Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Liz Tovar Standing

May is here, spring has sprung, and the end of the semester upon us! The Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is preparing to celebrate our student's accomplishments through the Center for Diversity and Enrichment Graduation on May 12. I hope everyone will attend virtually and if you know one of our award winners, drop them a note of congratulations!

We have talked a lot about H.F. 802 in the Iowa State Legislature. It is an essential piece of legislature for our campus to understand fully. Its goal is to protect our Freedom of Speech, and it details divisive topics we cannot mandate in our teaching and training. Mandating is the keyword. We can continue to discuss these topics in classrooms as they arise through our voluntary training, like the U.I. BUILD program and our Implicit Bias training. 

We are celebrating our Asian/Pacific American Heritage, our Older Americans, and is it is mental health awareness month. In March, we released a statement on anti-Asian harm and I encourage you to read them.  Also, please see the mental health resources we have for our students, faculty and staff.

Please look out for our neighbors. If we see something, it is our responsibility to say something.

After accepting the Executive Officer and Associate Vice President's role, I embarked on our "Journey to Unity" listening sessions to take our campus culture's temperature. Thank you to the over 80 students, faculty, and staff who participated in one of the 12 hourlong sessions over the past two months. I promised everyone in these sessions we would find common themes to address our issues. We have found the following common themes to develop action items:

  • Expand the training of free speech and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) understanding 
  • Strengthen Accountability in upholding institutional values
  • Increase listening in the campus community and tell Iowa's DEI stories
  • Expand campus leadership DEI engagement and commitment to growth
  • Actively build the Iowa City community as welcoming for all

We will announce each area's details soon, but I want to focus on an aspect we have already acted on. One consistent theme in Accountability revealed our need to improve our reporting, response, and support for campus civil rights, Title IX, and equity issues. Last week, we formed the new Office of Institutional Equity to centralize reporting, investigation, and support services for all civil rights. Title IX and equity issues under the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

This new office will incorporate the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, the Office of Sexual Misconduct Response Coordinator, and portions of the Division of Student Life related to complaints and investigations. The university will transition to having one centralized complaint investigative team and will coordinate intake and record keeping.

We will build the new unit throughout the spring and summer 2021 semesters, and the reorganization will be complete in August 2021. Stay tuned as additional announcements will be forthcoming.

Finally, congratulations to Iowa's 22nd President, Barbara Wilson. I had the honor to serve on the Presidential Search Committee and could not be more excited for her leadership, especially in her work in DEI and Communications.

Good luck with your finals! Let's finish out this semester strong, and as always, please feel free to reach out to me to ask questions or just talk.

Go Hawks!


Liz Tovar
executive officer and associate vice president

Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion