Four months ago, Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU) announced that students would be returning to campus in the fall. For four months students have been planning their return to campus—plans, for many, that included affordable campus housing. Now, just weeks before students are set to return, the university released their fall re-entry plans and updated their housing applications—updates that excluded returning freshman and transfer students, sophomores, and juniors from living on campus along with other students who don’t meet additional restrictions. Public decry over the exclusions is now being organized through petitions and surveys by students and faculty.
“I don’t want people to lose their hope in Haskell,” said acting Student Government Association (SGA) President Rebecca Villalobos (San Carlos Apache). Villalobos has organized an online petition as well as a survey to document community concerns and offer visibility for impacted students. “The petition gives students a chance to use their voice even though we aren’t all together,” said Villalobos. Villalobos, who was elected vice president of communications and is the only remaining SGA member, acknowledged previous problems with representing the student body under former University President Ronald Graham’s administration and added, “I have been trying to reach out to the new administration and make a better relationship with them.”
A unified faculty body has also expressed concern with the controversial housing policy. Haskell Faculty Senate issued a letter to acting University President Tamarah Pfeiffer on July 21 outlining eight areas of concern and expressing dissatisfaction that both faculty and students were left out of the discussion on housing. Number one on the list, “Students do not have the financial resources to afford local apartments, and with the late announcement, many places are already rented.” HFS has also started an informal student survey to gauge student impact.
While Villalobos and HFS seek redress, many students simply cannot wait for what that might look like. Students seeking housing security have formed groups like the Facebook group HINU Off-campus student housing/roommates/resources, helping connect students to available rentals and roommates. Some students are also making the decision not to return at all. The Lawrence Journal-World reports enrollment projections of around 400 students in the fall, a historic low of almost half the number of students enrolled pre-pandemic.
HINU has not provided public guidance for students who don’t currently qualify for housing. However, Brandon Yellowbird-Stevens, Haskell National Board of Regents president, told the Lawrence Journal-World that he encourages students to continue to apply even if they don’t qualify and to wait and see if HINU can find room to house them, stating, “I would ask people to remember that it is a time of change and uncertainty, and sometimes you just have to be ready to bob and weave and duck and dive.”
SGA petition found here.
SGA survey found here
HFS survey found here
Fall housing application found here