|Board of Regents Issues Order on Controversial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Programs
On Tuesday this week, March 14th, Board of Regents President Michael Richards issued the following statement:
“Over the next few months, the Board of Regents will initiate a comprehensive study and review of all Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs and efforts at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.
I am appointing Regents Barker, Lindenmayer and Rouse to lead the study. This working group will report their findings and any recommendations back to the full Board.
As a result, I am directing Iowa’s three public universities to pause the implementation of any new DEI programs until the study is completed.”
This comes as a response to HF 616 which prohibits state money being used to fund Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion offices and positions. Shortly after the statement was released, I discussed with the media that “while I appreciate the regents taking this issue seriously, as many Iowans have, I think that we still need to move this legislation forward to continue to dismantle these bureaucracies and make sure this taxpayer money is actually being used for the true benefit of students.”
Iowa’s public universities excel when they are focused on their mission to promote the search for truth and knowledge while maintaining academic freedom and integrity. Currently taxpayer funded DEI bureaucracies exist at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. These bureaucracies can be described, without exaggeration, as administratively enforced political activists teaching ideological conformity to left wing dogma. Employees and students are bombarded with a constant stream of ideological emails, trainings, and programming. Students are even required to take a certain amount of credits in DEI related courses to graduate. DEI teams intentionally move away from traditional values such as colorblindness, equality and merit.
The intent of HF 616 is easily understood if one imagines what the reaction would be if the opposite was happening. What if the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa all built internal bureaucracies funded with taxpayer dollars to teach conservative political values, enforce conservative political litmus tests for hiring, and publicly shamed students and faculty who violate conservative principles?
The answer is, of course, no. Iowans want their universities to be politically neutral in their pursuit of truth and knowledge.
DEI bureaucrats teach that society is divided into oppressors and oppressed along lines of identity groups like race, gender, sexuality, etc. Government and other institutions enforce this power dynamic. The oppressors, or those with privilege, are blind to these unjust systems of power and therefore need to defer to the lived experience of the oppressed, or marginalized, to dismantle these systems. DEI bureaucrats exist to do just that. They teach that the oppressive system can only be “fixed” by dismantling the institutions which wield this unjust power by making diversity, equity and inclusion a part of everything the institution does.
Here’s the catch – diversity, equity and inclusion do not mean the same thing to normal Iowans as it does to the DEI enforcement teams. A recent substack defined it this way:
“Diversity is not merely making sure that various viewpoints are represented. Equity is not making sure everyone is treated equally. Inclusion is not making sure that people are not unjustly excluded.”
Diversity has nothing to do with diversity of viewpoint, opinion or knowledge. It exclusively has to with diversity of race, gender and sexuality, etc. It does not seek a level playing field, it seeks to elevate a single point of view. That point of view, which it defines as the only correct point of view, is one held by people who are members of marginalized groups defined by race, gender, sexuality, etc. As long as those marginalized people adhere to a certain point of view.
Equity is not the same as equality. Equality means two people are treated equally regardless of race, gender, sexuality, etc. Equity means legally and socially adjusting outcomes so all people have the same outcomes regardless of hard work, intelligence, competence, adherence to laws, etc. That means certain identity groups, the oppressed, are given more privileges to enforce equity of outcome.
Inclusion does not mean a welcoming environment for everyone. It means a welcoming environment for certain identity groups and a hostile exclusionary environment for identity groups DEI bureaucrats label oppressors. In practice, this means DEI bureaucrats actively silence individuals, viewpoints and material that might support values such as merit, freedom of speech and colorblindness.
Why is this detrimental? DEI actively undermines merit and colorblindness. Individuals are not rewarded for hard work or accomplishment or knowledge. They are rewarded based on their identities.
Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist and co-author of The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting up a Generation for Failure. In a recent essay he points out an additional negative to DEI. He writes that the principles of DEI teach students to think with emotion instead of reason and logic. He notes that the culture of DEI encourages students, as noted in the March 14th New York Post, “to dwell on slights, engage in (literal) black and white thinking and prioritize their emotions. Instead of being taught to overcome traumatic experiences, negative thoughts and emotional instability, students are encouraged to dwell on them and even to base their identities on them.”
The article continues, “When victimhood is a source of prestige, there’s no incentive to get better. And when students are told their weaknesses provide an excuse to bully others, expect more bullying — and more weaknesses.”
While it is encouraging that the Board of Regents is admitting DEI is a problem on campus, it is not enough. House File 616 is just a first step towards dismantling divisive diversity, equity and inclusion bureaucracies which operate as ideological enforcement divisions on our university campuses.