Opinion | University of Iowa DEI response shouldn’t have been a disaster

The various colleges’ responses to the critical race theory-related executive order shows a lack of communal understanding as far as diversity, equity, and inclusion go.


Jenna Galligan

The Old Capitol is seen on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Hannah Pinski, Opinions Columnist

According to the University of Iowa’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statement, the division aims to provide a ‘welcoming, respectful, and inclusive campus environment for all’ through leadership, resources, and recruitment efforts.

However, the cluster of responses from the UI on this statement from recent events questions the merit of this claim.

On Sep. 22, Trump issued an executive order to stop all federal funding for institutions and workplaces that held Diversity training that contained ‘race and sex stereotyping’. First, this ignorant executive order shouldn’t have happened because these programs’ goal is to bring attention to issues like racism and sexism in order to prevent discrimination in the workplace or institution.

Since these programs are a part of the resources that aim to achieve their Diversity and Equity statement, the UI’s overall response should’ve condemned this order. Instead, the UI decided to pause the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training for a two-week period to evaluate these programs.

While President Bruce Harreld, Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Kevin Kregel, and Interim Associate Vice President for Diversity Equity, and Inclusion Liz Tovar released a statement expressing disappointment in the order, they also justified their decision by claiming it would be ‘irresponsible to not recognize its potential impact on federal funding’.

This decision sparked attention from the Iowa City Community and Alumni with the post on the Daily Iowan twitter receiving 142 retweets of the story.

However, this also drew attention from the different organizations and colleges within the UI.

For example, many administrative leaders spoke out against this order and the UI’s decision. On Oct. 8th, the University of Iowa shared governance released a statement that condemned the executive order and expressed concern over the UI’s compliance to the order as well.

This also isn’t the first time that different departments of the UI have taken efforts to respond to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Early in October, the University of Iowa English Department created the Change UIowa Committee and a petition for improved diversity training in response to the loss of Black professors.

More recently, an email thread in the College of Dentistry Community created controversy with a variety of responses to the pausement of diversity training as well as the Black Lives Matter movement.

If the UI wants to claim their whole institution values Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, there needs to be a unified approach towards responding and implementing these practices. Having a cluster of responses from different departments of the UI displays disunity which is the last thing the University needs in a time where there is a call for social justice and racial equality.

Even though the majority of the training was resumed, this was a wake up call for the UI. There is no point in having a University-wide statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion if everyone is going to interpret it differently. The UI should’ve had a joint statement and approach instead of a cluster of responses. Instead of evaluating the programs, the UI should focus on evaluating their statement and ways to promote  it across all parts of campus.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.