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Iowa Seeking to Ban Woke Diversity Offices in Higher Education

An Iowa House bill is looking to prevent diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices at public higher education institutions, which the bill’s supporters claim is necessary for boosting academic excellence.

House File 616 prohibits a public institution of higher education from expending funds appropriated by the general assembly or any other funds to “establish, sustain, support, or staff” a DEI office or to “contract, employ, engage, or hire an individual” to serve as a DEI officer.

However, the bill does not apply to courses, or research done by an institution’s students or faculties, and guest speakers on these topics. DEI policies, training, and practices that are required “pursuant to a contract or agreement with a federal government entity” are also exempt from the bill’s purview.

“It’s happening—we will dismantle the DEI bureaucracy and return Iowa’s higher education institutions’ focus back to academic excellence,” Rep. Taylor Collins, a Republican, said in a Feb. 28 tweet. The bill was passed by the House Education Committee on March 1.

Supporters of DEI policies on educational institutions insist that these efforts promote equity of race and gender, making campuses more inclusive of various beliefs and identities.

However, DEI opponents point out that the policies end up favoring people from certain demographics while having a negative effect on those who do not belong to these groups—essentially being exclusive of specific demographics.

For instance, a complaint filed against Texas A&M University by a professor had claimed that the university’s DEI policies prevented him from fairly competing for open positions. The institution had tagged white and Asian men as “inferior faculty candidates.”

Texas A&M recently announced ending DEI considerations when hiring students or faculty members. “No university or agency in the A&M System will admit any student, nor hire any employee based on any factor other than merit,” Chancellor John Sharp said in a March 2 news release.

Action Against Violating Institutions

House File 616 also bans higher education institutions from expending funds appropriated by the general assembly for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Funds can only be expended when it provides the state board of regents a report disclosing the steps it has taken to comply with the bill’s prohibition on DEI offices and officers.

In case an institution is found violating the provisions of the bill, the attorney general is empowered to bring an action against the entity seeking to force the institution to comply with the regulations.

A student, alumnus, or faculty member of a higher education institution alleging violation of the bill’s provisions will be able to bring a civil action for injunctive relief against the entity.

The bill will also force institutions that received funds from the general assembly for DEI policies in fiscal year 2022-23 to expend the unexpended funds on merit scholarships for middle-income and lower-income students.

Cracking Down On DEI

Like Iowa, multiple other states are cracking down on the imposition of DEI policies at higher education institutions.

On Jan. 31, Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed to eliminate all funding for DEI and Critical Race Theory (CRT) throughout the state. DeSantis also seeks to ban campus hiring committees from using DEI oaths certifying that candidates will follow such ideologies.

Last month, Texas’s Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s office warned in a letter to public university leaders and state agencies that hiring on any criteria other than merit is against the law.

In a statement to The Epoch Times, Renae Eze, spokesperson for Abbott, said that the letter was a reminder that “state agencies and public universities must follow federal and state law in their hiring practices. Both federal and state law make equity quotas illegal.”

“Equity is not equality. Here in Texas, we give people a chance to advance based on talent and merit. Aspiring to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream, we should not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character,” Eze said.

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