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Little Big Horn College still on rocky ground

CROW AGENCY, Mont. - Little Big Horn College student activists have vowed to save their institution from losing accreditation and the loss of President Janine Pease Pretty On Top. They have sponsored community meetings across the reservation to make their point.

Pretty On Top's struggle began last November when eight members of the 14 to 17- member board of trustees met, and citing "extreme irregularities," voted to terminate Pretty On Top's contract.

The students and Pretty On Top say they will dispel what they believe to be myth and rumors maligning the president's conduct.

The most severe allegation against Pretty On Top argues she transferred and spent nearly $1 million from college building funds. In her defense Pretty On Top released all current bank records, which indicate the allegations are false.

Students were making handbills stating "Vote yes for three and no for four!" and planned to picket for their cause before a Jan.13 council meeting with two resolutions over governance of the institution on the agenda.

"Students, parents and families have to get mad, and get out there (to the council meeting)" said student Joey Covers Up. "This is your college and you determine what will be in it, make sure you understand these facts so you can tell others."

Students handed out information packets with copies of resolutions, bank statements and letters from financial supporter of the college building fund.

They alleged opposition board member Walter Old Elk has said the trustees will find another agency to accredit the college if the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges terminates its relationship with the institution. But Pretty On Top explained to the students gathered, there are no other possible accrediting agencies.

"The United States Congress divided the United States into seven regions," she said. "We are in the Northwest region and that is that."

The two resolutions on the Crow Tribe's quarterly council agenda vary radically.

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The student resolution would remove the current trustees and reseat the board with original members, elected in 1980. The 10-member, reconstituted board would serve for one year as a temporary body, giving the institution time to create a new self- governance system.

Opposition board members drafted the resolution entitled the "Crow Tribal Council vs. Janine Pease Pretty On Top, President Little Big Horn College"

It alleges Pretty On Top is an "at will employee" who has refused evaluation, declines cooperation, and has conducted all operations of the college for the last five years without the approval of the board of trustees.

The resolution further alleges Pretty On Top has hired too many non-Indian staff and faculty, has not submitted an outside audit of LBHC to the Office of the Inspector General since 1998, and has "placed herself above established procedures and above the governing Board of Trustees.

The resolution reads: "Now, therefore be it resolved, by this Crow Tribal Council, and during the session, Janine Pease Pretty On Top be given ample time to answer to the listed charges and ... after she presents her case the Crow Tribal Council (will) take an immediate action whether to dismiss her as the president ... or keep her in the same."

Little Big Horn College will soon hear from a team of educators from the NASC - on campus this week investigating what was labeled as the "integrity" of the college. Pretty On Top said the team would send a letter outlining their findings within 10 to 20 days.

In a telephone interview Jan. 11, Pretty On Top said she felt the visit went well, and pointed out that members of the Northwest team said the board acted illegally at a Nov. 21 meeting when they terminated her.

"One of the team members is an attorney and he said the trustees are not following their bylaws," she said. "And he said they did not have a quorum at that meeting."

Opposing board members Walter Old Elk and Garlan Williamson tried to attend a meeting at Little Big Horn College scheduled for accreditation team members and Board of Trustees Chairman Mike Bird In Ground, but were escorted from the premises by police for breaking the restraining order which bars the members from the institution.

Meetings for the opposing board members and tribal officials were scheduled at the tribal offices because of the restraining order.

Pretty On Top said the NASC team letter might outline what the college is required to do in order to save its accreditation.