LAWRENCE, Kan. -The new president of Haskell Indian Nations University said it’s time to move on from recent unrest and dissension at the school and instead focus on providing more opportunities for its students.
Chris Redman, who has been on Lawrence campus since July 6, said he believes student and faculty dissension and questions about the university’s administration have died down.
“I think it’s more the exception now than the rule,” he said. “I’m very persistent about employees learning how to reach across those issues and being willing to disagree with each other and get the job done.”
The university’s last president was Linda Warner, who was a target of heavy criticism before being sent in September 2009 to new jobs in Arizona and Oklahoma. Five interim presidents have run the school since then, including two terms by Redman.
Student and faculty criticism prompted the university’s board of regents to ask in 2008 that Warner step down and for a federal investigation of her administrative policies. The board could not remove Warner because Haskell is operated by the federal Bureau of Indian Education.
The state’s congressional delegation sought a federal investigation into allegations against school leaders of cyber bullying, squandered federal funds, personnel issues and ethics violations. The investigation eventually found no problems at the university, which is the nation’s only federally funded four-year college devoted to American Indians.
Redman, 48, said the problems were somewhat overblown, The Lawrence Journal-World reported Friday.
“The sky never really was falling at Haskell,” he said.
He said one of his top priorities is improving the university’s graduation rate, which is 26 percent when associate degrees are counted.
“I’d like to have way more than that,” he said. “I’d like to have two or three times that.”
He said the school needs to provide students with counseling and help to improve their prospects of graduating.
Because the school cannot collect tuition, Redman will begin looking for new revenue streams. And he hopes to start a foundation to support academics and athletics. He said he also plans to work to expand, rather than reduce, sports programs.
Haskell currently offers four bachelor’s degree programs to about 1,000 students. Redman said he would like the school to add more programs, perhaps in areas such as health sciences, nursing and accounting.
“I want to do that, but that is a process. I need to spend a little more time with my faculty and my vice president for academic affairs,” he said.
He’s already met with community organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce and other city leaders.
“That is high on our priority list, to be engaged in this community,” said Stephen Prue, an executive assistant in the president’s office at Haskell. “And I think we’re doing well with that.”