Education

University of Iowa diversity training review nears its end

Update comes amid nullified search for diversity head

The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top l
The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph. (The Gazette/file photo)

IOWA CITY — After by temporarily pausing all diversity and inclusion training earlier this month in light of a White House executive order, the University of Iowa is making progress on its review of materials and concepts that could be in violation and has some of its courses back online.

UI supervisor training is up and running again, according to a Thursday update from the UI Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The university’s harassment prevention training was to be back online by Friday — with the remaining review scheduled to wrap by Monday.

The progress report came the same day UI Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion made news again for the administrative decision to end its monthslong search for a new associate vice president of that division after several candidates withdrew or said they probably would — in light of UI President Bruce Harreld’s recent retirement announcement.

The progress report came the day after the campus issued a vague report about “potentially offensive chalking written on the T. Anne Cleary walkway” — a major pedestrian thoroughfare on the east side of campus.

“This chalking does not represent the views of the University of Iowa and is not aligned with our institutional values,” according to the Wednesday message. “The University of Iowa will not tolerate anything but an inclusive campus for people of all backgrounds.”

Although the message didn’t elaborate on the potentially offensive chalking, it acknowledged that tensions are high right now, “and that people have the right to share their opinions.”

“But we also acknowledge that some opinions are more harmful than others,” according to the message. “We remain committed to having dialogues and engaging in civil discourse about potentially controversial opinions while being respectful of all in our community.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Language and discourse come into play in the White House executive order that precipitated the university’s decision to pause diversity, equity, and inclusion training and programming pending a two-week review.

The order, which campus administrators have condemned, bars among other things — trainings involving sex or race “stereotyping” or “scapegoating.”

In Thursday’s campus update on the review, UI officials reiterated, “We recognize that many members of campus continue to experience a profound degree of hurt, frustration, and anger following the announcement of the executive order on Sept. 22.”

“We stand with you, and will work to ensure that our values remain unchanged, including but not limited to the importance of exchanging diverse ideas and concepts; embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into the core fabric of our institution; and providing a welcoming environment where perspectives can be shared without fear of retribution,” according to the UI update.

As part of progress the review committee has made in assessing campus trainings — primarily for employees — that “present policies, practices, or guidelines to which the attendees must adhere as part of their employment responsibilities,” the group has composed a disclaimer that can be used.

It states, “The university provides this training in support of its core values. No part of the training is intended to cause anyone discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of their race, sex, or any other protected classification.”

In further reviewing the executive order, the UI team determined it applies largely to employment training but does not prohibit discussing “as part of a larger course of academic instruction” the divisive concepts it cites.

“We do not believe that university-sponsored or promoted events/resources that are voluntary, and intended for personal or professional development, are a part of the executive order,” according to the update. “Additionally, conversations that may arise spontaneously and are not organized by the institution are not prohibited.”

The review focused on training and related materials tied in some way to federal funding. And it scanned for concepts explicitly prohibited by the order, including:

“race or sex stereotyping” — when character traits, values, morals, ethics, privileges, status, or beliefs are ascribed to a race or sex because of a person’s race or sex;

Or ‘‘race or sex scapegoating’’ — when fault, blame, or bias is assigned to a race or sex because of a person’s race or sex.

The order also bars concepts like:

Members of a race or sex are inherently racist or sexist or inclined to oppress others;

One race or sex is inherently superior to another;

Individuals should receive adverse treatment because of race or sex;

One race or sex can’t and shouldn’t try to treat others “without respect to race or sex;”

Someone’s moral character is determined by race or sex;

A person, by virtue of race or sex, is responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;

A person should feel guilty or distressed because of their race or sex;

Or traits like hard work ethic are racist or sexist.

As the university nears the end of its review, officials said, “It is critical that our campus community stay informed about the progress we are making, and provide guidance as we move forward.”

Regarding leadership of its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Division — with the university’s search for a new associate vice president now over, continuing a three-year cycle of turnover and temporary leadership atop the division — Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Kevin Kregel said the campus will “move forward” under the strong interim leadership of Liz Tovar.

When asked whether UI will restart a search at some point, or whether Tovar will become permanent associate vice president, UI officials repeated Kregel’s statement that the university will move forward under the “strong interim” leadership of Tovar, who continues to serve in her previous post as associate athletics director for academic student services.

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

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.