EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. - Seniors attending the financially beleaguered and now
defunct Huron campus of Si Tanka University will graduate, but not at the
campus where they attended classes.
Graduation will be held at the Eagle Butte campus this year.
The on-again, off-again roller coaster ride for the students and faculty of
Si Tanka may be over. University officials filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
protection on April 8 in an attempt to protect the Eagle Butte campus.
The Si Tanka Huron campus was closed in March. At that time the faculty
quit, citing no confidence in the administration - the faculty had not been
paid since January.
It is questionable whether enough former students remain in the area to
attend a graduation ceremony.
On April 7, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council declared the university
in violation of its charter when it did not comply with the terms of a
$400,000 loan arranged by the tribe to keep the university open. The
administration filed for bankruptcy the next day.
The university was purchased by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in 2001. The
tribe acquired a $3.3 million Rural Development loan from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture and another $3.3 million bank loan to purchase
the then-financially troubled Huron University. The school defaulted on
both loans and sank further into financial trouble when the federal
government issued a $2 million tax lien.
Si Tanka University in Eagle Butte was originally chartered as the Cheyenne
River Community College in 1978.
Attempts were made by the tribal council and Si Tanka University officials
to keep the two campuses separate. The Eagle Butte campus could again
qualify for federal set-aside funds for colleges with a majority of
American Indian students. At stake is $4,400 per student.
Those set-aside funds were lost when the Huron campus fell below a majority
of American Indian students. Students did not receive financial aid and
many dropped out.
University President Francine Hall said that with Chapter 11 it was
believed that the Eagle Butte campus would continue to serve students.
When the Huron campus closed, degree offerings were reduced from 17 to
five. The tribal council passed resolutions to prove that the two campuses
were separate in order to maintain accreditation for the Eagle Butte
Bankruptcy will not stop foreclosure of the Huron campus. The Board of
Regents made the decision to let the foreclosure of the Huron campus take
place in order to save the Eagle Butte University, said Doris White,
president of the Board of Regents.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a list of potential buyers, but
would neither reveal the identity of any of those on the list nor would it
offer any financial figures involved.