The Honorable Secretary Ken Salazar
Department of the Interior
Members of the United States Senate

Dear Sirs:

I have read with interest the comments and criticisms about recent Bureau of Indian Education actions, particularly at the post-secondary level. I know that employees within that organization have been threatened if they make unauthorized comments to the press; so, I am sure that most of those individuals would not risk their livelihoods to speak up as a single voice.

This letter is a request to do a thorough investigation of management practices at the post-secondary level, particularly at Haskell Indian Nations University. As a recent Haskell employee, I have information that I will enumerate in this letter. The information should provide a starting point; the information is based on facts I observed or witnessed and on conversations I had with my employees while working at Haskell.

Unfortunately, Haskell employs a group of about seven individuals who actively work against the administration. This group has been vocal, and since the Bureau of Indian Education ( BIE ) maintains a policy that does not allow administrators to respond, only misinformation, rumor, and innuendos are spread to the public, to the students, and to Congress. I agree with a recent blog that said this should be embarrassing to BIE officials; it was embarrassing to me as a native person that the very group of people who should have native students in mind actually worked to create an environment of fictional drama on campus that was detrimental to the University’s attempt to live up to its potential.

Issues that need scrutiny :

1. Dismantling of the federally legislated demonstration Health Education and Wellness Program program.

2. Hiring practices at Haskell Indian Nations University and at central office, with oversight of post-secondary.

3. Mismanagement of personnel issues at central office ensuring continuation of “hostile work environment.”

4. Personnel who “cyber-bully” and promote misinformation to create dissonance.

5. Ethics violations, such as advocating for your wife’s hire.

6. Dismantling of The RED Center, the only connection to a university Haskell Indian Nations University can claim.

7. A private bequest, used as Stephanie Birdwell’s private project account; $3M+ combined for both Haskell and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute. (Specifically, why didn’t the money go to the congressional chartered non-profit the BIE helped establish for the purpose of raising money.)

8. Central office’s support of the federal union, rather than its own managers. (Specifically look at the legal effects of dismantling the current negotiated bargaining unit for the entire BIE by setting precedent at Haskell). This doesn’t even speak to the impact on student’s lives.

9. Expenditures for dialogue sessions where no one is allowed to talk except Central Office Staff: do these coincide with other travel and is Haskell paying for this idea?

10. Dismantling of processes that promote fiscal accountability (saved $150K in food services to see it squandered now) and healthy lifestyles initiatives (try eating in the cafeteria now).

11. Lack of follow through on Inspector General referrals for mismanagement of money (when directed by the Inspector General’s office to handle the matter).

You have many issues in Interior; I wonder where Native American Students fit in your priorities?

I realize that I will get a form letter back from your staff and that it is highly likely that you will never read this. I am forwarding copies to some of your colleagues in the hopes that someone finally takes the comments about personnel management and supervision seriously. I believe that Ms. Birdwell and others will suggest that you investigate me rather than look at these issues. I am hopeful you will do both.

I would welcome the opportunity to provide you with incidents.

Dr. Ted A Wright
Former Vice President of Haskell Indian Nations University
Lawrence, Kansas


Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas and Sipi in Albuquerque, New Mexico seem to be getting the short end of the stick with Haskell’s President being detailed to Sipi while Haskell itself is undergoing the accreditation process.
I am sure you are all familiar with the Cobell litigation and the assertions that the US Government mismanaged fiscal resources for years. The total of these fiscal resources can not be reconstructed and the lost interest, opportunity, and energy can not be estimated. Even federal officials cannot begin to calculate the amount of time and resources they have now put into investigation and discovery.
This case remains on a high profile throughout Indian Country. I would like to draw some comparisons.
All tribal leaders, elders and even those of you listed in this correspondence would attest that the single biggest resource for Indian tribes is its youth-the next generations. Tribal leaders lobby for more money for education and are quick to ask questions about cutbacks that affect schools, both public and BIE serving Indian kids.
If students are the biggest resource and are actually more important then paper money, then why does the BIA continue to hire and promote individuals who have no experience or expertise to run those schools.
Even more importantly, why does Interior’s top officials continue to look the other way when decision affecting those schools jeopardize the quality of education affecting this resource.
I will list some examples : Under the Bush administration, the BIA separated onto two Bureaus, essentially creating a Bureau of Indian Education. Then, they established another 15 SES positions. They began filling these positions with people who can not qualify for like positions in the public sector ( state superintendent to state superintendent ) because they are not certified. They hired senior level managers who are not qualified. Stephanie Birdwell is a social worker. She has no prior experience in higher education and she is the director of all the post-secondary schools. She was allowed to sit in the position as acting director to give her the opportunity to qualify. At least one other applicant had a doctorate in higher education from Harvard and had worked at AIHEC the tribal college consortium. What is the single best qualification Ms.Birdwell has ? Her husband works in the same office.
What are the qualifications of Mr.Bighorn? He is currently chief of staff and is known throughout the country as a basketball referee. I am wondering if you would put your child in a school, particularly a college run by a social worker with no higher education experience, or a school run by a basketball referee.
What are the qualifications of Kevin Skenadore ? He has been acting throughout the past five years. The BIE paid a national headhunter $ 80,000+ to find the best qualified director candidates. This company spent a year looking for candidates, narrowed it down to three and the BIE hired none of them and kept Mr. Skenandore. The Salazar administration, under Obama, has maintained this acting position when there are at least five individuals in the BIE who are credentialed to run a school district, including have a doctorate. Are these individuals used to create policy or implement programs. Pretty much each of them have been regulated to the fringes of BIE management. None of them are in the senior management meetings.
I wonder if that is the best use of the resources Mr.Skenandore has available? I wonder why someone who begun as dorm aide would not want to have the opportunity to listen to people who just might know what an educational program is really supposed to do. Perhaps, doing it the same old way ( which by the way means most of the schools are in recovery ) is all it takes this close to retirement.
That likely explains Mr.Skenandore’s attitude, but it does not excuse a new Assistant Secretary or a new Secretary.
Just last week, Ms. Birdwell ( the social worker I previously mentioned ) announced to Haskell Indian Nations University campus that she was sending Haskell President, Dr.Linda Sue Warner to SIPI to rescue SIPI’s accreditation site visit :
United States Dept of The Interior
Bureau of Indian Education
Washington D.C.
Sept 15, 2009
To: Haskell Indian Nation University
All Faculty Personnel Contract Personnel
From : Stephanie Birdwell
Deputy Director
Subject : Administrative Detail
This memorandum serves to inform you of administrative action regarding The Haskell Nations University President. Dr. Linda Sue Warner. Effective Sept 21, 2009, Dr.Warner will begin a 120 day assignment to the campus of The Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, N.M. This detail assignment is necessary to assist the SIPI administration with it’s upcoming accreditation evaluation process, as well as with other strategic planning for the institute. Dr.Warner is scheduled to return to Haskell following the end of her detail assignment on January 21, 2010. During the initial 30 days of Dr.Warner’s absence, Mr.Chris Redman will serve as Acting President, and is scheduled to arrive on campus Tuesday, Sept 29,2009. Following Mr.Redman’s 30 day period at Haskell, I will either assign another Indian Affairs Manager, or extend Mr.Redman’s appointment as necessary.
CC : Haskell Indian National Board of Regents
Haskell Indian Nations Faculty Senate These site visits are ten years apart and SIPI’s next review is this year. Why would Ms.Birdwell, who has had this job as acting and now permanent for two years, wait until weeks before the site visit to notice that SIPI is at risk ?
Is SIPI at risk ? Did Ms.Birdwell ask the SIPI President, Sherri Allison? By the comments on SIPI’s campus and the distribute of emails from the Presidents office, it would appear that not only does SIPI not need help from Haskell, they didn’t ask for it.
Why would Ms.Birdwell send Haskell’s President Warner to SIPI to save their accreditation when Haskell has a site visit during the same time? Is it to block Haskell’s new programs?
Haskell is proposing two new degrees, one in health professions. It just isn’t the one Birdwell wants. She wants to spend Haskell’s money on a nursing degree. Even so, why jeopardize the one that the campus has approved.
Is Ms. Birdwell sending Haskell president to SIPI to sabotage the accreditation efforts on that campus ? Has Warner been directed to make sure they do not pass fully, that stipulations are added to make the current SIPI administration look bad? It sounds like a conspiracy question, but you have to wonder since Mr. Skenandore has no intention of hiring Sherri Allison as President of SIPI and perhaps needs a reason. It would be interesting to ask Haskell President Warner what her specific instructions were. In fact, since it’s a detail, there is probably a scope of work. Of course that won’t tell you what was in the conversation Ms.Birdwell had with Haskell President on campus.
I do note that Birdwell issued a directive to all employees, including Warner and Allison that they are not allowed to talk to the press.

( PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT BIE STAFF ARE NOT TO RESPOND TO ANY PRESS OR MEDIA INQUIRIES MADE TO YOUR OFFICES. Stephanie E. Birdwell Bureau of Indian Education Deputy Director Policy, Evaluation & Post Secondary Education 1849 C St. NW MIB MS-3618 Washington, D.C.

I wonder what she is covering up.

While we looking at Ms.Birdwell’s recent actions, I will also point out that the week before Haskell’s semester started, Ms.Birdwell called down and changed the fall schedule. Haskell has an enrollment of about 1,000 students each semester. Schedules are made as early as February for the fall enrollment ( an educator would know that ). Changing the schedule meant that students returned to campus with no campus with no classes and were scrambling to add to maintain enough enrollment to stay in the dorms. This doesn’t even speak to the fact that they added just anything, not something that would be in their degree plan.
Was anyone on campus, specifically the President, asked for input on this decision? I wonder. I also wonder why Ms.Birdwell acts like the President made the change, when it was a specific directive.
Speaking of specific directives from Birdwell and Skenandore, both schools were operating under legislation that allowed for an alternative personnel system :
( An Act to Allow Haskell Indian Nations University and the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute Each to Conduct a Demonstration Project to Test the Feasibility and Desirability of New Personnel Management Policies and Procedures, and for Other Purposes.
by United States. )
so that they could operate programs more efficiently. THIS WAS A FEDERAL LAW. Both Stephanie Birdwell and Kevin Skenandore DIRECTED Dr.Warner and DR.Hamley to write a letter to congress canceling the demonstration projects on their campuses. The presidents and the Secretary of Interior were the only individuals who could make this decision and Skenandore and Birdwell could not convince the Secretary to do it, but they know that a direct order has to be followed.
I would be surprised if the senators who supported this legislation even know.
I know that most of these people within the system do not care about Indian children; it is evident in the really poor decisions made, including the hiring of unqualified people at SES positions.
I know that someone has to file a lawsuit to get the attention of these folks…and even at that, Cobell lingers in negotiations.
Secretary Salazar and Assistant Secretary EchoHawk, you should be embarrassed. Actually Kevin Skenadore should be embarrassed, but he will just go fishing.

Was a Haskell Indian Nations University employee ordered to leave campus?

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Was a Haskell Indian Nations University employee ordered to leave campus?

