Regents president orders pause and review of Iowa’s public universities’ DEI programs

Mike Richards directed regent-controlled universities to pause the implementation of new diversity, equity, and inclusion programs while the programs face heavy scrutiny from Iowa Republicans.


Emily Nyberg

The Old Capitol dome is seen on Monday Feb. 20, 2023.

Liam Halawith, Politics Editor

All diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at Iowa’s regent-controlled universities will be reviewed and new programs paused, the state Board of Regents announced Tuesday.

State Board of Regents President Michael Richards directed all regent-controlled universities to halt the implementation of new diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.

Proposed bills in the Iowa Legislature, which would defund, investigate, and restrict DEI programs at Iowa’s public universities, prompted the regents’ pause. These bills come from the Republican majority looking to study the “wokeism” in the DEI programs.

The regents will start a comprehensive study of all DEI programs at all regents-controlled institutions, including the University of Iowa, Richards said.

Richards appointed regents David Barker, Jim Lindenmayer, and Greta Rouse to lead the group to review DEI programs. The group will report their findings and recommendations back to the regents.

Johnson County Republicans Vice-Chair Donald MacFarlane said at a March 8 event that the inclusion of a DEI office at the University of Iowa further divides the campus by invoking more divisive conversation.

“DEI tends to suppress research, lead to more failure, encourage a sense of entitlement and victimhood, and punish success,” MacFarlane told The Daily Iowan at a Johnson County Republicans event on March 8, where they discussed the legislation with a UI DEI executive officer Liz Tovar.

During the event, Tovar said the DEI office at the UI gives critical resources to students and meets requirements for diversity programs through the federal government that is required to meet many grant requirements.

“I don’t think that the purpose of any DEI office is to tell people how to behave or what to think,” Tovar said. “I think we as a DEI office have thought about the human experience and what it takes to be the best human being you can possibly be and how you support other human beings.”