Universities respond to Board of Regents’ diversity and inclusion recommendations

By: - November 14, 2023 5:41 pm

Iowa's public universities will form advisory groups to address recommendations on DEI programming pending approval from the Iowa Board of Regents. (Logo via Iowa Board of Regents)

Iowa’s regent universities are preparing groups to review their own diversity, equity and inclusion programming and respond to recommendations made by an Iowa Board of Regents study group, pending their approval by the full board this week.

The Iowa Board of Regents study group, made up of Regents David Barker, Jim Lindenmayer and Greta Rouse, spent the past six months reviewing the public universities’ diversity, equity and inclusion offices and programs.

The group’s report, released last week ahead of the board’s Nov. 15-16 meeting at the University of Northern Iowa, contains 10 recommendations calling for changes to DEI programming that include changing or eliminating “unnecessary” DEI functions and responsibilities and working to expand diversity of viewpoints and philosophies on campus.

In the report, the study group said that the universities should share updates on their plans at the board’s April 2024 meeting. Representatives from each university will form groups to respond to these recommendations while keeping the programming that a majority of DEI study respondents called “critically important.”

“The universities have been collaborative and provided feedback throughout the process,” regents spokesperson Josh Lehman said.


Iowa State University

According to a statement signed by Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen, Senior Vice President and Provost Jonathan Wickert and Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Toyia Younger, senior university leaders have worked with the study group to give information, address questions and “advocate for the important work being done by our faculty and staff to support all of our students.”

After the report is approved, the university will form an internal advisory group to work with leaders and gather input on how to respond to the recommendations while ensuring academic success and making the university a welcoming place for all students.

“Iowa State University was founded on the ideal that higher education should be open to all regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status,” the administrators said in the statement. “As we work to address the Board’s recommendations, our university remains committed to this ideal and to supporting the success of all students, faculty and staff.”

University of Iowa 

The University of Iowa will begin implementing the study group’s recommendations after board approval, according to a letter and FAQ posted on the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion website page and signed by Vice President for External Relations and Senior Advisor to the President Peter Matthes and Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Executive Officer and Associate Vice President Liz Tovar.

After the November board meeting, the university will create a task force, led by Tovar, to evaluate its Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and all other diversity and inclusion efforts on campus. The task force will give recommendations to University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson and Provost Kevin Kregel in March 2024 and provide the board of regents with a plan in April.

The task force will work to “find an efficient and effective model for the delivery of the activities and resources that our campus needs” while ensuring the DEI division’s efforts are put to meeting accreditation and compliance standards and supporting students, faculty and staff. Changes will be made, the statement said, but in collaboration with campus leaders.

There are more than two dozen federal requirements, accreditation standards and research stipulations that mandate diversity and inclusion-related programming, the statement said, including its NCAA membership.

“Failure to comply with these standards is not an option,” the statement said.

The statement acknowledged in the statement that students, faculty and staff likely have many questions as to how this will impact the university’s ability to “provide a welcoming and inclusive campus,” and assured that the university’s DEI office and programming are not being shut down.

“We view this as an opportunity to align the remarkable work done on our campus and to ensure we maintain the compliance and accreditation standards that support the success of our students, faculty, and staff,” the letter stated. “Diversity and inclusion are important to the campus, and our role is critical in preparing our students to become global society and economy leaders.”

University of Northern Iowa

University of Northern Iowa Director of University Relations Pete Moris said the university will form an advisory group similar to that of Iowa State University and the University of Iowa.

While all the details of the group have not been finalized, Moris said the university’s approach will align with the other regent universities.


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Brooklyn Draisey
Brooklyn Draisey

Brooklyn Draisey is a Report for America corps member covering higher education. She previously worked for the Quad-City Times and The Gazette covering topics ranging from business to culture.