Joint open letter to President Harreld on Responsibility and Leadership

Monday, July 13, 2020

To: Bruce Harreld, President, University of Iowa

From: The Diversity Councils of the University of Iowa

 

JOINT OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT HARRELD: ON RESPONSIBILITY AND LEADERSHIP

 

Dear President Harreld,

 

The Diversity Councils fully support the Black Lives Matter movement and the UIowa students, staff, and faculty who give their faith, energy, and even safety to fight for social justice. We are severely disappointed and frustrated by the University of Iowa’s lack of meaningful response to the police brutality, protests, and calls from students, staff, and faculty to implement change for equity. Faculty, staff, and especially students perceive you and many other University leaders to be oblivious to the intense fear, struggle, and trauma that permeates the University of Iowa community each day. 

When it comes to social justice and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion commitments, the trust between students, staff, and faculty and the top administration at the University of Iowa has been decimated. Students in particular are traumatizedtired, and targeted. If the University truly seeks the inclusive and just future it claims to champion, our community needs to see personal, genuine commitment, and concrete, sustained action for equity. A new trust must be forged from this brokenness, and the Diversity Councils are ready and willing to be a resource for doing so.

To this end, we reiterate the question that the administrators of the Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate and Professional Student Government offered you at the beginning of June 2020: “How have not only the University of Iowa, but you yourself, contributed to the policing of lives, education, and voices of Black students on our campus?” Furthermore, we ask: How are you stepping into allyship right now? 

In the message that you and Provost Fuentes published on May 31, 2020 in response to George Floyd’s murder and the ensuing protests against the police brutality, you said that “[e]ach of us must lead change within our individual communities to actively disrupt racism (interpersonal, systemic, and societal).” It is your responsibility not only to enact this leadership that you explicitly call for, but also make it legible and relatable to the multiple individual communities of which you are a part as the president of University of Iowa, foremost being Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students. 

Importantly, you are also responsible for leading your administration both interpersonally and by example. When you do not assume this leadership, you promote dismissive attitudes such as was displayed by Dean Goddard in his comments to at-risk faculty and staff and faculty women of color at his June 1, 2020, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Town Hall. As the leader of CLAS, Dean Goddard is clearly insensitive to equity and antiracism, but his public fumble also showcases how ill-equipped top administrators are as a team. We need informed collaborative interaction by top administrators -- and this, too, is your responsibility to implement.

Based on our experiences, expertise, and extensive campus conversations in recent weeks, we strongly urge you to take action on the following items: 

  1. Without defense or citing a list of well-intended actions/policies that your administration is implementing, personally respond to BIPOC students and their allies who have voiced their frustrations and fears to you. If their address is public, your response should be public. Accountability, transparency, and honesty are requisite to building trust. 

For example, these are some student organizations’ concerns that we are aware of: 

  • Defund and cut ties with Iowa City Police Department and Iowa State Patrol
  • Provide more real time information regarding COVID-19 and how that impacts students and student workers
  • Make public a concrete plan for remote and in-person learning
  • Take measures to care for Black and POC student athletes 
  • More transparency of senior leadership’s approach to deconstruct systemic racism
  • Create an actionable plan to ensure the safety of BIPOC students, staff, and faculty, including addressing white supremacist threats
  • Clearly state the measures, programing, and compensation being offered to support BIPOC students, staff, and faculty who are continuously taxed
  • Support and protect International students from the ICE SEVP 6 July 2020 mandate 
  1. The immediate appointment of an Interim Assistant Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion who is an existing UIowa employee, knows the culture and structure of the institution, and has built deep trust with BIPOC students and departments/units across campus. In addition, this position should be in the president's cabinet and report directly to you. The immediate need for clear and strong DEI leadership cannot be denied or put on hold any longer. 
  2. Utilize the Diversity Councils’ standing in Shared Governance and actually include us in the decision-making processes that guide the institution. To wit, the updated Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan mentions the Diversity Councils in numerous “completed,” “completed and ongoing,” and “in progress” actions, yet it is unclear how or that these steps have been engaged. Meet with us, listen to our insight, and tell us what you need. Diversity Council Leadership meets face-to-face quarterly; we will continue to hold a place for you and your administration to join us.

We offer our full-hearted support in turning these plans into action. The Diversity Councils’ coalition commits to continued collaboration and transparency as we work for equity. We proudly represent and advocate for hundreds of UIowa community members. We understand and embody the complexities and intersections of race, gender, culture, ability, religion, sexual orientation, immigration experience, and other social identities. Critically, we also know how race permeates through these differences. We offer our expertise and strengths to you and senior administration as willing partners in working to heal the deep wounds of mistrust, fear, and trauma in our communities. 

