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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

UI to restructure, rename DEI Office to Division of Access, Opportunity, and Diversity

University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University are closing their DEI offices.
Cody Blissett
University of Iowa president Barbara Wilson observes a Board of Regents meeting in Cedar Falls, Iowa on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

AMES — Major changes are coming to the University of Iowa’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and its programming. 

The Iowa Board of Regents heard from each of the regent universities’ implementation initiatives Thursday, in compliance with board recommendations regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion at the university level. 

UI President Barbara Wilson announced changes to the UI’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office, a restructuring of the general education requirement, changes to the performance and evaluation metric for faculty staff, and a new initiative to promote intellectual diversity.

On Nov. 16, 2023, the regents approved 10 recommendations to restructure DEI programs necessary for accreditation and state and federal compliance.

Wilson said the UI will rearrange its central DEI office. The university will create two new central divisions within the office: the Office of Accreditation and the Office of Civil Rights Compliance.

The central office will be renamed from the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, to the Division of Access, Opportunity, and Diversity.

Additionally, Wilson said five unfilled positions will be eliminated with the restructuring, saving the university $360,000 that will be used toward student success initiatives, such as a program focused on low-income high school students in Iowa.

“I like to say that we have reimagined it and took a hard look at what was essential for accreditation and state and federal compliance,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the university is also working to review all 43 individuals across campus with a DEI title and ensure their functions align with the recommendation.

She said most of those positions are required for either accreditation or compliance. 

In accordance with recommendation three, requiring that DEI-related offices be available to all students and provide support for multicultural affairs, Wilson said a new policy has been added to the university’s manual, stating that all student groups and registered organizations must include a statement that their program is open to all.

The university will also prohibit the requirement of students, employees, or other faculty members to share their pronouns, as requested under recommendation four. Wilson said this change would be reflected in all syllabi starting for the fall 2024 semester.

Additionally, in accordance with recommendation four, which addressed employee evaluations, Wilson said the university has changed its DEI performance evaluation metric. The performance evaluation metric will now be called “Welcoming and Respectful Environment,” instead of “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” 

We feel like this better reflects the goals of our employment objectives,” Wilson said.

In accordance with recommendation six, which required a review of all general education courses related to DEI, Wilson said the university is working on changing the name of the required gen-ed from “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” to “Understanding Cultural Perspectives.” 

She said the university believes this title better captures the general education courses offered to students at the UI. The university offers 66 general education courses under the DEI requirement. 

Wilson said the new name will not be reflected until the 2024-25 calendar year.

Recommendation eight addressed recruitment that enhanced diversity in faculty pools. Wilson said the university has updated resources in faculty searches and is informing committee members in charge of conducting these searches on how to advertise new positions.

UI launches initiative to teach civic education 

Lastly, Wilson addressed compliance with recommendation nine, focusing on enhancing civic education.

Wilson said the university is working on developing a “Civic Dialogue Initiative.” The initiative is in the early stages and will be implemented in two facets: a new pilot program to train resident assistants in first-year residence halls and a new, optional first-year seminar that students can take on how to speak about diversity.

“We want to inform our RA’s on how to teach skills and the necessary aptitudes to encourage people to talk to each other across their differences,” Wilson said.

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

The resident assistant training will launch this fall and will be offered to select dormitory floors to determine the effectiveness of the program.

“The more we think about diversity in a broader way, the healthier we will all be for it,” Wilson said.

Regents response

Regent David Barker expressed his concern over the five months the universities took to review DEI and discussed the recent passing of Senate File 2435. The bill, which is headed to the governor’s desk, prohibits public universities from hiring DEI-related employees, having a DEI office, or DEI programs that aren’t needed for accreditation or law.   

“This is the first we have seen of any of this, and that meant we were unable to update legislators about our progress,” Barker said. 

Barker said with signing the bill into law, many of the directives will become irrelevant.

Regent Robert Cramer echoed Barker’s concern and said he was disappointed with the process.

“I think that my keeping all this quiet of what we were doing until today may have led to the legislature doing what they did,” Cramer said. 

Sherry Bates, the newly elected regents President, said in her closing remarks that because each university is unique in what it does, there must be a difference in how the recommendations are implemented.

“We have seen that here today, and we want to ensure that universities continue to be welcoming places for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors,” Bates said.

In response to Barker, Wilson said though institutions may have spent too much time on the specifics, it is important to balance the scale and address the multiple identities each individual brings to the table. 

“Our goal is to find places and space for all students and recognize that people do not have one identity or affinity group. What we want to say is that you are all welcome,” Wilson said.

Wilson hopes that through this process, individuals realize the importance of diversity and that diversity does not simply have to mean one thing.

“If we do that, we are going to be handing all of you the next leaders for democracy for a better world going forward,” Wilson said.

Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa

Iowa State University President Wendy Winterseen announced ISU’s plan to close the vice president’s office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion in July.

Five positions will be eliminated as a result, two of which are currently filled, and three that remain unfilled.

Wintersteen said the office was established in 2015, with the university currently in the process of completing a written reorganization to eliminate the positions.

All staff will be given a 90-day notice and the budget for the office will be allocated to “university priorities.”

University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook also announced the elimination of its Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice office.

Nook said UNI will cut the position of chief diversity officer.

Nook said the university will work to expand student services that were offered in the office. This will help allocate more support to student organizations, leadership development, and other campus-related events.

The university’s Dean of Students Office will also be offered assistance in helping to provide support and care to students during the transition.

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About the Contributors
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.