Iowa Board of Regents Approves Controversial Rollback of DEI Initiatives

The Iowa Board of Regents has decided to scale back diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives across the state’s three public universities: the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa.

The decision, based on 10 recommendations from a study group formed at the request of Governor Kim Reynolds, aims to eliminate non-essential DEI efforts at the institutions, focusing only on those necessary for compliance and accreditation.

The approved recommendations mandate that the universities take steps to ensure that no campus member is compelled to submit DEI statements or disclose pronouns. Additionally, they prohibit the consideration of race and other protected characteristics in admissions, while urging the update of general education category names to accurately reflect students’ options.

Despite overwhelming support for DEI programs among students and faculty, as indicated by a forum, the board chose to proceed with the recommendations. Republican Representative Taylor Collins, who led the bill requiring the disbandment of DEI programs, expressed satisfaction with the board’s decision, stating it as a positive step forward.

“I think the recommendations are a good step forward,” he said. “I appreciate the board approving them formally and look forward to seeing them being implemented over the coming months here.”

In a statement, Courtney Reyes, executive director of the LGBTQ rights group One Iowa, strongly condemned the vote.

“The Regents chose to align with an extremist group of House Republicans, showing blatant disregard for the compelling evidence from data, research, and the desires of the campus community,” Reyes wrote in the statement. “Eliminating these crucial diversity, equity, and inclusion programs will devastate our universities’ capacity to attract, retain, and prepare students for their future careers.” 

The recommendations also instruct the three universities to restructure their DEI offices, eliminating functions not essential for accreditation or legal compliance, including certain DEI-focused positions.

In the public comment that was made prior to the Board of Regents making the recommendations, about 900 felt that DEI programs needed to be reigned in while an overwhelming 3,500 Iowans expressed that there was no need to limit the programs.

Two members of the board voiced their concerns. They believe that the state’s universities should do more to support their students.

“Our decision should be what’s best for our schools in cooperation with their leaders,” Nancy Dunkel a member of the Iowa Board of Regents who voted against the recommendation said. “Instead we are micromanaging their decisions and imposing new political intrusions…professors and leaders in our schools encourage critical thinking, discussion, and questioning to improve learning.

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