University Of Wyoming Will Eliminate DEI Office, Keep Some Of Its Services

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees cut the school’s highly controversial office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion on Friday while still retaining some of its services, many of which they say predate the office by decades.

Leo Wolfson

May 10, 20247 min read

This sculpture titled "Breaking Through" is at the main entrance to the War Memorial Stadium parking lot on the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie.
This sculpture titled "Breaking Through" is at the main entrance to the War Memorial Stadium parking lot on the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie. (Chad Robertson via

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday to scrap the school’s highly contentious office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).

After an hours-long executive session Friday morning, the Trustees unanimously accepted the recommendations made by UW President Ed Seidel to cut the office, while still retaining some of its services that he believes the university has long offered and do not show preferential treatment. The trustees had indicated on Thursday that the executive session would cover personnel matters related to this topic.

The move comes after the Wyoming Legislature prohibited any state money be used to support the DEI office, which many supporters argued reflects the values of Wyoming residents. Gov. Mark Gordon supported the cut, but retained the right for the school to use state money on DEI related programming and activities, which weren’t mentioned in Friday’s discussion.

Seidel’s recommendations were based on the report of a working group the president assembled in March to study which direction the school should move on the office of DEI.

Seidel said he supports the definition of DEI as outlined in the working group report, which finds it to be preferential treatments based on someone’s personal characteristics.

“I think it’s a very thoughtful definition,” he said.

State Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, is chairman of the Wyoming Freedom Caucus, a group that vocally supported cutting the DEI office.

He said Friday’s decision is “certainly a move in the right direction. We’ll have to see how things look moving forward. The proof is in the pudding.”

State Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, who represents the UW campus in her district and vehemently opposed the directive passed in the budget, said she found it concerning that Seidel and trustees took the Legislature’s directive to heart.

“We have extreme-minded politicians in this state determined to use dishonest rhetoric to divide Wyoming families,” she said. “Instead of looking at how they can improve opportunities for students and the university, they are looking to shut down programs and make students not want to come here.”

What It Means

Seidel recommended closing the office and “reassigning” its personnel.

UW spokesperson Chad Baldwin said the two full-time positions in the DEI office are being eliminated along with the office, but he doesn’t anticipate any layoffs as there are other open positions at the university.

Zebadiah Hall, UW vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, did not immediately respond to a Cowboy State Daily request for comment.

These changes, Seidel said, would include the creation of a vice provost for faculty, student and staff access opportunity and well-being. All duties performed by the DEI would be “reassigned” to other offices, which will be overseen by this vice provost, who will also serve as a special advisor to Seidel.

Bear said he’ll wait and see how these changes play out to render an opinion about them.

The trustees also accepted Seidel’s recommendations for other DEI changes on campus. Many said they believe the school has long used aspects of DEI that don’t constitute preferential treatment, and that the university’s version of DEI doesn’t fit with the national narrative circling it.

Bear is skeptical of this as he believes many of the DEI concepts employed by the school originated from out-of-state.

“It’s the same policies,” he said.

Hiring Moves

On hiring and evaluation, Seidel recommends cutting a requirement that job candidates and employees issue a statement and be evaluated on their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“These actions reaffirm UW’s commitment to merit-based employment practices, including hiring and promotion,” Seidel said.

The working group determined that activities likely to be judged as objectionable are those that work to advantage or disadvantage individuals or groups on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity or sexual orientation, or equalize or increase outcomes as compared to other individuals or groups; or promote the position that the action of a group or an individual is inherently, unconsciously or implicitly biased, privileged or inherently superior or inferior on the basis of color, sex, national origin, gender identity or sexual orientation.

“While very few of our programs and activities can be construed as advocating or promoting preferential treatment, the working group did find some areas warranting further consideration,” Seidel said. “We will take a deeper look in these areas and consider additional changes.”

Specifically, Seidel wants to study admissions practices, DEI groups, hosting speakers, co-curricular identity based centers, the Inclusivity Pillar Report, recruitment and retention, scholarship awards and assistance, Strategic Plan 2023+, student support services, some summer institutes and programming, some student government structures on campus to make sure they promote merit-based evaluation rather than preferential treatment.

“I am committed to enhancing a campus community that promotes success for all and I encourage all of us to lean into this next chapter for our university,” he said.

Seidel clarified he’s deeply committed to academic and research freedom, compliance with federal laws (including the Americans with Disabilities Act), Native American affairs, Shepard Symposium on Social Justice and Wyoming Latina Youth Conference.


His recommendation also includes the working group’s suggestions for DEI exemptions on athletic compliance, academic freedom, nondiscrimination teaching federal requirements, compliance federal or state compliance, Pell Grant requirements, disabilities, private scholarships administered by an institution other than UW, student fees for student organizations, constitutionally protected speech or actions, and funds for any activity.

In cases where “preferential” programs are deemed essential, they will be continued with the support of private money.


A handful of the trustees expressed reluctant support for the proposed changes.

Trustee Brad Bonner supported Seidel’s recommendation, but said he only did so out of trust in the president and his personal support for equality.

Trustees Michelle Sullivan and Macey Moore said the board was put into an “impossible situation” with its DEI decision.

Moore also apologized to those who may be disappointed with the decision but said the move was “necessary,” and expressed hope that it could result in “beautiful outcomes.”

Sullivan stressed that she’s committed to equality, and although DEI may look different on the surface on campus, she believes no structural changes have been made.

“I want you to know you have my commitment to that,” she said to the audience.

Trustee Elizabeth Greenwood said she hopes the school can continue to treat its students fairly and believes it already did before the DEI office was created.

This was not the sentiment expressed by many people who spoke against the proposed changes Thursday, many of whom were alumni who said they experienced discrimination or disrespect on campus for their personal characteristics.

Provenza said the move will hinder UW’s recruitment efforts and thus cut Wyoming jobs down the road.

“It’s orchestrated outrage meant to inflict differences in public opinion,” she said.

She also mentioned how many historic practices that use elements of DEI were helpful in getting more women into the field of science and professorial roles at universities over the course of the 20th century.

Seidel said he’s had countless conversations with staff, students and members of the public about the topic and feels confident in his recommendations.

“I can feel confident that a recommendation has taken into account many many different points of view,” he said.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter