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

Move comes as Iowa bill would ban DEI spending in higher ed

The Board of Regents overseeing Iowa’s public universities has paused implementation of any new diversity, equity and inclusion programs at the state’s three major public universities as officials launch a review of them.

The March 14 announcement comes in the wake of a recently introduced bill in the Iowa House of Representatives that aims to halt spending on DEI initiatives in higher education.

“Over the next few months, the Board of Regents will initiate a comprehensive study and review of all Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs and efforts at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa,” Board of Regents President Michael Richards stated in the announcement.

A working committee is expected to report its findings and develop recommendations, Richards said, adding that “I am directing Iowa’s three public universities to pause the implementation of any new DEI programs until the study is completed.”

A bill approved in early March by the House Education committee, House File 616, would prohibit higher education institutions from funding DEI offices or officials.

“For too long, the DEI bureaucracies at our institutions of higher education have been used to push a WOKE agenda on the faculty, staff and students,” Iowa state Rep. Taylor Collins told The College Fix in a March 8 email.

“Under the guise of diversity and inclusion, these programs work to indoctrinate students into their preferred political ideology. What’s worse is that they’re spending, literally, millions in taxpayer money to do it,” said Collins, a Republican.

In response to the Board of Regent’s recent announcement, Collins tweeted March 14: “While I appreciate the @IowaRegents acknowledging the issues with the DEI programs at Iowa’s regent universities, I will continue to push for legislation that dismantles these bureaucracies, and ensures this money is used for the true benefit of students.”

In his March 8 email to The College Fix, Collins listed the significant salaries of four DEI officials at state universities and noted their collective total:

· University of Iowa Associate Vice President of DEI: $255,000 a year

· Iowa State Vice President of DEI: $247,000 a year

· University of Northern Iowa: Chief Diversity Officer and Director for Diversity, Inclusion & Social Justice: over $200,000 a year combined

· $750,000 for just four positions.

“The tip of the iceberg for us was when we discovered just how much some of these top DEI administrators were making,” Collins said.

Iowa’s House File 616 would require Iowa state universities to “reallocate all unexpended moneys” meant for DEI programs during the current budget year. The funds must be used for scholarships and to reduce tuition and fees for resident students, according to the legislation.

“This bill aims to dismantle these DEI programs and ensure this money is being spent for the true benefit of students,” Collins said.

The proposal defines the scope of DEI initiatives, banning efforts to promote DEI initiatives related to race, color, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Academic course instruction, research, creative work, student organizations, guest speakers, health services and federally required procedures are not affected by the bill.

Schools affected by the bill would include the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa—all of which fall under the governance of the Board of Regents in the state of Iowa.

Josh Lehman, senior communications manager for the Iowa Board of Regents, told The College Fix the board has concerns “with the bill’s language and impact, and will work with legislators directly to address them.”

“We will continue to track the bill as it makes its way through the legislative process,” Lehman said in an email March 8.

The Iowa bill follows the recent filing of a Florida House bill that would ban spending on DEI programs and enact post-tenure review of professors.

Also the University of Texas System in February suspended the launch of any new diversity, equity and inclusion programs and initiated the start of an investigation into current ones.

The system, which oversees 13 academic and health institutions across the state, made the announcement in the wake of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office earlier this month telling state agencies to stop using DEI policies in hiring, calling it employment discrimination that violates federal and state employment laws.

MORE: Florida higher ed bill would outlaw DEI spending, enact post-tenure review

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About the Author
Margaret Peppiatt - Franciscan University of Steubenville