Is Haskell Indian Nations University Breaking The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution?


With all of the talk from Stephanie Birdwell-Bighorn about making Haskell Indian Nations University a “premier university”, we can’t help but wonder why the school would possibly be stuck in the days of when it was a boarding school and continue with room checks?

Rooms checks at Haskell are done by housing personnel to see if students are keeping their rooms clean, if not the chance exist that they can lose housing and in the case of many Haskell students that would mean going home and not finishing school. With a nine percent graduation rate can Haskell really afford this?

Student rooms are checked for cleanliness and to see if the bed is made. These checks are done when most students are in classes. If a student is running late that day should they worry about making their bed or getting to class? Who wants someone in their living quarters when they are not there?

Is it really legal for dorm staff to be entering these rooms to see if a room is clean? These are not safety checks done by the safety officer and her staff, these are cleanliness checks. They are done once a week every week that school is in session.

They better be looking into this before some Haskell student wises up and sues the school over it.

Here is what the United States Constitution and FEDERAL LAWS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT IT:

“Virtually all room searches at public institutions are governed by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” and provides that no search warrants shall issue “but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” To be “reasonable” and thus lawful under the Fourth Amendment, a search must normally be conducted pursuant to a search warrant supported by probable cause. Conducting a search in violation of a student’s Fourth Amendment rights can render public university employees, and potentially the university itself, liable for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In addition, any evidence of criminal activity obtained in the search likely will be suppressed in ensuing criminal proceedings, and any subsequent investigation of criminal activity may be tainted as “fruit of the poisonous tree. Public institutions also may be subject to a state constitution’s analogous “search and seizure” provisions. These state constitutional provisions sometimes provide even greater protections against warrantless searches and seizures than does the Fourth Amendment. Courts will not uphold provisions in housing agreements that require a student to broadly waive all of his or her Fourth Amendment rights as a condition of campus housing”.


You would expect a Mormon man (Larry Echohawk) to keep his word, so far no changes, only tears. The same people who lost Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute by The North Central Higher Learning Commission are still in charge of Haskell.

Mr. Echohawk is an attorney having come from The “Y” BYU to The BIA.

Maybe ….he can at least get what appears to be, illegal room checks at Haskell stopped?

haskellnews commentary September 29, 2010


14 responses to “Is Haskell Indian Nations University Breaking The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution?

  1. geekin_topekan (anonymous) says…

    Interesting question HN.

    Who are the people doing room checks? What makes them the authority on health and cleanliness?

    I couldn’t help notice that when I lived in the dorms that the same person “checking” my room was also observed smoking out his own dorm room window. So the “authority” on health and cleanliness was smoking (not healthy) and creating a fire hazard (un-cleanliness) and in clear violation of dorm policy by smoking in his room, and yet he was allowed to inspect my room and pass judgment on my habits.

    A poll conducted by my, at the time, classmate indicated that nearly half of Haskell students asked supported room checks. And an overwhelming majority said that they knew someone whose habits warranted room checks.
    Also, his poll indicated that, pretty much, half of Haskell students say “yes” when asked if room checks are conducive to the educational environment.
    Go figure.

    Are room checks a violation, or if half of Haskell students are fine with it, why bring it to issue?

  2. enoughalready (anonymous) says…

    Are you kidding me… youv’e been blogging for how long now and putting Haskell in as much negative light that you can. So be it others think differently… Exactly i agree with GT- why bring it to issue? And why are you putting continuing with room checks on SB-B when it has been taking place how long?? There are certain reasons as stated above why they continue. Students aren’t always lucky enough to pick their suitemates or roommates if your in any of the dorms besides Winona (no roomate usually)… So half the time they are roomed with any person and their lifestyle habits… which may not be clean or healthy. Also it takes more than one bad room check to lose your housing.. come on.. and I doubt they get written up if the bed is not made… there are other factors involved.
    @GT- As for the person doing the room checks… if they are employed as housing personnel/RA/SRA -thats what gives them the authority to do room checks. If an SRA was in the wrong back when you were a student… did you report him?

  3. geekin_topekan (anonymous) replies…

    I didn’t ask WHO gave that authority, genius.

    I asked what MADE him an authority on the subject.

    Obviously he had not enough class to follow the guidelines that he was supposedly their to enforce. Or if you’re a Billy Jack fan, “When a lawman break the law, there is no law”

    I feared for my future as a student at Haskell and I knew that the man in question had his nose so far up the administration’s arse that reporting would only create more problems than it would solve. Such as what has been demonstrated over and over again.

  4. katatnite (anonymous) says…

    I’ll bite, does Haskell violate federal laws by having room checks? In that case it would not be up to students or staff to have them. Sounds like a lot of things go on at Haskell, that violate federal laws. Who would be in charge of seeing about this matter?

  5. autie (anonymous) says…

    The answer is no. Room checks are not in the constitutiion that I”m aware of. A landlord has the right to enter rented/leased premises with proper notice at reasonable times. I’m sure this is no different. Many leases have cleaniness standards in them. A cleaniness check is no way comparable to the fourth amendment. Not even close.

