University withdraws directive muting Kansas student paper

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The president of Haskell Indian Nations University has walked back a directive instructing the school’s student newspaper editor not to contact any government agency for information while representing the newspaper or “attack” any student, faculty member or staff in copy.

Haskell President Ronald Graham wrote that the university “took an incorrect approach” in its Oct. 16 directive to Jared Nally, editor of The Indian Leader. Nally received Graham's letter on Wednesday, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

“Accordingly, I commit that Haskell will not interfere in the affairs of The Indian Leader or impede the free expression rights of individual students at Haskell,” Graham wrote.

In October, Graham instructed Nally to not record anyone at the tribal university in Lawrence during interviews without first getting their permission. Graham told Nally he had no authority to contact the policy department or any governmental agency and demand anything on behalf of the university.

Three advocacy groups — the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Native American Journalists Association and Student Press Law Center — said Graham's directive violated the First Amendment.

The student newspaper’s staff continued to work during the fall semester but Nally said he couldn’t tell them when they would get paid. Graham addressed that in his letter, saying he has instructed his staff to ensure the student newspaper had access to its bank account and university resources. All the writers and photographers have since been retroactively paid for the fall semester.

Nally said he was optimistic about “moving forward with the momentum of giving free speech rights to our students.”

Graham told Nally that he had actually rescinded the directive more than a month earlier, in a Nov. 20 communication with the Bureau of Indian Education, but that he learned Wednesday it was never sent to Nally due to “an administrative mishap.” Graham apologized for the delay.

“I think it’s a very egregious oversight,” Nally said of the monthslong delay. “It seems like it fell through the cracks in bureaucracy.”