Iowa Slashes DEI Initiatives at State Universities, Bars Forcing Students to Disclose Pronouns

The Iowa Board of Regents has scaled back DEI initiatives at the state's public universities, joining other GOP-led states to resist the controversial programs.
Iowa Slashes DEI Initiatives at State Universities, Bars Forcing Students to Disclose Pronouns
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds at the White House on June 26, 2020. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Tom Ozimek

The Iowa Board of Regents has voted to take an axe to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs at state universities, scaling back or eliminating the controversial initiatives that many conservatives have panned as discriminatory or even neo-Marxist.

The nine-member board voted on Nov. 16 at a meeting in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to adopt a series of 10 recommendations (with one amendment) targeting DEI programs.

While the adopted recommendations don't prohibit any DEI initiatives that would impede the schools' accreditation or compliance with existing rules, they go a long way toward dismantling them.

The recommendations were put forward by a DEI study group that was formed in June when Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, signed into law Senate File 560.

The bill Ms. Reynolds signed required a "comprehensive study and review" of DEI programs at the state's public universities—the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa. Altogether, there are roughly 70,000 students at the three universities.

One of the newly adopted recommendations calls on the universities to develop policies prohibiting the consideration of race and other protected class characteristics in admissions, in a way that is consistent with the law.

Another urges the elimination of any DEI functions at DEI offices that aren't necessary for compliance or accreditation, while calling on services in other divisions that support diversity or multicultural affairs to be available to all students, not just select groups.

Yet another adopted recommendation calls on Iowa's public universities to ensure that no employee, student, applicant, or campus visitor is required to submit a statement of support for DEI. Also, schools should take reasonable steps to ensure that no employees or students are forced to disclose their pronouns.

Overall, the recommendations scale back DEI efforts in higher education by restructuring offices, reviewing positions, updating education categories, and standardizing guidance.


While a bill that would have forced state schools to completely disband their DEI offices and programs failed to pass the Iowa legislature earlier this year, state Rep. Taylor Collins, a Republican who led the failed bill, told the Des Moines Register that he supports the board's recommendation to dial down DEI.

"I think the recommendations are a good step forward," Mr. Collins told the outlet. "I appreciate the board approving them formally and look forward to seeing them being implemented over the coming months here."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, praised Ms. Reynolds for pushing for the review.

"The Left tells us DEI stands for ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.’ But as practiced, it more closely represents ‘Discrimination, Exclusion, and Indoctrination.’ That has no place in our universities," Mr. DeSantis said in a post on X. "I applaud Gov. @KimReynoldsIA for fighting back against this scam! Iowa and Florida continue to lead the way."

Opposing the move was One Iowa, an LGBT rights group that said the DEI cuts will make it harder for the state's public universities to attract students.

"The regents chose to align with an extremist group of House Republicans, showing blatant disregard for the compelling evidence from data, research, and the desires of the campus community," Courtney Reyes, executive director at One Iowa, told the Des Moines Register. "Eliminating these crucial diversity, equity, and inclusion programs will devastate our universities' capacity to attract, retain, and prepare students for their future careers."

At the beginning of November, the Florida Board of Governors voted to approve regulations that prevent Florida's public universities from using state or federal funds to support DEI initiatives.
A similar move in Texas bars the funding of DEI programs at colleges and universities with taxpayer dollars.

Colleges Go All-In on DEI

Meanwhile, a recent report revealed that many U.S. community colleges have hopped on the DEI bandwagon, with an overwhelming majority of those surveyed having some form of DEI presence.
The report, from The Heritage Foundation's Center for Education Policy, was based on a dataset of degree-granting public or private community colleges that enroll at least 1,000 students, which amounted to 328 schools, or roughly 22 percent of all community colleges in the United States.

The report shows that DEI initiatives of some kind were present at 81 percent of the community colleges reviewed—and the bigger the institution, the more likely it was to embrace DEI.

A whopping 96 percent of community colleges with more than 10,000 students (of which there were 110 in the study) had some kind of DEI presence, per the report, which was based on data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

Larger schools were more likely to have a DEI department, DEI mission statement, DEI task force, dedicated DEI staff, or another diversity program, the report notes.

The DEI presence figure dropped to 88 percent for schools that enrolled between 5,000 and 9,999 students.

For community colleges with between 1,000 and 4,999 students, that number fell further, to 56 percent.

Although the smallest schools weren't included in the study, the report shows that the DEI wave has washed across the country's larger community colleges with force.

"Woke radicals are propagating the same racially focused, ideologically driven diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) offices and training on community college campuses that have distracted four-year institutions from educating students," wrote Jonathan Butcher, the Will Skillman Senior Research Fellow in Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation and lead author of the report.

'Racist Cultural Movement'

Mr. Butcher said community colleges should be focused on improving their academic offerings and student completion rates, but instead, many of their administrative offices and departments have been captured by "radical racial and 'gender' activists."

Community colleges receive more than half of their funding from taxpayers (18 percent from federal taxpayers and 33 percent from state taxes), per the report, which calls on lawmakers to prohibit two-year colleges from using taxpayer resources to fund DEI initiatives.

"DEI is a racist cultural movement that puts the radical ideas from critical race theory, gender theory, and queer theory into practice," Mr. Butcher wrote in the report, which also calls for a prohibition on community colleges' requiring applicants for campus positions to sign loyalty oaths in favor of DEI.

Roughly 8 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 are enrolled in community colleges.

Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.