Bill targets diversity programs at UI, ISU, UNI

DES MOINES — A bill that’s cleared the House Education Committee would dismantle the diversity, equity and inclusion programs at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

Republican Representative Taylor Collins of Mediapolis said these programs at the three state universities “push a woke agenda” on faculty, staff and students. “The DEI bureaucracies at our institutions…have been used to impose ideological uniformity and promote far left political activism,” Collins said during a subcommittee hearing Wednesday.

Kyle Clare, a sophomore at the University of Iowa, told lawmakers it’s time for Republicans in the legislature to take a stand. “Our public universities are taxpayer funded institutions ran by the Democratic Party and they use DEI institutions and principles to forward their progressive agenda that Iowans overwhelmingly reject,” Clare said.

Lauren Saxe, an Iowa State University senior who has applied to ISU’s veterinary school, said she was recently required to attend a diversity, equity and inclusion training session. “Those five hours could have been spent watching lectures, studying for an exam,” she said, “anything else to inevitably get me to my passion of veterinary medicine.”

Chris Esperson of Des Moines, who is white, told lawmakers those five hours of training weren’t wasted and may help Saxe better understand her biracial son who’s an ISU student. “Let’s learn the truth. Let’s address the problems that exist and are very much alive in Iowa,” she said.

Keenan Crow of One Iowa, a group that advocates for LGBTQ Iowans, said it’s “outrageous” to close down programs that help students gain a better understanding of one another. “I mean honestly it feels at this point like anything that makes folks even mildly uncomfortable the solution is to just ban it,” Crow said. “…That’s not leadership. That’s cowardice.”

Officials from the Board of Regents told lawmakers the colleges of medicine, dentistry, nursing and pharmacy could lose accreditation if the bill becomes law. They also warned the athletic programs at Iowa, Iowa State and UNI could be placed on restricted status by the NCAA. That means teams could not compete in NCAA championships, like the upcoming men’s and women’s Division One basketball tournaments or last months’ wrestling tournament.

The bill is not an outright ban on diversity, equity and inclusion programs, but instead it forbids the universities from hiring staff to run the programs.