- Associated Press - Monday, November 19, 2018

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Administrators at Haskell Indian Nations University underreported crime statistics for a two-year period and failed to follow internal policy when handling misconduct complaints, according a federal report.

The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Interior issued the report Friday after investigating the Lawrence school, which enrolls about 1,000 students representing about 140 tribal nations and native communities, The Topeka Capital-Journal reports.

Haskell President Venida Chenault told federal investigators that Haskell’s annual crime reports for 2014 and 2015 were inaccurate, but she denied intentionally misrepresenting the statistics. She didn’t immediately return a phone message Monday from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The inspector general’s office said Haskell’s annual reports on crime listed a total of three offenses in 2014 and five in 2015. However, the report said, the actual number of offenses that should have been reported was 19 for 2014 and 32 for 2015, based on law enforcement documents. The university’s crime reports for 2016 and 2017 weren’t available to the federal investigators.

“A Haskell employee said she adjusted statistics because she feared the Haskell president,” the report said. “The employee said she tried to explain the requirements to the president, but it just made her angry. The employee said, ‘I know it’s wrong, but I’m scared to death, you know. I mean, I need this job.’”

The federal report also concluded the president influenced, through her presence at a meeting, a family member’s appointment to a high-level campus job. Chenault was the subject of complaints from employees and students that she ran afoul of anti-nepotism rules by allowing her son, Joshua Arce, to lead the university’s information technology department while also working as acting dean of students and, for brief periods, as acting president of the university. In 2016, Arce’s role was limited to the IT job.

Other issues dealt with the handling of sexual assault allegations. The federal report said Chenault “admitted she treated an allegation of sexual assault differently because the victim was male” and confirmed Haskell mishandled allegations about an instructor sexually assaulting a student, and in the process “likely re-victimized the student.”

Inspectors with the Interior Department said allegations involving the instructor were referred to Lawrence police.

Officials in the inspector general’s office said the report would be forwarded to directors of the Bureau of Indian Education and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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