Statistically domestic violence calls are one of the most dangerous calls police can receive. Therefore we must ask the following questions: Was a new Haskell Indian Nations University residential employee given orders by his boss Thomas Spottedhorse to escort an off campus student to her apartment because she feared her boyfriend might cause her harm while she tried to collect some of her belongings? Can a Haskell Indian Nations University employee who is a federal employee leave their station? In this case the largest dorm on Haskell’s campus to accompany one student to her resident ? Did the employee take her in his own vehicle? Or a federal vehicle? Is either of these two things legal? What if a questionable situation would have happened between the female student and the male employee? What would have happened if violence would have unfolded?
Whose responsibility would that have been? Was the Lawrence Police Department called to help in this situation? How can parents and tribes feel safe about sending their kids to Haskell when residential staff are being pulled from their post and sent off campus? We are thinking maybe some of them don’t with Haskell’s current enrollment sitting very low at around 830 students? Has the Haskell’s president’s office been informed of what happened? Last year the notice below was put out by Thomas Spottedhorse was it followed in this situation? “Memo” written by Tom Spotted Horse Supervisory College Residence Asst. Dated October 3, 2010. A REMINDER: When ever the Lawrence Police Dept. is called to the campus you need to inform the President’s Office of the situation. Sometimes a student may call the police themselves. If you do not know the reason(s) why the police is on the campus, please inquire as to the circumstances. If the Presidents Office is closed, send an email right away before you shift is over and give an assessment of the event. Remember to “cc” the email sent to the VP of Student Affairs, Mr. Tucker and myself. If it is a critical incident, a Critical Incident Form needs to be completed and signed. This is also for medical emergencies and for responses by the Fire Dept. Anytime a student is transported to the emergency room a Medical Emergency Form needs to be filled out and completed for review. I CANNOT STRESS how important this is. If your office does not have the forms, get one from another building. However, every office should have these forms. Thank you, Tom Spotted Horse, Supervisory College Residence Asst. Link: http://www.cbs8.com/story/15312200/domestic-violence-calls-especially-dangerous-for-cops haskellnews commentary 10/13/2011

We predict the next president of Haskell Indian Nations University, in Lawrence, Kansas to be…..

Haskell Indian Nations Fighting Indians

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We predict the next president of Haskell Indian Nations University, in Lawrence, Kansas to be…..

Broken News (as opposed to Breaking News)

Some folks are laboring through telephone interviews with The Bureau of Indian Education’s (BIE) DC hierarchy under the presumption that they actually are a real candidate for the president of Haskell Indian Nations University.

Others are telling folks that they are travelling to Haskell to meet their new minions.

The phone interviews are likely the same pro forma (since the decision most likely has already been made) that made Kay Hayes “shop noteworthy” for ingraining a practice so that people think it is policy….they do the phone interviews, then they hire whomever they have already preselected.

Of course the applicants at Haskell will go through the same phone interviews even though folks in DC are finally savy enough to understand that if you keep supporting the same old thing, you will keep getting what you’ve always got.

Also it will prevent the fairer sex from claiming to be discriminated against on sexual preference (as opposed to the Bureau of Indian Education actually being discriminating in trying to find someone who is up to the job).

And also, homegrown Haskellites have proven that they don’t have the Knowledge, Skill, and Ability (KSAs) to actually run a school; no matter how often you leave them in charge.

There is still a skill set they are missing. Replacing that skill set with bullying tactics has only endeared them to their Phoenix relatives.

So, we predict the next president of Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas to be the Sioux fellow who has all but announced it himself.

Good luck buddy.

haskellnews commentary


Violence and abuse against American Indian women?

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Violence and abuse against American Indian women?

Violence and abuse against American Indian women?

Who actually knows more about this than Venida Chenault? If you need an expert on bullying and hate mail campaigns, apparently Haskell Indian Nation University in Lawrence, Kansas has the country’s foremost authority?

This weekend Venida travels to Arizona State (her son works in Phoenix so it will be a nice holiday vacation at Haskell’s expense..oh, shame on us we thought Haskell was broke )…to share her strategies with others.

Last weekend Dan Wildcat, another Haskell Indian Nations University expert on something other than what he was academically prepared to do, was a speaker at American Indian Higher Education Consortium‘s ( AIHEC ) forum.

Here Wildcat noted that according to his mentor, Vine Deloria, he (Wildcat) had no point since he had no powerpoint! Thankfully some other government agency was paying for that trip.

Thanks to those of you who provide insightful private comments to us; it keeps us going!

haskellnews commentary 04/22/2011

Man convicted of aggravated battery for injuring another man at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.

