A student at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., is accusing school officials of forcing him to sleep in his car and denying him a hearing before suspending him and throwing him out of campus housing.
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Russell Parker was hitting golf balls on campus grounds on April 8. As a member of the school’s golf team, he was allowed to remain on campus during the health crisis. Parker said in an incident report that a campus employee confronted him, informed him that his car was parked illegally, asked him to show his school ID, told him to play golf somewhere else and threatened to ticket and tow his car. As Parker packed up to leave, he told the employee he was “being an asshole” and accused him of being on “some kind of power trip.” For that, the employee dispatched campus security. Two days later, Parker was informed that he was suspended due to “an incident report for violence indicating threats to one or more federal employees.”
Parker was given an April 17 deadline to appeal his case. He said he responded to the notice immediately but hadn’t heard back from the university even after the deadline they set had passed.
“Up to this point, I have felt completely supported by everyone at this university and now I am homeless,” Parker wrote in his response. “I implore you to please consider the dire position that I am in.”
Since the university never scheduled an appeal, Parker was forced to sleep in his car until he found new housing, which he eventually found in Georgia—800 miles away from his school.
According to FIRE, Parker not getting an appeal isn’t just a simple oversight. The nonprofit organization sent a letter to Haskell on April 24 urging them to recognize Parker’s right to appeal and to schedule one as soon as possible. They said an administrator immediately sent out an email warning school officials about the letter and suggesting they don’t respond. A FIRE representative was accidentally included in that email.
“It’s shameful that Haskell’s first thoughts were about public relations, and not about the safety of the student they kicked off campus during a pandemic,” Zach Greenberg, who wrote the letter to Haskell, said. “If universities take the extraordinary step of punishing students without a hearing, that hearing must be scheduled as soon as practicable. It’s been over two weeks—Haskell must immediately give Russell a full and fair chance to defend himself.”
Parker is still waiting for a chance to clear his name.
“I have faced discrimination in my life, but I never thought it would happen at a place like Haskell,” he said. “I would very much like to tell the university my side of the story, but I cannot do so until Haskell gives me that opportunity — an opportunity I’ve repeatedly requested yet the university has refused to provide after they evicted me.”