Regents to still conduct DEI study after anti-DEI bill dies

Although the bill that would prohibit DEI funding has died, the state Board of Regents still plans to conduct a study to ensure DEI programs are inclusive to all people.


Grace Smith

Board of Regents President Michael Richards listens to a speaker during the state of Iowa Board of Regents meeting in Reiman Ballroom at the Alumni Center in Ames, Iowa on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021.

Natalie Miller, News Reporter

The state Board of Regents continues to study diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at all regent institutions after recent DEI bills in the Iowa Legislature didn’t move forward.

House Study 218, a bill that would prohibit regent universities from funding diversity, equity, and inclusion offices or hiring any persons to work as DEI officers, failed in the Iowa Legislature. However, DEI initiatives remain a hot topic in Iowa after the regents paused all new DEI programs at regent institutions, which was announced last month.

Regents President Mike Richards released a statement on March 14 announcing the board’s plan to create a study of all DEI programs at Iowa’s public universities and the consequent stop of new programs.

“I am directing Iowa’s three public universities to pause the implementation of any new DEI programs until the study is completed,” Richards said in the statement.

Now, over a month since the announcement, the regents are conducting the study amid a national debate about DEI issues.

During the most recent regents meeting on April 20, Richards said the board could not share much about the study, as it is still being worked on, but he anticipates it being finished in the coming months.

“We expect the review to take several months and will likely stretch into the fall semester,” he said. “There will be an opportunity for anyone, whether it be members of the campus community or the general public, to provide feedback to the working group via a web-based form.”

Richards said once the study has been concluded, the working group will present its study and findings to the regents. The board has set a tentative date for this meeting to be in November.

RELATED: UI DEI executive officer awaits next steps for regents diversity program investigation

In an email statement to The Daily Iowan, Josh Lehman, the senior communications director for the regents, said the timing of the study can still be shifted around.

“The specifics and timetable of the study are still being worked out,” Lehman wrote.

At the University of Iowa, faculty and staff are emphasizing that DEI programs are necessary to the campus environment and students.

Liz Tovar, UI executive officer and associate vice president of DEI programs, said the DEI programs on the UI campus offer a welcoming experience and atmosphere for all students.

“At the very core of it, we want to create an inclusive environment or create a campus culture that is welcoming to everyone, and that everyone has the opportunity to contribute on our campus [and] really reach their full potential and prepare a next generation of students to be leaders in the corporal society,” Tovar said.

Tovar said she believes there needs to be more clarity about DEI programs at the UI. She said it is essential for everyone to understand that the programs are for everyone.

“One of our issues is that people don’t understand that we define diversity, equity, and inclusion in the broadest sense possible, so it includes all groups of people, including first-generation college students, veterans, and people who have accessibility issues,” Tovar said.

Moving forward, Tovar said she is working to change the outlook people have surrounding DEI issues and programs.

“We’re trying to help shape the narrative of DEI is about being a champion for all people on our campus, and this particular bill would have eliminated DEI office and positions on our campus,” she said.

Tovar also said she believes the regents’ study will act as a positive for DEI programs.

“I’m not quite sure what they’re going to be looking at, but I will tell you that I’m really excited to be able to work along the board as well as other campus leaders,” Tovar said. “I think it’s a good thing for our campus.