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The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Regents approve restructuring of DEI offices nonessential to compliance, accreditation at state universities

The recommendations will affect different DEI functions at the state schools.
Cody Blissett
University of Iowa Assistant Vice President of Campus Safety Mark Bullock listens to a speaker during a Board of Regents meeting in Cedar Falls, Iowa on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023.

After a long discussion, the Iowa Board of Regents approved recommendations on Thursday that will restructure DEI-related departments and offices necessary for compliance and accreditation at state universities.  

Following the passing of the recommendations, Richards requested that the regent universities provide a progress report to the board during the April 2024 meeting.

A regent study group was established in March to investigate the need for DEI programs and initiatives at the three regent universities. The group was made up of regents Jim Lindenmayer, Greta Rouse, and David Barker along with regents staff. 

Recommendation one that was approved included a restructuring of the central DEI offices to eliminate anything DEI-related that is not required for compliance or accreditation. According to the report, a concern was that services provided by the decentralized DEI offices were not being offered to all students.

“The study group agrees that staff in decentralized units and multicultural centers offer some important services that support student success, although better efforts could be made to assure that students understand that all are welcome,” the report read.

Changes on DEI programs accepted by the regents:

  1. Restructuring of all DEI offices nonessential to compliance and accreditation.
  2. A review of all college, department, and unit-level DEI-related nonessential to compliance and accreditation
  3. Ensure that all DEI-related offices are available to all students and provide support for multicultural affairs and diversity.
  4. No employee, student, or other faculty member is required to state their pronouns upon application or submit a DEI statement. 
  5. Development of regents policy stating admissions cannot be based on race
  6. A review of all DEI-related general education courses to ensure that students have a wide array of courses to choose from to fulfill their requirements
  7. Issuing standard employee guidance regarding separating personal political advocacy
  8. Exploration of recruitment strategies that advance diversity in faculty and staff pools
  9. Exploration, as amended at today’s meeting, of a proposal that would include free speech and civic education training
  10. Reminder issued by the regents on requirements in university websites 

Recommendation two attempts to tackle the sprawling DEI offices in regent universities, recommending the review of all “college, department, or unit-level DEI positions” to investigate whether any DEI-related job responsibilities were necessary for compliance, accreditation, or student and employee support services.

If the review found that any were not important, it advised the elimination or adjustment of those job responsibilities. The review would also examine positions or working titles to ensure the titles accurately reflected the jobs’ responsibilities.

Following the presentation of the findings, regent Nancy Dunkel said she disagreed with the recommendations.

“We need to use our good judgment to steward the institutional systems forward,” Dunkel said. “We have a fiduciary duty of loyalty to our region schools’ mission, and we’re supposed to stay independent and faithfully serve our institutions over our other interests.” 

This prompted regents Lindenmayer and Barker to further discuss the study group’s findings. 

Lindenmayer said the group’s report was sufficiently vague to give regents the latitude to continue to serve their students and also address the concerns that come from state legislators. 

Regent Abby Crow asked for recommendations eight and nine to be pulled from the initial vote with Dunkel asking for recommendations one and two to be pulled as well.

The regents then proceeded to vote on recommendations three through seven and recommendation ten. All regents voted yes except for Lindenmayer when Dunkel motioned to reconsider the vote after a brief recess. She proceeded to vote no, while Lindenmayer changed his vote to yes.

Disagreement on four recommendations

The biggest points of contention among the regents were recommendations one, two, eight, and nine of the study group’s report.

On recommendations one and two, all regents voted yes, except regents Dunkel and Crow.

Recommendation eight was to find ways to advance the diversity of “intellectual and philosophical perspective” for the pool of faculty and staff applicants.

“The Study Group notes that universities across the country have or are considering the establishment of centers, institutes, or similar initiatives dedicated to freedom of expression and civic education,” the report read. “The Study Group recommends that the regent universities evaluate whether such an initiative could be efficiently and effectively implemented within the regent system.”

The last recommendation separated for individual discussion and vote was recommendation nine. This recommendation was to develop a proposal that would establish a widespread initiative that includes an opportunity for education and research on free speech and civic education.

For this recommendation, the study group focused on statements from the universities and each respective DEI office at the universities. They noted that some of these groups had published statements that the group believed could be perceived as being representative of the whole school, or in other cases, differed from the regents.

On recommendation eight, all regents voted yes, except Dunkel, Lindenmayer, and Crow. On recommendation nine, the dissenting votes came from Dunkel and Barker after the passing of amended language.

Regents Crow and Dunkel disagreed with the adoption of the four recommendations.

“I have full faith in our institutions’ ability to evaluate what services to offer for our students,” Crow said. “I do value the importance of having internalized structures that support our students in a variety of ways.”

Regent Crow said she could not support the recommendations as it goes against students’ comments and what many have come to her to talk about.

“I want to support the students that my constituency and I represent,” Crow said.

Study stretching from spring to fall

The study group was first established by regents’ President Mike Richards in March in response to proposed bills from the Iowa Legislature that would defund, investigate, and restrict DEI programs at the three state universities. 

As a result of the investigation, Richards instructed the three regent schools to pause the implementation of new DEI programs, although existing programs could continue to operate.

The study ran from March until the fall semester, with an opportunity in August for the community to provide feedback. The final report was included with the regents’ agenda for its Nov. 16-17 meeting.

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About the Contributors
Alejandro Rojas
Alejandro Rojas, News Editor
Alejandro Rojas is The Daily Iowan's news editor. He previously worked as a news reporter covering Johnson County and was the summer executive editor in 2023. He is a senior, double majoring in journalism and political science.
Shreya Reddy
Shreya Reddy, News Reporter
Shreya Reddy is a freshman at the University of Iowa. Coming from a small town in Kansas, Shreya is double majoring in English and Political Science on the Pre-Law track. Before coming to the Daily Iowan, she has written for her neighborhood magazine and her schools literary magazine as well as writing an investigative journalism piece.
Cody Blissett
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.