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Iowa college trustees tried to force president to undergo DEI ‘re-education’: lawsuit

President alleges retaliation after implementing viewpoint diversity directives

The president of Northeast Iowa Community College, placed on administrative leave in October, said in a new lawsuit that the Board of Trustees wanted to force him to undergo “re-education” training on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Herbert Riedel (pictured), who has served as the college’s president since 2022, said in a statement last week that he believes the trustees’ actions against him are politically motivated.

His lawsuit, filed in January, alleges the board violated a state open meetings law when it voted to pass a performance action plan for him during a closed session in June, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported.

“The political motivation of the [performance plan] is seen among other things in the initial draft that included a plan to subject me to ‘re-education’ on DEI, a highly ideological and controversial movement favored by some at the College,” Riedel said in the statement.

Responding this week, college spokesperson Tara Cooley told the Capital Dispatch that NICC will “vigorously defend itself against” Riedel’s allegations.

Cooley also said the college is working on proceedings to terminate Riedel.

Earlier, the college said Riedel was placed on leave due to “issues raised during his initial evaluation, complaints regarding hiring practices,” and “complaints regarding treatment of administrative staff,” KCRG-TV9 reported in November.

However, Riedel said in a statement last week that he believes politics are the real reason behind the trustees’ actions.

“When I arrived at the College, the DEI Committee had plans to institute training on gender pronouns and to survey students on private sexuality, gender, and race issues,” he said. “I directed the Committee to follow Iowa’s laws, refrain from controversy, include an openness to viewpoint diversity, and foster a workplace and learning environment that is respectful of employees and students, while promoting diversity and inclusiveness.”

He said board members and several other administrators resisted his directions and instead “responded with a malicious effort to disparage my leadership, my character, and my reputation.”

Riedel also alleged the Board of Trustees inappropriately interfered “in the day to day management of the College (including personnel decisions).”

His lawsuit asks the court to invalidate the performance plan and award him damages, according to the Capital Dispatch.

Meanwhile, Iowa lawmakers have been working to crack down on taxpayer funding to DEI programs at public colleges and universities.

In November, the Iowa Board of Regents, which oversees the state universities, approved a recommendation to end diversity, equity, and inclusion programs unless otherwise required by law, The College Fix reported.

MORE: Iowa suspends new DEI policies in higher ed, launches probe into current ones

IMAGE: Northeast Iowa Community College

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.