Haskell Indian Nations University Newspaper Editor Claims First Amendment Violations

The president of Haskell Indian Nations University has directed the editor of the school’s student newspaper to not contact any government agency for information while representing the paper or “attack” any student, faculty member, or staff – moves the editor says violate his constitutional rights.

An October 16 letter from Haskell President Ronald Graham further instructs Jared Nally, editor of The Indian Leader, to not record anyone at the tribal university in Lawrence during interviews without first getting their permission, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

Graham’s directive claims Nally discredited himself and the university, citing an email Nally wrote to local police in which he identified himself as a student journalist at Haskell, and requested information on the death of a Haskell employee so he could write a death notice.

“Under no circumstances do you have the authority to contact the police department (or any other governmental agency) and demand anything on behalf of the University,” Graham told him.

Three advocacy groups – the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Native American Journalists Association, and Student Press Law Center – said Graham is violating the First Amendment.

The student newspaper also has been unable to access its bank account because the university has not yet formally recognized it this year, despite multiple requests, Nally said.

A 1989 settlement in a lawsuit between The Indian Leader and the U.S. Department of the Interior, which runs Haskell, stated that students have editorial control of the newspaper, and that no Haskell official may “censor, edit, or modify the contents” of the newspaper.