Iowa Board of Regents vote to curb DEI in state universities

In November, the board approved a series of 10 proposals seeking to gut the DEI bureaucracy in the state’s three public universities.

'Florida and Iowa continue to lead the way,' Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said in praise of the state's work to combat DEI.

On Nov. 16, the Iowa Board of Regents voted to approve a series of recommendations that represent a major step toward reducing the DEI apparatus of the state’s public colleges. 

At the direction of Governor Kim Reynolds in a bill signed in June, the board had commissioned a study group consisting of 3 regents to oversee a comprehensive review of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives on Iowa’s public college campuses. 

According to study group member Regent David Barker, the group spent the summer meeting with students, faculty, DEI administrators, university human resources directors, general counsels, provosts, and presidents to learn about the DEI institutions and practices in place across the state’s three public state universities.

[RELATED: New Harvard Sustainability Action Plan aims to unite climate justice with DEI]

After several months of review, the group created 10 recommendations, including proposals to eliminate those DEI roles and “functions that are not necessary for compliance or accreditation.” The study group has also made calls to create “a Board policy prohibiting the consideration of race and other protected class characteristics in admissions that is consistent with the law.”

Brought for a vote before the full Board of Regents on Nov. 16, all 10 proposals were approved, with 6 recommendations passing unanimously. Josh Lehman, Senior Communications Director for the Iowa Board of Regents, informed Campus Reform that the three public state universities are expected to submit their plans for implementing the new changes at the board’s April 24 meeting next year.

This development out of Iowa mirrors that of other states like Texas, which passed Senate Bill 17 earlier this year, voting to defund the state’s higher education DEI bureaucracy and authorize related administrative penalties. 

Iowa’s Board of Regents vote was widely praised by conservative pundits and public figures, including activist and author Christopher Rufo, who endorsed the decision on X, suggesting that the fight against DEI in the education system is still in its early stages and more states will soon follow suit.

Florida governor and 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis similarly praised Governor Reynolds for her role in the recent development, noting that “Florida and Iowa continue to lead the way” in pushing back against DEI initiatives on college campuses.

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Not everyone was pleased with the actions of the regents, however, with The Des Moines Register editorial board publishing a piece critical of what it calls “the mischaracterization of DEI.”

Campus Reform reached out to the Iowa Board of Regents, David Barker, and Christopher Rufo for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.