  6. katatnite (anonymous) says…

    Only problem is Haskell is not a rented/leased premise. It is a federal school.Therefore, it may well violate the fourth amendment, to tell students at a federal university someone is going to come in and make sure your room is clean. I am not sure they have the right to do that and that seems to be the problem with Haskell, the employees just do as they please, never mind the students. They may well be breaking the fourth amendment…not good if your a US government school !!!!!!

  7. katatnite (anonymous) replies…

    What about this? “Courts will not uphold provisions in housing agreements that require a student to broadly waive all of his or her Fourth Amendment rights as a condition of campus housing”.

  8. haskellnews (anonymous) replies…

    From the KU website: Link:
    Room Entry/Search
    Residents have a right to privacy and are protected against unreasonable searches of their rooms. Student housing staff may enter a resident’s room, suite or apartment without notice in emergencies where imminent danger to life, safety, health, or property is reasonably feared. A resident who submits a maintenance request has invited staff to enter to perform requested maintenance. In order to maintain an environment that facilitates academic success of other residents, staff also will enter a room to turn off an alarm, stereo, television, or other item left unattended and that is causing a disturbance. Before entering a room, staff will attempt to locate the residents.
    Safety Checks
    During all vacation periods and occasionally throughout the semester, safety checks are conducted in the residence and scholarship halls and every Jayhawker Towers apartment to ensure the space has been left in safe condition. Notice is posted at least 24 hours in advance. Policy violations in plain view will be documented and disciplinary action will be taken.
    All residence hall and scholarship hall suites and Jayhawker Towers and Stouffer Place apartments will receive a health and safety check once each semester to ensure cleanliness and continued optimal operation and condition of the facility. Residents will receive at least 24 hours notice before the safety checks.

  9. sbobandme (anonymous) says…

    My wife taught for years in the public school system ( never at Haskell ) and she told me that before she retired, the teachers were no longer allowed too go into the student restrooms. If there was a problem they had too stand in the doorways of the restrooms too break up a fight, etc. This was for the protection of both the students and the teachers. Our question is this: Are men room inspectors allowed into the woman’s rooms? And visa versa? Are the doors too the rooms kept open or shut while being inspected? We see some real problems here. My wife thinks they could definitely be in some big trouble over these room inspections and would not be surprised if they are breaking the fourth amendment.

  10. new2blog (anonymous) says…

    Do Haskell students attend college for free? Even if they do, as students they still have a right too be respected and entering a college dorm room by college personnel too make sure it is clean, is wrong. Whoever, is in charge of the school needs to make sure this practice is stopped. College personnel may enter a student’s room for a safety check ( with at least a 24 hour notice, or for purposes of a real emergency ). College is suppose too teach students to get along in different environments with others, it is not the job of a college too make sure a bed is made and a room is clean. That is the job of a parent. Adults should be able to do this on their own. College students need too make grades and graduating their first priority not bed making and clean rooms. With an apparent graduation rate of 9% Haskell needs to stop worrying about beds being made and start worrying about why they are not graduating their students. In the real world making a bed won’t help them much, but a degree in hand will. If members of the opposite are entering those rooms there is a problem there also.

  11. geekin_topekan (anonymous) says…

    New2, excellent comment!!
    Yes, Haskell students attend for nearly free. Tuition is free and the student pays $250/yr off-campus in fees and on-campus pay $430/yr fro room and board.

    You are absolutely correct that Haskell should concentrate on being a university rather than a boarding school. Which is what Dr. Warner was trying desperately to achieve. But she was met with such resistance by long-time employees that her efforts are now all for not. The long-time employees resist student empowerment and room checks are a prime example of that systematic oppression. They refuse to accept their roles as servants to the students and hold onto the old role as guardians.

    The SRA’s do give 24 hours notice at a minimum.

    Some are good at hustling the gubment though. A new 1.5 million on the books for their grimy fingers to flip through. SOme of it in nice piles, others in planky bits of loose change. SOme, neatly stacked into practical hundreds. . .

    The very laws that were placed to protect the prosperity of Native people are the same laws that protect the administration from anyall out investigation by the FBI. The sovereign status of Natives, as written in the day, means that unless Haskell threatens the US or its allies, it would take an act of congress to intervene. DO you think that key players wouldn’t know this? They are well educated in indigenous studies.

    Nope, when you have good thing going and you are protected by federal laws, why would you want to change? The actings have no reason to want to change. They get gubment salaries and bennys. Call the switchboard and ask for any key member and you will find that they are in “a meeting” 80% of the time. Which makes plenty of sense, hustling 1.5 million must take plenty of effort. Too bad such diligent efforts couldn;t go toward student service and not money interests.
    It reminds me of an interview with a “rehabilitated” pedophile I saw on Oprah once. He said “when you find something that makes you feel good, empowered, and alive, why would you seek treatment?”

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