LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — 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 Oct. 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.

Graham, who took over the university presidency in May, told Nally to conduct himself in accordance with the school's code of conduct and treat fellow students, staff and officials with “appropriate respect," warning him that failure to do so may result in disciplinary action.

Graham did not immediately respond to phone and email messages from The Associated Press on Tuesday seeking comment. The university's spokesman also did not respond.

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. Their representatives wrote to Graham, saying his directive “forbids Nally from carrying on normal journalistic activities, such as requesting information from government agencies, recording interviews, and criticizing members of the HINU community.”

Nally told the AP that he wants the school to have a free press.

“I think it is important that we are able to ask questions of the people in authority over us and not have that tainted as being insubordinate or disrespectful to want answers and to give our community insight into what is going on within our university,” Nally said.

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.

Graham also took issue with Nally’s efforts in August to remove the “faculty adviser” of the student newspaper. Nally contends the university appointed an acting dean to take over that role — in effect giving that person administrative oversight of the newspaper.

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.


This story has been corrected to show the date of efforts to remove the faculty advisor was August.