 

With sincerity and great expectations,

The Diversity Councils of the University of Iowa

African American Council

Council on Disability Awareness

Council on the Status of Women

Latinx Council

LGBTQ+ Council

Native American Council

Pan Asian Council
 

CC: Gary Barta, director of athletics 

Daniel Clay, dean of the College of Education 

John Culshaw, Jack B. King university librarian 

Tiffini Stevenson Earl, associate director and ADA coordinator, Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity; AVP DEI Incoming Co-chair

Steve Fleagle, associate vice president and chief information officer 

Montse Fuentes, executive vice president and provost

Brent Gage, associate vice president for enrollment management 

Russell Ganim, associate provost and dean of International Programs, AVP DEI Co-chair 

Steve Goddard, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Sarah Hansen, vice president for student life

Brooks Jackson, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine 

David Johnsen, dean of the College of Dentistry 

John Keller, associate provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate College 

Amy Kristof-Brown, interim dean of the Henry B. Tippie College of Business 

Rod Lehnertz, senior vice president for finance and operations 

Donald Letendre, dean of the College of Pharmacy 

Peter Matthes, vice president for external relations 

Bria Marcelo, director, diversity resources and strategic initiatives

Jennifer Modestou, director, equal opportunity and diversity, deputy title IX coordinator

Harriet Nembhard, dean of the College of Engineering 

Edith Parker, dean of the College of Public Health 

Nadine Petty, executive director, Center for Diversity and Enrichment; AVP DEI co-chair

Angie Reams, associate vice president of student life and dean of students

Cheryl Reardon, chief human resources officer and associate vice president; Path Forward DEI Work Group co-chair

Carroll Reasoner, vice president for legal affairs and general counsel

Martin Scholtz, vice president for research

Tanya Uden-Holman, associate provost for undergraduate education and dean of the University College 

Kevin Washburn, dean of the College of Law 

Julie Zerwic, dean of College of Nursing; Path Forward DEI Work Group co-chair

 

** This open letter is written, delivered, and published jointly by all the Diversity Councils. Our coalition is rooted through collaboration and communal, horizontal leadership. As such, this letter stands on its own: we have no spokespeople for the document and we will not be doing individual interviews with the press. Because of our commitment to open dialogue and transparency, we will post relevant communication from the letter recipients as well as our own replies or follow-ups that we may subsequently write. All inquiries can be directed to Diversity-Councils@uiowa.edu **

Monday, July 13, 2020

Re: Open letter from Diversity Councils

Diversity Councils,

Thank you for the thoughtful letter.  I'd be glad to meet and listen to your concerns in more detail.

Whom should I engage with to schedule an initial session?  To be an inclusive as possible, I will include all the recipients you cc'd on this email as well as representatives of UISG, GPSG, Staff Council, and Faculty Senate (all copied here).  Whom else would you like in attendance?

Best,

Bruce

 

Bruce Harreld

University of Iowa

319-335-3549

bruce-harreld@uiowa.edu

Friday, July 17, 2020

To: Bruce Harreld, President, University of Iowa

From: The Diversity Councils of the University of Iowa

 

Dear President Harreld,


Thank you for receiving our letter and your willingness to engage with us in regard to the concerns elevated therein. While we appreciate the prompt offer of a meeting in the spirit of shared governance, we'd encourage you to closely re-read the letter (including the hyperlinked testimonials), noting the order of our requests: we intentionally put the asks of others before our own.

Our collective constituencies — especially BIPOC students — are hurting, and perceive you, personally, to be absent in this moment. When invited to listening posts by other administrators, they find their concerns ignored, dismissed, or explained away. To best move forward, and as a gesture of good faith in undertaking this work, we would like you, personally and in writing, to first address these primary concerns and recommendations:

  1. How have not only the University of Iowa, but you yourself, contributed to the policing of lives, education, and voices of Black students on our campus? How are you stepping into allyship right now?
  2. Personally respond to BIPOC students and their allies who have voiced their fears and frustrations to you. In sharing their experiences again and again, they have been forced into a place of profound vulnerability. They deserve to know what is in your head and your heart.
  3. Immediately appoint an Interim Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Especially in light of the expedient appointments of an interim Provost and previously, an interim Vice President for Student Life, that this position has gone unfilled for nearly a year is unacceptable. The individual should be an existing University of Iowa employee who knows the culture and structure of the institution, and has built deep trust with BIPOC students as well as departments across campus. The position should be on the president's cabinet and report directly to you.

