Iowa Universities Restructure DEI Offices, Cut Positions Amid New Legislation

Iowa's public universities are implementing changes to their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies, resulting in the closure of certain offices and the elimination of various positions. The University of Iowa is shifting its focus towards state and federal compliance requirements, as well as accreditation standards, opting not to fill five vacant positions in the process. University President Barbara Wilson explained that a task force had worked to recommend these restructuring changes.

Iowa State University is set to close its vice president for DEI office in July, reallocating funds towards other university priorities to the tune of $789,000. University President Wendy Wintersteen noted that this would involve eliminating five positions, including two that are currently filled and three that are vacant. The closure of the central vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion office comes as the university struggles to comply with recent directives without taking such steps.

At the University of Northern Iowa, the changes include eliminating the Diversity, Inclusion, and Justice Office along with the chief diversity officer role. In place of this role, a new position will be established within the university's Center for Urban Education.

These transformations follow the passing of Senate File 560 by the Iowa Legislature in 2023, which instructed the Board of Regents to evaluate DEI policies at state universities. The legislation also includes a prohibition on DEI offices at state universities and restricts the hiring of employees solely for DEI tasks. It further mandates that any remaining DEI funds at the end of the 2025 fiscal year be redirected to the Iowa workforce grant and incentive program fund.

Mark Nook, the president of the University of Northern Iowa, indicated to the Board of Regents that more time is needed to review the details of the bill. These developments mark a significant shift in how Iowa's public universities address DEI issues and compliance requirements.

Written by Staff Reports

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