LAWRENCE — A federal official has acknowledged the "unsettling" divisions between faculty, staff and students at Haskell Indian Nations University, and said new leadership will help resolve the issues.
Assistant Interior Secretary Larry EchoHawk visited the campus in Lawrence on Thursday after Sen. Pat Roberts and others in the Kansas congressional delegation heard allegations against school leaders of cyberbullying, squandered federal funds, personnel issues and ethics violations.
EchoHawk said he believes the first step to resolving problems at Haskell is appointing a new director of the Bureau of Indian Education, who will help pick the next university president. A director will be named next week, he said.
In an emotional address, he spoke of the American Indian culture and Haskell's importance, pausing at times to fight back tears. He asked the several hundred students and faculty to "unify and be a part of a team" to get the campus on track.
George Tiger, president of the Haskell Board of Regents, said he was encouraged by EchoHawk's "long-overdue" visit to campus.
He took exception, however, to what he described as the "aggressive" actions of Roberts and Sen. Sam Brownback that prompted the visit.
"That aggressiveness needs to be used to get some funding," Tiger said. "That should be at the forefront of this."
Trouble began on the campus two years ago with a dispute between regents and university president Linda Warner, who is one of seven candidates for the Bureau of Indian Education director. One of the controversies stemmed from Warner's suggestion of a $1,000 fee per student to bolster the school's finances.
In September the bureau temporarily reassigned Warner to a school in New Mexico and then to duties in Oklahoma City. An acting president has been running the university in her absence.