Education

University of Iowa president to appoint interim head of diversity

Bruce Harreld acknowledges 'racial injustice at our university'

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld listens in January 2020 as the new Department of Psychological and Brain Scie
University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld listens in January 2020 as the new Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences building is dedicated on the UI campus in Iowa City. Harreld on Thursday said he would appoint an interim director to guide diversity, inclusion and equity efforts on campus. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld said on Thursday he intends to appoint — within two weeks — an interim associate vice president to guide the UI’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

He said in a message to campus that he wants to make the appointment quickly “in order to have someone commit 100 percent of their time to leading our campus efforts.”

The campus has been without a diversity director since last August when TaJuan Wilson resigned after seven weeks on the job.

Harreld in his message acknowledged his role in system failures across campus but said, “We must move forward with our search.”

Harreld solicited suggestions on who he should appoint to the interim position — directing comments toward the search committee looking for a permanent director.

Harreld went on to address larger system issues facing the campus.

“The history of racial injustice at our university is complicated and replete with failures that we must acknowledge and for which we must take responsibility,” Harreld wrote.

“Unfair hurdles that continue to exist for our students, faculty and staff from underrepresented communities are numerous.”

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“We all must recognize and address our individual role in perpetuating these institutional barriers — and as the president of the University of Iowa, I know that starts with me,” he wrote. “We cannot change our history, but we can recognize and take responsibility for it. And we can change both our present and future in a deliberate fashion that will forever reshape our community.”

He pointed to “listening, dialogue and action taken hand in hand — day after day, year after year” as the vehicle to lasting change.

“As members of an institution of higher learning, we seek the truth,” he wrote. “And if the truth is that we are responsible for injustice, we must work to correct it.”

Harreld’s announcement came a week after the UI Provost Montserrat Fuentes resigned her post to become a special assistant to Harreld through June 30 of next year.

Harreld appointed Kevin Kregel, executive vice provost and senior associate provost for faculty, as interim provost for at least two years.

In the past, the head of campus diversity, equity and inclusion has reported to the provost, but Wilson, in a final report to campus, suggested the job should instead report to the president.

Harreld said the new interim diversity director will temporarily report to him.

“Any change in this position reporting to the president instead of the provost would require us to restart the search” for a permanent director, Harreld wrote. “This type of delay was not acceptable to the members of our community on the search committee, and I agree with them.”

Fuentes had assumed oversight of the campus’ diversity efforts after the resignation of Wilson, who had been appointed after a string of interim diversity leaders.

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Wilson’s final report on diversity efforts across peer institutions included a list of questions for the UI — including “Is diversity reflected at the senior leaders table?”

He also asked, “Will the future leader be organizationally aligned as a direct report to the university president?”

Wilson is Black, and Fuentes is from Spain.

UI officials have not disclosed the details of why Fuentes and Wilson left their jobs.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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