Education

University of Iowa will not make short-lived diversity head pay back $25,000 moving expenses

TaJuan Wilson
TaJuan Wilson

The University of Iowa is not making its short-lived former head of diversity, equity and inclusion repay the $25,000 it gave him to relocate this summer from South Carolina — something it stipulated would be required if he left within his first year on the job.

“The university agreed to waive the repayment of moving expenses,” UI spokeswoman Anne Bassett told The Gazette when asked about the mandate in TaJuan Wilson’s offer letter stipulating, “If you leave within the first year of employment you must repay 100 percent of the $25,000 transition allowance.”

The university on Thursday announced Wilson, 33, had decided to resign from his high-profile post as associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion seven weeks after starting June 28.

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IOWA CITY - Just seven weeks after starting as the University of Iowa's long-sought associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion - a high-profile post guiding what UI touts as a top priority - TaJuan Wilson 'has chosen to resign' and take a temporary job elsewhere on campus while he hunts for a job.

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In a statement, Wilson said he has “great respect” for the university and the work being done in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion. He said he thinks “Iowa has the potential to be on the right path.”

“This opportunity will be wonderful for the right person, but it is not the right fit for me at this time,” Wilson said in the statement.

In departing the post, Wilson is not immediately leaving the university.

“As Wilson pursues a new opportunity, he will spend the next five-and-one-half months working with the vice president for external relations, Peter Matthes, on initiatives that support the university’s work to become a more inclusive and equitable campus,” according to the UI Office of Strategic Communications.

UI officials did not provide more details about what Wilson will be doing over the next five months, why the university chose the five-month time period for the interim position and whether he’s pursuing new opportunities on or off campus.

He’ll continue earning his $224,000 salary in his new stint.

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Through his seven weeks on the job, UI paid $27,664 to Wilson — whose hire capped a yearslong search launched after former diversity head Georgina Dodge left for a similar job at Pennsylvania’s Bucknell University in 2017. Dodge since has jumped to the University of Maryland, where she’s vice president of diversity and inclusion.

Two interims served in her stead, including Lena Hill, who left the UI in May 2018 to become dean of the college at Washington and Lee University in Virginia.

UI Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers stepped in for Hill and served in a dual role for more than a year before UI President Bruce Harreld hired Wilson from the Medical University of South Carolina, where he was assistant professor and executive director of student programs and diversity.

For its help advertising, recruiting and whittling down a national pool of candidates for the job, consultant Isaacson-Miller was paid $103,592 — which includes $21,593 for travel and advertising expenses.

An agreement stipulated that if a UI hire evaluated and recommended by Isaacson-Miller left for any reason except death or disability within a year, the firm would reopen the search for no additional fee — so long as the search starts within three months.

UI officials said they don’t yet know whether Wilson’s resignation counts as leaving and whether the firm will initiate another search without fee.

For now, the directors of Iowa’s Center for Diversity and Enrichment, Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, and Diversity Resources will lead the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Those three units will report directly to new Executive Vice President and Provost Montse Fuentes — signifying a change in the reporting structure.

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

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