Haskell University Free Speech Case Settlement


LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) – Haskell Indian Nations University has settled a lawsuit filed after a former university president sought to dictate what student journalists could report and write.

Free speech advocates say the settlement agreement with former Haskell student journalist Jared Nally includes policy reforms that will protect students’ constitutional rights on the Haskell campus, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.

Nally sued the head of the school s in October 2020 when then-university president Ronald Graham sent him a directive telling him not to contact any government agency for information while representing the newspaper or to “attack” any student, cc faculty member or staff. Nally was then editor of the student newspaper The Indian Leader.

Graham sent a letter to Nally on January 13, 2021 rescinding the directive and admitting that the university “took the wrong approach” in issuing it.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which works to protect free speech on college campuses, supported Nally in her lawsuit.

The group’s spokeswoman, Katie Kortepeter, said the settlement protects students’ First Amendment rights and protects the editorial independence of its student newspaper.

Nally, a senior at the time, filed a federal lawsuit against the university, Graham, the Bureau of Indian Education and its principal.

In a consent decree signed Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson, Haskell executives agreed not to issue similar directives related to First Amendment rights or engage in any form of retaliation.

“I hope this case not only protects the next generation of student journalists at Haskell, but allows individuals at other institutions to realize that they have rights and options when it comes to using their voices. “, said Nally on Tuesday.

Nally had argued that Haskell’s campus speech policy — called CIRCLE, for Communication, Integrity, Respect, Collaboration, Leadership, and Excellence — was unconstitutionally broad and vague. Haskell had previously amended the student code, but in the settlement agreed not to reinstate the CIRCLE policy or any similar policy aimed at restricting student expression.

Nally had sought damages from Graham and the court had previously granted Graham’s motion to dismiss that claim. However, since the United States Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a relevant case regarding First Amendment retaliation claims, the settlement did not contain an agreement on this issue.

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education vice president of litigation Darpana Sheth said she hopes the Supreme Court will uphold that federal officials must pay damages when they violate human rights. freedom of expression.

“Graham is a prime example of a federal public servant who abused his power and should not be immune to the consequences,” Sheth said.

Graham was fired of Haskell in May 2021 after being criticized for stifling the right to free speech of students and faculty.

Tamarah Pfeiffer, head of the Bureau of Indian Education, became acting president of Haskell. The school directed questions about the settlement to the Bureau of Indian Education, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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