Education

University of Iowa has paid departed diversity head $145,000

TaJuan Wilson remains on payroll as he hunts for another job

TaJuan Wilson
TaJuan Wilson

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa has paid its resigned head of diversity, equity and inclusion nearly $145,000 in salary, travel, moving expenses, technology, and “fringe benefits” while he works off campus in a “special assignment” capacity and looks for another job.

Of the $144,812.92 UI has paid TaJuan Wilson through Nov. 6, according to data the university provided The Gazette in response to a public-records request, $75,600 is in salary — as Wilson, 33, retained his $224,000 vice president pay even after resigning Aug. 9, just six weeks into the job.

The university also has paid either Wilson or vendors on his behalf $8,494 for professional development and $31,164 for items listed as fringe benefits, including health insurance, dental coverage and retirement.

It has spent $3,492.46 on technology for Wilson — including new computer equipment — but the UI will keep that property once Wilson leaves, officials said. That will be no later than Jan. 31, per Wilson’s settlement agreement, which allows him until that date to work off site and look for another job “during working hours,” although he must be available for consultation “if needed.”

UI officials have not said from where Wilson is working on his special assignment, which involves researching, collecting, analyzing, organizing and disseminating back to UI administrators information on diversity strategies at other institutions and academic health centers.

A TaJuan Wilson Facebook page with his profile photo has him living in Camden, Ark., home to Southern Arkansas University Tech, where Wilson in October participated in an evening workshop, according to social media posts.

He has not responded to repeated outreach from The Gazette for comment.

In addition to researching and organizing data on diversity, equity and inclusion strategies at other institutions, Wilson has been charged with identifying success metrics for such strategies and reviewing literature on “messaging campaigns focused on ending sexual violence and sexual harassment.”

UI officials have said they’ll share Wilson’s presentations once submitted.

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The university also has paid Wilson $26,062 in moving expenses — slightly more than $25,000 afforded in his contract, which was supposed to be repaid if he left within the first year but was waived, per the settlement.

The $8,494 for professional development also is above the $7,500 UI offered in the settlement to attend professional development conferences while still a UI employee.

UI officials have not provided details of why Wilson resigned abruptly from a post that had been vacant two years and cost the university $103,592 in search consultant fees to fill.

Former diversity head Georgina Dodge left in 2017 for Pennsylvania’s Bucknell University, and her interim appointment Lena Hill left in May 2018 for Washington and Lee University. Outgoing Vice President of Student Life Melissa Shivers served a dual role as interim diversity head until Wilson’s hire.

Instead of immediately launching another search to replace Wilson, the university has announced a restructuring that has its diversity, equity and inclusion divisions reporting to Provost Montserrat Fuentes, who started the same day as Wilson.

In announcing his resignation in August, Wilson released a statement that called his decision to come to Iowa “a leap of faith for me personally and professionally.” The Arkansas native had been serving as assistant professor and executive director of Student Programs and Diversity at the Medical University of South Carolina.

“I have great respect for the university and the work being done in diversity, equity and inclusion and believe Iowa has the potential to be on the right path,” Wilson said. “This opportunity will be wonderful for the right person, but it is not the right fit for me at this time.”

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

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