DES MOINES — The Iowa Board of Regents has voted to adopt ten recommendations proposed by the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion study group. One of the recommendations is that the three state universities cut DEI programs that aren’t necessary for research contracts or accreditation.
Study group member David Barker says another asks the three universities to explore strategies for advancing diversity of intellectual perspectives among job applicants. “Simply asking the universities to think about their hiring practices in a way that might bring in an area of diversity that may have been neglected in the past and that’s diversity of philosophical perspective,” Barker says. “And, you know, we’ll see what universities do with that and what ideas they come up with.”
Regent Abby Crow says that seems to contradict cutting other DEI initiatives. “I don’t think we can pick and choose which aspects of diversity that we want to encourage more at the universities. I think that if want these hiring practices to be broadly universal equal, I don’t understand how uplifting one and reducing others is fair,” Crow says. Crow offered and amendment that would change the language to simply issue a reminder to universities on hiring practices. Barker did not favor the amendment. “Some of the feedback that we got from the universities when we asked about increasing philosophical diversity was that they didn’t know how to do that,” he says. “And so that’s kind of why this is worded the way it is that we’d like them to explore possibilities for how to do that. Now, their answer might be that they can’t. But we’d like them to explore possible methods for doing that.” Crow’s amendment to change the language failed.
The DEI study was part of a requirement by the Iowa Legislature. Barker isn’t sure if the recommendations will be the end of the issue. “I have no idea whether the legislature will, you know add to this, will take additional action on DEI,” Barker says. “We, we looked at this ourselves and decided what recommendations we wanted and the legislature might decide to move to not deal with the issue anymore or they might decide to do more.” The recommendations were approved at the Board of Regents’ meeting Thursday. The schools are expected to submit their plans for implementing these changes in the spring.
Here are the DEI Study Group recommendations:
1. Restructure the central, university-wide DEI offices to eliminate any DEI functions that are not necessary for compliance or accreditation. Support services in these offices must be broadly available to all students and/or employees, subject to applicable state or federal eligibility requirements.
2. Review all college, department, or unit-level DEI positions to determine whether DEI specific job responsibilities are necessary for compliance, accreditation, or student and employee support services. Any position responsibilities that are not necessary for these purposes shall be adjusted or eliminated. Position and/or working titles shall be reviewed to ensure they appropriately reflect position responsibilities.
3. Review the services provided by offices currently supporting diversity or multicultural affairs in other divisions of the university to ensure they are available to all students, subject to applicable state or federal eligibility requirements. Program promotional and informational materials and websites shall be updated to clarify that the mission of these offices is to support success broadly.
4. Take reasonable steps to assure the following:
a. No employee, student, applicant, or campus visitor is required to submit a DEI statement or be evaluated based on participation in DEI initiatives, unless the position is required for DEI-related compliance or accreditation.
b. No employee, student, applicant, or campus visitor is compelled to disclose their pronouns.
5. Develop a Board policy prohibiting the consideration of race and other protected class characteristics in admissions that is consistent with the law.
6. Initiate a review of DEI-related general education categories and update category names to accurately reflect the array of options students may select from to satisfy these requirements and ensure a breadth of offerings.
7. Standardize issuance of annual employee guidance regarding the separation of personal political advocacy from university business and employment activities.
8. Explore potential recruitment strategies for advancing diversity of intellectual and philosophical perspective in faculty and staff applicant pools.
9. Develop a proposal, including cost, to establish a widespread initiative that includes opportunities for education and research on free speech and civic education.
10. Annually, the Board office shall issue a reminder to the universities on the requirements of 4.2.I, which governs university websites and other university communications.