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Iowa universities cutting $1.3M in DEI positions after regents’ directives

Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice Office also closing at U. Northern Iowa

Iowa’s public universities are cutting about $1.3 million in “diversity, equity, and inclusion” positions this spring in response to directives by the board of regents.

The presidents of the three universities announced position cuts and office closures during an Iowa Board of Regents meeting April 25. The changes come in response to board directives issued late last year requiring public higher education institutions to abolish all unnecessary DEI initiatives.

University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson said in a video statement shared with The College Fix the school is eliminating five DEI positions at a savings of about $360,000.

“Efficiency and alignment” were the main focus for getting rid of the positions, Wilson said.

She said the university also is “restructuring” its DEI office into a new Division of Access, Opportunity and Diversity that will “comply at the state level and the federal level.”

“The University of Iowa along with getting rid of the DEI program will also be prohibiting anybody from requiring pronouns, and that will be added to all syllabi for all courses as of the fall,” Wilson said.

A regents spokesperson declined to comment when The Fix asked if the board is pleased with the universities’ response to the directives thus far, and directed it to a YouTube video of the April meeting.

Meanwhile, Iowa State University, the largest of the three schools, will cut five positions and close its DEI office this summer, ISU President Wendy Wintersteen told the regents at the April 25 meeting, The Fix reported.

The cuts include the vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion whose salary was $245,920 in 2023, according to public records reported by The Gazette.

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

The total position cuts at ISU amount to $789,000 in salaries and benefits, according to a report by KCRG 9.

Additionally, the University of Northern Iowa will eliminate its Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice Office and its chief diversity officer position, according to a statement and an executive summary that a UNI spokesperson provided to The Fix.

According to the executive summary, the university recently eliminated five DEI positions, with three of the employees accepting other positions on campus. The report did not include the specific titles, salaries, or benefits of the eliminated positions.

One known position cut, the chief diversity officer, made a salary of $118,014 in 2023, according to a public salary database run by Open The Books, a government watchdog organization.

However, UNI also created three new positions, an assistant dean of students-family and military programming and two campus programs coordinators, with reallocated funds “from the elimination of other positions,” the executive summary states.

When asked for more information about salary and position cuts, a UNI spokesperson directed The Fix to the executive summary.

UNI President Mark Nook said in a campus message provided to The Fix the university created two task forces at the start of the spring semester to review the regents’ DEI directives and draft compliance recommendations.

“We are confident that by making these structural and organizational changes we will be able to provide the personal attention and services each UNI student needs and deserves and we will continue to create a strong sense of community built on a commitment to the success of every member of the UNI community,” he said in the statement.

Nook said UNI leaders will continue to review materials and programs to ensure they comply.

Based on the available data, the total DEI cuts announced by the three universities amount to $1,267,014 in salaries and benefits.

None of the universities answered The Fix’s questions about potential additional DEI cuts and feedback from employees and students about the recent changes.

Last year, an Iowa Legislative Services Agency report found “142 total DEI positions across the campuses — with 61 at the UI, 56 at Iowa State, and 25 at UNI. That amounts to total compensation nearing $13.3 million, with the UI paying its DEI staffers $6.1 million total; ISU paying $5.2 million; and UNI paying $1.9 million,” according to a report by The Gazette.

The Iowa Legislature recently codified the regents’ DEI directives into law through Senate File 2435, which Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed last week. The legislation bans universities from running DEI offices or requiring DEI statements from students or employees.

MORE: After Iowa Board of Regents abolish higher ed DEI initiatives, high-paid deans on chopping block

IMAGE: Iowa Board of Regents/YouTube

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Scott Giebel is a graduate assistant for sports information at Wheeling University where he is pursuing an MBA. He previously received his bachelor’s degree in Sports Journalism at Millersville University. While there he wrote for the Athletic Communications Department as well as for 717 Sports Media.