also noted regulations and standards governing the public communications of Haskell employees can be found in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s manual. The Interior Department oversees the BIE.

The order to rescind the directive comes after the school’s Faculty Senate last week unanimously approved a vote of no-confidence in President Ronald Graham.

Graham issued a memo in March that forbade staff members from publicly expressing derogatory opinions about the administration and others, contending that such expression is “inappropriate” and not protected by academic freedom.

Also in March, Melanie Daniel, Haskell’s vice president of academics, wrote that Haskell employees do not have the right to speak to the media and mention their Haskell employment without receiving approval.

Graham, who became Haskell president in May 2020, did not immediately respond Wednesday to a message seeking comment.

The editor of Haskell’s student newspaper, Jared Nelly, sued Graham, the university, the BIE and Dearman after Graham sent a directive to him in October detailing what he could report and write about in the paper. Graham rescinded that order in January.

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