Board of Regents pauses new DEI initiatives


Iowa State’s Campanile located on Central Campus.

The Iowa Board of Regents has paused all new diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at Iowa’s three public universities which Amy Erica Smith, an associate professor of political science at Iowa State, said could last through the end of the summer.

The Board’s President, Michael Richards, stated in a press release that the pause is to initiate a comprehensive study and review of DEI programs.

As the Director of DEI for Iowa State Student Government, Vaidehee Devendra Bahirat, a senior in industrial engineering, works with students and faculty to improve the success of multicultural students at Iowa State.

“Our work pretty much involves addressing student concerns and addressing those concerns with students and faculty and see how we can work with those to have a better life on campus,” Bahirat said.

Bahirat also said this sends a negative message to multicultural students at Iowa State.

“I feel like students will definitely be hesitant to be a part of the college in the first place, and secondly knowing that these resources will be paused in the future, I feel like they definitely impact students,” Bahirat said.

Smith said this is a response to actions taken by the legislature.

“There are some legislators [who are] skeptical of DEI work on the Iowa State campus,” Smith said. “A bill had been put forth in this legislative session that would have defunded DEI-related initiatives on campus. That bill did not make it onto the full floor in either chamber, so it was not passed.”

Contrarily, the senior communications director for the Board of Regents Josh Lehman, stated in an email with the Daily that the pause was to allow for a comprehensive look at current DEI initiatives without missing something new after the start of the study.

Lehman stated DEI are important issues that have been much discussed when asked if the pause was in response to actions taken by the legislature.

“The Board is engaged on it and wants to have a thorough understanding of DEI initiatives at the universities,” Lehman stated.

Regardless of the reasoning behind the pause, Bahirat said not having the support is unfair.

“Knowing that more resources are needed is very important, but because of this, I feel like resources will be taken away, and that’s definitely a stress for students– especially [those] who care about getting those resources,” Bahirat said. “I feel like in the upcoming years if this keeps going, the rate at which you see multicultural students increasing at Iowa State I feel like will definitely decrease.”

Smith guessed the pause would conclude at the end of this summer and believed the review would be positive.

“I suspect that the study will show that there is a lot of good and important DEI work happening at the Regent’s universities and that we are well recognized for caring about this work,” Smith said. “I think that, in general, they will find that the research and the initiatives are well done and are helping to promote the goals and interests of the university.”

Smith was unsure what the Board would do with the study’s conclusions.