Barriers to inclusion in higher education extend far beyond one assistant coach, the Hawkeye football team and the University of Iowa campus.
This week, UI released a “separation agreement” between the institution and outgoing football strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, who has been accused by former athletes of making racist comments toward black students.
Doyle’s departure is in the program’s best interest, but the terms of the agreement left Iowans angry, with Doyle getting $1.1 million from the deal while other leaders still refuse to take responsibility for their parts. Predictably, officials won’t be taking any more questions on the topic at this time.
This is not the end of the Doyle fallout. It’s barely the beginning.
The country is in a historic moment for racial justice, and young men recently taking to Twitter to call out mistreatment in the UI football program provided a wake-up call to many Iowans. But the plight of black and brown people — and women, LGBTQ people and other vulnerable communities — on Iowa’s college campuses was apparent long before this month.
Last year, two black administrators left after relatively short stints at UI. Melissa Shivers, vice president for student life with a focus on diversity programs, served about two years. TaJuan Wilson, chief diversity officer, announced his resignation after just six weeks.
An institution like the UI is certainly bigger than any one person. But implementing a culture takes years, with consistent leadership across the board. Turnover in these key roles makes building and implementing strategies and plans more challenging.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Before that, there were gender and sexual orientation discrimination lawsuits that cost UI $6.5 million in 2017 over two women, Jane Meyer and Tracey Griesbaum, who were fired from their jobs as associate athletics director and field hockey coach.
Both UI and Iowa State University have seen numerous cases of racist graffiti in recent years, and students of color have criticized the institutions’ responses to those incidents. University of Northern Iowa students staged a #UNIisNotAnAlly social media campaign last year to highlight prejudice they face, and UI students had a similar #doesUIowaLoveMe hashtag.
The problems on our public campuses have been obvious for anyone willing to listen.
Many people have been listening. The university is home to thousands of students, staff and faculty who value social justice and are working toward it. The UI Center for Human Rights and the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are examples.
But the instinct for top university administrators is to keep quiet. They are not answering questions about Doyle’s departure, and UI President Bruce Harreld has shown little leadership on the subject.
An independent investigation is underway, we are assured, though that rarely has been effective. An independent report about the Meyer-Griesbaum firings found no inequitable treatment, but the report did not include crucial personnel files that were supposed to be reviewed.
Universities cannot ignore this problem until it goes away. The first step toward progress must be for UI officials to quit their no-comment habit.
(319) 398-8262; firstname.lastname@example.org