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Man convicted of aggravated battery for injuring another man at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.

A man was convicted of aggravated battery for injuring another man at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.

He has been sentenced to serve 32 months in prison.

Full story at :www2.ljworld.com/news/2011/apr/19/lawrence-man-sentenced-32-months-prison-hitting-vi

haskellnews commentary 04/21/2011

Haskell Indian Nations University student, Justin McGee dies on campus.

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Haskell Indian Nations University student, Justin McGee dies on campus.

Haskell Indian Nations University student, Justin McGee died on the Haskell Indian Nations University campus in Lawrence, Kansas, last Friday.

According to sources Justin was playing basketball at Tecumseh Hall, when he started to complain about not feeling well. He later collapsed and passed away.

Justin lived on the Haskell campus in Roe Cloud dorm.

It is unknown at this time if any Haskell staff or faculty were present at the time of the incident.

Our condolences go out to Justin’s family.

haskellnews commentary

April 19, 2011

And the next President of Haskell Indian Nations University is ……

And the next President of Haskell Indian Nations University is ……

The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) reportedly has a certificate with ten qualified applicants for President of Haskell Indian Nations University, in Lawrence, Kansas. Of course the best qualified, Chris Redman, is back in Oklahoma City and essentially no one is currently in charge of Haskell. Some insiders belief the Navajo female candidate will soon be named (this would keep resident female applicant from filing any sex discrimination complaint) and others believe long-time Lakota friend to Keith Moore will be hired following the practice of hiring his buddies. Or will Dr. Linda Sue Warner be reassigned back to Haskell? Any of these choices assures the Haskell campus that Venida Chenault (VCEM) is not going to legitimately seize the helm.

In the meantime, Dr. Lionnel Bordeaux has called for a special session on Haskell at American Indian Higher Education Consortium(AIHEC’s) upcoming meeting. AIHEC already has a formal resolution to remove Haskell from the BIE, and Dr. Bordeaux-once a Haskell Regent and most recently the convocation speaker for this semester, may be ready to get AIHEC to vote to cancel Haskell’s membership, since it and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) are the only tribal colleges that aren’t tribally operated and do not legally meet the definition of tribal college.

Tribal college presidents are used to fighting for their institutions, but usually it is against bureaucrats who reflect a tendency to interpret the world in terms of western and especially European or Anglo-American values and experiences and not like Haskell, where the leadership has to put up with a union that proposes to be so native that they don’t have to really work, and instructors (there are no Professors) on that campus, who pretend to instruct through internships where students don’t have to do anything except yell that they are native and have rights. That, by the way, is worth up to 8 credits.

It would be interesting to see what AIHEC presidents decide to do, especially since Dr. Bordeaux asked Haskell’s resident Indian expert, the only non-Indian who gets to decide what goes on there, Dr. Dan Wildcat to make a presentation. What will be telling is what Keith Moore decides since he has made no attempt to fix the real problem at Haskell.

haskellnews commentary 04/11/2011

Funding is once again being cut at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.

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Tecumseh Hall, Haskell Indian Nations University

Funding is once again being cut at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.

On Native America Calling:

“Current Events – Funding is once again being cut at Haskell, this time to the peril of several sports teams. But one group is banding together to raise the funds to keep athletics going at Haskell”.

What can we say? Congratulations to Venida Chenault?

Link: www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/haskellnews/2011/feb/28/breaking-newshaskell-indian-nations-univ


Or go to 04/05/2011 Indianz.com

haskellnews commentary 04/05/2011

Haskell Indian Nations University Board President George Tiger’s Leadership is Highlighted Again.

Haskell Indian Nations University Board President George Tiger’s leadership is highlighted again.

Link: thevoicesofcourage.com/2011/03/18/recall-roger-b–george-t-petitions-filed.aspx

haskellnews commentary 04/03/2011

Breaking News:Haskell Indian Nations University announces the gutting of its football and volleyball programs.

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics

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Breaking News: Haskell Indian Nations University announces the gutting of its football and volleyball programs.

Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, has announced the gutting of its football and volleyball programs beginning next fall.

Could this effectively cut Haskell’s enrollment by a 150 students and signal the end of Haskell’s sports programs altogether?

This comes on the heels of The Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Mr. Larry Echohawk’s announcement on Feb, 9, 2011 that the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools will participate in the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) Challenge inspired by the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative and commemorating the Let’s Move! one year anniversary. PALA is a six-week long physical fitness challenge managed by the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports, & Nutrition (PCFSN) and is part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation.

This certainly seems to imply that Mr. Larry Echohawk is still out of touch with the Bureau of Indian Affairs schools that he is supposed to be running.

By gutting these programs Haskell will lose some of its best students. These are the students held to standards of The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, these are some of Haskell’s most disciplined students, the ones who get up at six a.m. everyday to work out, try and eat right (as much as they can at Curtis) and the ones who win or lose continue to try with no big sponsor name ( lets say like Adidas ) behind them.

Didn’t Haskell’s Board of Regents President George Tiger get to play ball while he was at Haskell? Now he sits idly by and watches sports at Haskell slowly become eliminated.

How can Haskell possibly be called a university after this?

Someone will jump up and down and say it’s a matter of funding. Yet other programs, like the ones Venida Chenault is in charge of fair no better. Don’t those students get credit for protesting for better working conditions for Haskell employees? (While their fellow students are attending one of the biggest moments of their lives..their graduations), attending convocation, protesting for beavers and doing internships that amount to following Dan Wildcat around?

Let’s us help. You can start making some of these cuts and the leave the sports programs alone.

Cut employees, employees, employees and start with the ones who supported getting rid of Haskell’s sports.

Then cut your board get a new one that you don’t have to pay, get rid of Curtis Hall and just give the kids the money used to run that place so that they can actually eat healthy food.

Again, Mr. Larry Echohawk you just keep making Senator Raud Paul’s case for closing The Bureau of Indian Affairs stronger and stronger.

Maybe if Haskell can’t even afford sports, it should no longer seek to exist.

haskellnews commentary 02/28/2011

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Senator Rand Paul rallies to shut down The Bureau of Indian Education and The Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Senator Rand Paul

Senator Rand Paul rallies to shut down The Bureau of Indian Education and The Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The new kid on the block, Senator Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, The toast of the Tea Party, has decided the United States government would be better off not supporting The Bureau of Indian Education,The Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Services.

Quite frankly we wish we could oppose him, but seeing the mess that Haskell Indian Nations University is in with it almost non-existence graduation rates and crimes on campus gives us a moment to pause.

“Self-determination and self-governance” does not mean letting the United States Government run your life for you. What has The Buerau of Indian Education done for you at Haskell? Gave you people such as Stephanie Birdwell-Bighorn, Larry Echohawk, Venida Chenault to name a few, who have been no help to you at all while letting others who could have really helped you leave like Dr. Warner, Deb Thompson, Sharon Hallum, Dr. Blackbird, Ted Wright and Ted Junea, just to name a few. They let some of your programs go and even with his shaddy back ground they have continued to let George Tiger head up the board of regents and be around the students.

And poor Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, they just flat out let them lose their accreditation.

The tribes have clearly shown they do a much better job without the governments interference.

The problem goes far beyond just Haskell though. The BIA/BIE and IHS have been run poorly for decades. American Indians are entitled to cut rate care at any IHS facility, just like the cut rate education they are currently receiving at Haskell.

And what The Cobell settlement? American Indians will receive ( if they ever receive it at all ) pennies on the dollars that the government stole from them.

American Indians ( those of you who are not among the elitist few receiving the big bucks from Uncle Sam, like Larry Echohawk) need to raise up join Rand Paul, demand your money, and demand that your tribes take over, everything from Haskell, to IHS. Get rid of The Bureau of Indian Affairs and The Bureau of Indian Education. That would be true “Self-determination and self-governance” Obama failed you.

haskellnews commentary 02/10/2011