UI DEI committee identifies retention, belonging as obstacles for CLAS members

The annual report included conversations with committee members who voiced their concerns about faculty retention and underrepresented minorities within the college.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

The Old Capitol is pictured on April 14, 2022.

Grace Katzer, News Reporter

Low faculty retention and belonging were among the top issues addressed in the 2022 annual University of Iowa’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion report released Monday.

Multiple committee members noted faculty retention as a primary area of concern during a roundtable discussion in fall 2022, according to the report.

The committee’s priorities for the next year include: 

  • Investing in the structure and culture to support mentorship across the college.
  • Defining a vision and roadmap for DEI in the college.
  • Increasing capacity for diversity, equity, and inclusion work in the college.
  • Creating a resource for DEI-related information and toolkit in the college.

According to the report, the number of UI faculty members declined 11.6 percent — 92 faculty members — from 2021 to 2022. 

The report highlighted the progress of the college’s DEI initiatives working to promote a more inclusive environment for faculty, staff, and students on campus. 

“We need to put our money where our mouth is and go the extra mile to retain [newly recruited faculty], and I don’t see that happening all the time,” Christine Rutledge-Russell, committee and School of Music faculty member said in the report. “We lack the substance to achieve our [retention] goals.”

Challenges belonging on campus 

Andrew Boge, DEI committee member and UI graduate student, said in the report that there is a push to teach marginalized perspectives in the classrooms.

“But when I get a racist review because a white student feels targeted by me — there are no resources, no one reaches out to me to say that’s problematic,” Boge said in the report.   

Undergraduate students who identify as an underrepresented minority increased by 3.1 percent in 2022, from 1,721 students in 2021 to 1,777 students in 2022. Undergraduate international students continued a 3-year decline with 256 students in 2022, a 1.8 percent fall from 532 students in 2020. 

“It’s so much easier for a student, especially if they are from an under-represented background, first [generation], to fall through the cracks if they aren’t seen, and it’s just easier to see someone if they are in a class of 18 instead of a lecture room of one-hundred,”  Dylan Nice, DEI committee member and Rhetoric faculty member, said in the report. 

The report listed first-year progress, including: 

  • The addition of Liz Mendez-Shannon as a full-time DEI director in August 2022
  • Review of departmental strategic plans for DEI components and integration
  • Data compilation on the diversity initiatives and training throughout the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences 
  • Baseline understanding of departmental mentoring practices established

Committee members stated they hope to achieve more specific goals in the plan moving forward. 

“The original action plan has so many good things, but they aren’t concrete enough,” Gabriella McDermott, DEI committee member and Dean’s Office staff member, said in the report. “Hopefully, with having these three areas that we are really focusing on as a committee . . . we can take steps forward and that they are very specific—and that’s exciting for the committee to be leading in that way for the college.”