As you have stated in past public forums, an executive is uniquely positioned to set expectations and communicate institutional values, both explicitly and implicitly. Their actions and behaviors telegraph the institution's priorities to all its members, thus, our addressing this letter specifically to you, and our expectation of a personal response. As you lead in this space, your subordinates will follow.

The joint leadership of the Diversity Councils have a standing quarterly meeting, the next of which will be held in two weeks time on July 31st, 2020.

If you can respond to the above requests by July 29th, we would be happy to engage with you in productive dialog then and there.

While this work can be difficult and uncomfortable, to quote University of Iowa alum and Rhodes scholar Austin Hughes (whose letter we referenced in our own), to not engage with the work would be yet another example of our institution "[passing] up the opportunity to live by the values [we] claim to possess."

 

Sincerely,

The Diversity Councils of the University of Iowa

African American Council

Council on Disability Awareness

Council on the Status of Women

Latinx Council

LGBTQ+ Council

Native American Council

Pan Asian Council
 

CC: Gary Barta, director of athletics 

Daniel Clay, dean of the College of Education 

John Culshaw, Jack B. King university librarian 

Tiffini Stevenson Earl, associate director and ADA coordinator, Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity; AVP DEI Incoming Co-chair

Steve Fleagle, associate vice president and chief information officer 

Montse Fuentes, executive vice president and provost

Brent Gage, associate vice president for enrollment management 

Russell Ganim, associate provost and dean of International Programs, AVP DEI Co-chair 

Steve Goddard, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Sarah Hansen, vice president for student life

Brooks Jackson, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine 

David Johnsen, dean of the College of Dentistry 

John Keller, associate provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate College 

Amy Kristof-Brown, interim dean of the Henry B. Tippie College of Business 

Rod Lehnertz, senior vice president for finance and operations 

Donald Letendre, dean of the College of Pharmacy 

Peter Matthes, vice president for external relations 

Bria Marcelo, director, diversity resources and strategic initiatives

Jennifer Modestou, director, equal opportunity and diversity, deputy title IX coordinator

Harriet Nembhard, dean of the College of Engineering 

Edith Parker, dean of the College of Public Health 

Nadine Petty, executive director, Center for Diversity and Enrichment; AVP DEI co-chair

Angie Reams, associate vice president of student life and dean of students

Cheryl Reardon, chief human resources officer and associate vice president; Path Forward DEI Work Group co-chair

Carroll Reasoner, vice president for legal affairs and general counsel

Martin Scholtz, vice president for research

Tanya Uden-Holman, associate provost for undergraduate education and dean of the University College 

Kevin Washburn, dean of the College of Law 

Julie Zerwic, dean of College of Nursing; Path Forward DEI Work Group co-chair

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

To: Bruce Harreld, President, University of Iowa

From: The Diversity Councils of the University of Iowa

 

Dear President Harreld,

 

We were glad to see you personally address the status of the AVP for DEI search and announce that there will be an Interim AVP appointed soon in last Thursday’s Iowa Now. Your update helped us perceive and appreciate the nuances and complexities that we will all be bringing to the table at our eventual face-to-face meeting. 

To that end, we would like to propose a new strategy for our anticipated upcoming meeting: given the increasingly unsteady ground on which our units, members, and constituents are trying to balance—and the very real hurt and anxiety that manifests from that precarity—we request that our meeting be hosted by a pair of outside facilitators -- ideally one White male and one BIPOC person. These facilitators could help ensure equitable discussion and honest engagement by all parties. Centering our conversation around communal healing and deep accountability has always been our priority. Professional outside facilitators could help us all focus on that goal. 

Logistically, we wonder if it would be possible to leverage the fall 2020 contract that central administration already has set up with the USC Equity Institute and request that an additional session be added wherein we get a pair of facilitators to guide our meeting. Is this something you would consider?  If we all choose to pursue this route of facilitation, then we would probably need to postpone our meeting by a week or two, into the first couple of weeks of August. Though that timing may be tough, the Diversity Councils believe this calendar adjustment would be worthwhile as we would be setting up all parties to be in successful and meaningful dialogue together.

Another logistical detail to think through concerns the attendance roster of our meeting. We would welcome anyone from our CC’d list to observe and listen to our conversation, but we request that we share interactive space with you and a select few senior administrators. Likewise, we recognize there are seven Diversity Councils, and we would limit each council to two representatives for purposes of equity. Would this structure work for you? 

We hope that you will consider our proposal and support our efforts in promoting thoughtful, constructive, and healing conversation together. 

 

Sincerely, 

The Diversity Councils of the University of Iowa

Native American Council

Pan Asian Council

Latinx Council

African American Council

LGBTQ+ Council

Council on Disability Awareness

Council on the Status of Women