FIRE: 2, Haskell: 0 as university rescinds misguided directives muzzling faculty speech

FIRE: 2, Haskell: 0 as university rescinds misguided directives muzzling faculty speech

2021-04-07 17:57:13
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  • Following FIRE intervention, Bureau of Indian Education repeals President Ronald Graham and his administration directives threatening faculty rights
  • Last month, FIRE sued Haskell and Graham for another unconstitutional directive – targeting a student journalist

LAWRENCE, Kan., April 7, 2021 Federal agency on Tuesday withdrawn two unconstitutional guidelines from Haskell Indian Nations University obscuring the faculty's expression.

The first guideline, personally signed by Haskell president Ronald Graham, prohibited all employees, including faculty, from expressing opinions on the administration, claiming that such a phrase is "inappropriate" and claiming that it is not protected by academic freedom. The second, released just over a week later, the faculty forbade mentioning their work at Haskell when speaking to the media.

On March 25, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote to the Bureau of Indian Education, the federal agency that manages Haskell, to report the guidelines. FIRE demanded that the BIE dissolve them immediately, as they unconstitutionally limit the faculty's ability to speak as private citizens on matters of public interest.

"Haskell's latest guidelines sent a clear message to the faculty: the administration is watching and ready to violate the constitution to protect its reputation," said FIRE Program Officer Lindsie Rank. “We are relieved that the BIE finally stepped in to preserve the faculty's rights, but the Haskell administration has repeatedly tried to suppress dissent, and the BIE – which runs the university – should have stepped in long ago to get a end the pattern of rights violations endemic to Haskell. "

Last month, FIRE sued Graham in his personal capacity in a lawsuit against the First Amendment another directive he issued: one that prohibits the editor of the student newspaper from participating in routine news gathering. The lawsuit also challenges Haskell's refusal to approve the paper as a student body and the withholding of more than $ 10,000 in funding following critical coverage of the university.

"While we are pleased that Haskell has restored freedom of speech to his faculty, the constitution does not allow the university to choose whose First Amendment rights they will respect," said Darpana Sheth, FIRE vice president for litigation. "Haskell's students and student press are also guaranteed the right to the First Amendment. And the university's actions over the past six months show why an independent student press is more important than ever to hold university officials accountable."

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRElisten)) is an impartial, non-profit organization dedicated to defending and upholding the individual rights of students and teachers of U.S. colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, freedom of association, fair trial, legal equality, religious freedom and sanctity of conscience – the essential qualities of freedom.

CONTACT:

Katie Kortepeter, Media Relations Associate, FIRE: 215-717-3473; [email protected]


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