At the most recent Iowa Board of Regents Meeting, UNI President Mark Nook reported on UNIs plan to adhere to DEI directives.
At the most recent Iowa Board of Regents Meeting, UNI President Mark Nook reported on UNI’s plan to adhere to DEI directives.

DIS Dissolved

UNI to eliminate Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice Office, reorganize Division of Student Life to comply with DEI directives

The nine-member Board of Regents, Iowa’s governing body for its three public universities, convened at the Alumni Center on Iowa State University’s campus last week.

The meeting comes on the heels of the Iowa Legislature passing SF 2435, an education bill which includes funding numbers for K-12 schools and regent universities. This bill also includes similar language from the 10 DEI directives passed by the Board of Regents at their November 2023 meeting, which pushed universities to restructure and eliminate DEI positions not necessary for accreditation or required by state or federal law – as well as a number of other instructions related to civic education, communications and curriculum.

This bill would bar the universities from funding DEI-related positions or functions with reporting and enforcement by the Iowa Attorney General’s office. It has not yet been signed by Governor Kim Reynolds. 

DEI Report

Day one of the Regents’ meetings included committees, while day two included reports from each of the Presidents and separate updates on the DEI directives and their progress on each campus.  

Each university created some kind of working group, committee, taskforce or advisory board made up of both students and faculty to bring reports to the institutional presidents who would then make final decisions and present them to the Board of Regents.

As for the University of Northern Iowa, President Nook’s plan to the Regents included a few separate things. According to the report, the Division of Student Life will undergo some major changes to student services with the elimination of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice and reimagining positions within it to serve students comprehensively. This also means changing five positions within the Academic Affairs division. 

The University of Northern Iowa is also eliminating the chief diversity officer position and creating a new role centered on Cedar Valley community outreach and helping serve “low income and first generation students” within the Center for Urban Education. The chief diversity officer is currently a position within the president’s senior leadership team. The current director of diversity, inclusion and social justice, Chiquita Loveless, will now be serving as assistant dean of students for family and military engagement.

Overall, President Nook focused his report on services being altered to impact and serve students more holistically and moving them to areas under the Office of the Dean of Students  and Student Life more broadly.

In his remarks Nook said “these positions and services are focused on building a stronger sense of community for each student which is essential to ensuring that students who come to UNI are retained, graduate and, as you heard this morning, prepared for their lives after graduation.” 

The University of Northern Iowa will also be starting a brand new Center for Civic Education in Nook’s words, “with a vision to be nationally recognized leaders in research, teaching, and public outreach in free speech and civic education.” 

The focus of the center will be on students, future educators and members of the public. According to Nook, the center will cost around $300,000 by year three. In his closing remarks, President Nook noted, “We recognize that we are changing the way that we are organized in the way that we serve many of our students. It will take time to adjust to these changes. We are confident that by making these structural and organizational changes, we will be able to provide the personal attention and services each UNI student needs and deserves.” 

It will take time to adjust to these changes. We are confident that by making these structural and organizational changes, we will be able to provide the personal attention and services each UNI student needs and deserves.

— President Mark Nook

After comments and questions from Regent David Barker about SF 2435, President Nook answered that the administrations would need more time to look through the bill, but that many of the changes made addressed much of the legislative language regarding DEI. President Wilson, while recognizing that the pending legislation wasn’t ideal, also commented on SF 2435, “I think much of what we’re doing is in the spirit of the law” and “the law does acknowledge we have accreditation issues that we need to comply with, that we have federal and state laws that we need to comply with, and I think there’s some recognition that it’s more complicated than it looks at first blush.”

At the University of Iowa, President Barbara Wilson announced to the Regents that the university would be renaming its DEI office and moving services around under a new division of “Access, Opportunity, and Diversity.” 

The University of Iowa will also be eliminating five unfilled positions, adding a statement to all syllabi that no one can be forced to disclose their pronouns, and beginning a pilot program in residence halls to increase civic education and engagement, to name a few of the major changes. 

A student protester stands outside of the Commons on UNI’s campus at the November meeting of the Board of Regents. (JACOB KURT)

At Iowa State University, President Wendy Wintersteen announced to the Regents that the vice president of DEI and its entire division will be eliminated within the senior leadership team, which is a total of five positions. Iowa State University will also be adding a statement to all syllabi regarding pronouns, changing course names and will continue work on reviewing all unit-level DEI positions. 

OCEM Audit

The Board of Regents also heard a report from the Audit and Compliance Committee, which looked into UNI’s Office of Compliance and Equity Management (OCEM). 

The office is responsible for ensuring UNI offers equal education opportunities and complies with both state and federal laws like Title IX and affirmative action.

According to the report, the auditors found shortcomings in the office that could “expose the university to unacceptable risks” and “result in serious consequences.”

The internal audit cited lack of cross-campus collaboration in the office, finding UNI’s compliance office director only reports to President Nook’s office for all responsibilities. 

According to the audit, “Multiple interviews conducted in fieldwork identified that management of this office does not appropriately share information with key process or compliance stakeholders across the institution. This has limited the ability of multiple functional areas within the institution to effectively and efficiently carry out their responsibilities.”

The audit also noted budget concerns with the office, uncovering deficits totaling nearly $400,000 over the last five years, with the 2021 and 2023 budgets exceeding $100,000.

According to the audit, “These deficits have grown despite an over $60,000 (16 percent) increase in the budget over the past five years.” 

They also reported a lack of coordination in the hiring process, however the audit states there are already active changes to the hiring process underway.

The Northern Iowan reached out to University Relations for comment, and were directed to the action plan in the audit as their comment. 

Part of the action plan states, “Management will review and assess the current reporting and governance structure of the OCEM and investigate opportunities to improve the effective operation of the office in light of planned changes to the hiring process as UNI Works is implemented. Senior leadership will establish key metrics to be reported annually that will assure that the OCEM is meeting expectations.”

Iowa Board of Regents

Other Business

Earlier in the day, each of the presidents gave institutional updates. President Nook gave updates on the new applied engineering building and its construction on campus and chose to highlight three students and faculty for their work on campus, biology student Treytun Garcia, computer science professor Ben Schafer and communications professor Nichole Zumbach Harken. 

President Nook also gave a shout out to Parker Keckeisen, who won the 184-pound NCAA wrestling title this year. The agendas, reports, slides and data used by the presidents and by the Regents can be found at and their meetings can be viewed on their YouTube channel. 

The next Board of Regents meetings discussing budgets and tuition rates will be held on June 11, 12 and 13 at the University of Iowa.

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