Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

BHSU responds to allegations submitted to Gov. Noem’s ‘Whistleblower Hotline’

Black Hills State University has overcome allegations that the institution’s faculty and staff engaged in promoting a “liberal” agenda after receiving a request June 17 to conduct an internal investigation due to anonymous complaints.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem introduced a state-wide higher education “whistleblower hotline” May 26. This hotline was designed to be a resource for concerned citizens of the state to anonymously voice their questions, comments or concerns in order to ensure “students and faculty to keep our universities accountable to South Dakota values,” according to press release issued by the governor’s office.

“Our children are our future, and South Dakota universities and technical colleges should best prepare them for our future,” Noem said in the press release. “As I work with our Board of Regents and Board of Technical Education to chart our path for higher education, we are giving students, faculty, and parents this tool to help voice any concerns so that they can be addressed.”

Gov. Noem, however, revealed a different motive for the hotline in a letter she wrote to the South Dakota Board of Regents.

“On campuses across the country, students have been taught the importance of diversity and equity and given access to ‘safe spaces’ instead of learning to tolerate the disagreement, discomfort, and dissent that they will experience in the real world,” Noem wrote.

In the same letter, Noem expressed concern that many states have allowed “liberal ideologies to poison their colleges and universities.”

Less than a month after the “whistleblower hotline” was put into operation, BHSU was placed under the spotlight. After a number of anonymous calls were placed through the hotline, BHSU faced allegations of promoting ideologies that did not align with Gov. Noem’s “South Dakota values.”

BHSU president, Dr. Laurie Nichols, received a copy of Noem’s letter to the Board of Regents detailing the allegations that the university was facing.

“The comment that was made specifically about [the allegations were] that BHSU is promoting transgender ideology, pushing mask mandates, endorsing critical race theory and compelling students to choose a side in the Ukraine war,” Nichols said. “And then they gave some direct examples…On the subject of wearing masks in class a professor said, ‘if my kids die, it’s on you’ to the students. Students were required to find authors that were non-white for their freshman literature class[es]. Students were pushed to wear the Ukrainian flag pins of their clothing.”

President Nichols was asked by the Board of Regents to conduct an internal investigation to determine whether there was any evidence to support the claims made against the university.

“For example, we went into the freshman comp(osition) class… and looked at the syllabus to see what exactly we are saying students are required to do,” Nichols said. “We didn’t find anything egregious at all…We didn’t see anything that caused us great alarm.”

Another call to the hotline that claimed BHSU was pushing unauthorized mask mandates in relation to COVID-19. Allegedly, a professor on campus told their students that they were required to wear a mask in the classroom.

“We did find one instructor who had asked students, respectfully, to wear a mask in class because, at that point in time, vaccinations weren’t out, and he had an autoimmune compromised child,” Nichols said. “But [the university] did not require students to wear masks in class after the COVID year, which was fall of ‘20 and spring of ‘21.”

The complaint that drew the most attention from the board, however, was a call claiming that, during student orientation, a campus member recommended that students take SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) drugs to counteract homesickness.

“We could not verify that any person said that,” said Dr. Jon Kilpinen, BHSU provost. “What we gathered was that, in an orientation session, we were describing the services that our counseling and health centers provide, and that one of the people who works in our health center can issue prescriptions. And then, separately, there was a conversation about homesickness. We’re guessing that there was a family concerned about this and assembled things that weren’t said together.”

Kilpinen reinforced the fact that any medical professional employed at BHSU must follow specific protocols before providing a student with any form of prescription medication.

Kilpinen also said that there was a chance of false or misinformation regarding some of the claims.

“In my observation over years of tip lines or suggestion boxes, a lot of the complaints are often [based] on incomplete information,” Kilpinen said. “People jump to a conclusion based on a little bit of information and they add the rest.”
The conclusion of the internal investigation yielded no results of consequence.

“I guess the long and short of it is we tried to see what we could find,” Nichols said. “And we found a few things; we’ll try to correct it and make it better in the future by talking to the faculty, but, in general, we didn’t find anything that bad.”

About the Contributor
Nathan Feller, Editor-in-Chief