UI Diversity Councils dissatisfied with UI leaders’ Black Lives Matter response

All seven UI diversity councils wrote a joint open letter addressed to President Bruce Harreld urging him and other UI administration to take greater action to support the campus community.


Jeff Sigmund

Old Capital as seen on April 13, 2020.

Josie Fischels, Summer Editor

In a joint open letter addressed to University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld and lead administrators, UI Diversity Councils expressed disappointment and frustration with the UI’s lack of response to central focuses of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The Diversity Councils fully support the Black Lives Matter movement and the UIowa students, staff, and faculty who give their faith, energy, and even safety to fight for social justice,” the letter stated. “We are severely disappointed and frustrated by the University of Iowa’s lack of meaningful response to the police brutality, protests, and calls from students, staff, and faculty to implement change for equity.”

The letter was signed by all seven of the UI’s diversity councils: the UI African American Council, Council on Disability Awareness, Council on the Status of Women, Latinx Council, LGBTQ+ Council, Native American Council, and the Pan Asian Council.

The councils wrote on Monday that the UI is seemingly “oblivious” to daily fears and struggles experienced by members of its campus community, in particular BIPOC students, staff, and faculty. The councils cited the #DoesUIowaLoveMe campaign, accounts from students and student athletes of racism and inequitable treatment within athletics and in the classroom, and “dismissive” comments made by College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Steve Goddard toward a faculty member who expressed anxieties about returning to the classroom in the fall as both a woman of color and an individual with an autoimmune disease during a town hall meeting in June.

“To this end, we reiterate the question that the administrators of the Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate and Professional Student Government offered you at the beginning of June 2020: ‘How have not only the University of Iowa, but you yourself, contributed to the policing of lives, education, and voices of Black students on our campus?’” the letter stated.

Citing a message to the UI campus community from Harreld and Provost Montserrat Fuentes, the letter urged the UI leaders to take action to follow through on their message’s statement, where they wrote “each of us must lead change within our individual communities to actively disrupt racism (interpersonal, systemic and societal).”

The DI reached out to the UI Office of Strategic Communication for comment from the University of Iowa on the councils’ letter, but did not receive a response.

The letter asks UI leaders to personally, and at times publicly, respond to frustrations and fears expressed to them by BIPOC students and their allies, to immediately appoint an existing UI employee as Interim Associate Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and to include diversity councils in decisions made to guide the institution forward.

The diversity councils offered their support, knowledge, and position as a resource in order to help the UI meet the goals outlined in the letter.

“We offer our expertise and strengths to you and senior administration as willing partners in working to heal the deep wounds of mistrust, fear, and trauma in our communities,” the letter stated.