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Iowa ‘s public universities restructure DEI offices, trim employees

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(The Center Square) – Iowa’s three public universities are restructuring their diversity, equity and inclusion policies, in some cases shuttering offices and eliminating positions.

The University of Iowa will not fill five vacant positions as it realigns to focusing on two objectives, state and federal compliance requirements and accreditation requirements, President Barbara Wilson told the Board of Regents. A 20-member task force worked on the recommendations.

“We took a really hard look at what was essential for accreditation, for state and federal compliance and for the work that we have to do to ensure that we’re doing the kinds of things we need to do to support our education, research and health care,” Wilson said. “And we’ve really restructured the central office.”

Iowa State University is closing its vice president for DEI office in July, Wendy Wintersteen told the board. She established a 14-member focus group consisting of faculty, staff and administrators, she said.

“So we will eliminate essentially five positions, two positions that are currently filled and three vacant positions,” Wintersteen said. “And the budget will be reallocated to university priorities. This office was established in 2015 but this time we don’t feel we can meet directive one without closing the central vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion office.”

The reallocation totals $789,000 but Wintersteen said she wasn’t sure if it was salary and benefits.

The University of North Iowa eliminated the Diversity, Inclusion and Justice Office, which was part of the Division of Student Life, President Mark Nook said. The university is also eliminating its chief diversity officer and creating a new position within the university’s Center for Urban Education.

The Iowa Legislature passed Senate File 560 in 2023 which directed the Board of Regents to review DEI policies in the universities. The Board of Regents issued directives to the three universities in November. The 2024 Legislature included a provision in this year’s education appropriations bill that would prohibit DEI offices at state universities and ban the schools from hiring employees assigned to DEI tasks.

Any unspent DEI funds left over at the end of the 2025 fiscal year will be redirected to the Iowa workforce grant and incentive program fund, according to the bill.

Nook told the Board of Regents they need more time to review the bill.

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