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Recommendations for Iowa’s community colleges address pronouns, DEI

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(The Center Square) – No one on Iowa’s community college campuses should feel “compelled” to disclose their pronouns or submit diversity, equity and inclusion statements, according to a report from a nonprofit advocating for the state’s 15 community colleges.

Community Colleges for Iowa released its report after state lawmakers asked for an overview of Iowa’s 15 community colleges’ DEI efforts and recommendations.

The report said no employee, student, or job applicant must submit DEI statements or be required to disclose their pronouns.

“At a time when political polarization is high and enrollment is largely flat, it is important to take steps to ensure that campus environments (physical and online) are welcoming to everyone, creating a sense of belonging that contributes to student success,” the report said.

Currently, numerous positions, initiatives, and councils across the state focus on compliance with DEI laws. The report recommends that each college conduct a comprehensive review of all DEI-related work to determine whether it is necessary for compliance or accreditation.

“Any position responsibilities that are not necessary for these purposes should be reconsidered and adjusted,” the report said. “Position titles should be reviewed to ensure they appropriately reflect position responsibilities.”

Any DEI activities on public campuses should be transparent in their purpose, the report said. A review should be done to review all initiatives and councils to ensure they did not infringe on the rights of any group, protect academic freedom, do not cause fear of censorship, and are based on “credible” research and data for achieving educational outcomes, the organization said.

Additionally, the report said colleges should review their hiring and promotion practices to ensure applicants are not required to provide evidence of their political viewpoints.

“Nothing has a greater impact on student success than the staff and faculty hired to support, teach, and mentor them. Hiring and promotion practices can support creating a welcoming campus and can also send clear signals about who is and is not encouraged to apply,” the report said.

Iowa’s three public universities are restructuring their DEI policies and, in some cases, shuttering offices and eliminating positions after a bill passed by the legislature in 2023 directed the Board of Regents to review them.

The 2024 Legislature included a provision in this year’s education appropriations bill prohibiting DEI offices at state universities and banning the schools from hiring employees assigned to DEI tasks.

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