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HomePolicyHaskell University President Threatens Student Newspaper, Gives List of Demands

Haskell University President Threatens Student Newspaper, Gives List of Demands

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Dr. Ronald Graham, president of Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU), devoted exclusively to Native American students, has been accused of violating the school paper editor’s First Amendment rights.

Graham issued a directive to Jared Nally, editor of HINU student newspaper The Indian Leader, which began with Graham calling out the editor’s behavior, including “routine attacks” on Haskell employees and officials.

Nally was also accused of recording a conversation without an interviewee’s consent. Graham pointed out that such an act was a “felony in most states,” but not in Kansas. The school president also issued a reminder that Nally is a “student first” before being a school newspaper editor; thus, he is subject to the school’s code of conduct.

Direct Orders  

The latter part of the directive consisted of direct orders addressed to Nally of what he will and will not do. Graham directed Nally not to attack school officials and employees nor demand information from authorities, contradict executive decisions, or record conversations without permission.

In contrast, Nally was instructed to treat school officials “with the highest respect” and conform to the conduct required of students.

Graham also asserted that Haskell “is not obliged to report to any census” in reference to Nally raising concerns about whether the university has submitted accurate data to the Census and whether they have properly reported student racial profiles.

Press Freedom Allies

Three organizations have stood behind Nally — the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), and the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) — collectively sending a letter to the university president.

FIRE is an organization devoted to “defending liberty, freedom of speech and academic freedom” on college campuses.

NAJA empowers Native American journalists and is “committed to increasing the representation of Native journalists in mainstream media.”

SPLC is “the only legal assistance agency” defending and educating high school and college media about First Amendment rights. All three groups are nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations whose objectives align with Nally’s case.  

Rebuttals to the Accusations

The organizations issued detailed rebuttals to Graham’s accusations. They contend that the student journalist was threatened with disciplinary sanctions for actions that are lawful and protected by the Constitution.

They explained that his directives violate the First Amendment and that Nally’s criticism of university officials is “constitutionally-protected speech” for which he should not be punished. They also note that Kansas law allows the recording of private conversations even if only one of the parties consents. 

The joint letter also pointed out that the university administration engaged in “retaliation” against Nally and The Indian Leader for exercising their freedom of expression. This retaliation consisted of the university’s refusal to recognize the school publication as well as denying access to the newspaper’s bank account.

The groups demanded that HINU rescind the directive and recognize The Indian Leader. They requested a response from the university and Dr. Graham by November 2, 2020.

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