University of Minnesota Regent Steve Sviggum stepped down Tuesday as vice chair of the board that oversees the statewide system amid growing outrage over his question about whether the U's Morris campus is "too diverse."

Sviggum plans to continue as a regent until his term expires, which will occur when the Legislature holds its regent election during its 2023 session, according to a statement from the University of Minnesota.

In a letter to Chair Ken Powell, Sviggum said that after the two met Saturday morning, he came to the "realization" that he should resign from leadership.

"I owe that position to my colleagues who have shown disapproval in my actions," he wrote. "I do so humbly and thoughtfully, with knowledge that the success of the University of Minnesota is the most important focus and is much more important than any one person or position."

The decision isn't enough for the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID) group, whose chairman, Joe Hobot, pledged to push for Sviggum's resignation and for university administrators to speak up for students.

"We are far more sophisticated and far more educated and far more willful than he understands," Hobot said of the 25 member organizations in MUID.

"We will stand up and defend our people, particularly these young people," Hobot said, adding Sviggum's "time is up."

Sviggum's decision came Tuesday morning as outrage and outside pressure continued to increase over comments he made almost two weeks ago at a public regents meeting. In talking about declining enrollment at the Morris campus, Sviggum asked acting Chancellor Janet Schrunk Ericksen whether from a marketing standpoint the campus was "too diverse."

Late Monday, the Morris Campus Student Association voted 15-1 to call for Sviggum to step down as vice chair. The group's statement cited Sviggum's "failure to stand for the institutional values of diversity and equity."

Regents James Farnsworth and Mike Kenyanya said this was the right move for Sviggum. For much of the past week, both said they'd been in private discussions with others about Sviggum's future as a leader on the board.

Farnsworth said he had supported Sviggum's departure from leadership because as vice chair he helped "set the tone" for the entire system.

Regents do not have the ability to remove each other from the board. Farnsworth said, "What we can do is say, 'This person's values are not in line'" with the system.

Sviggum apologized last week, but he didn't back away in follow-up interviews. Then he forwarded to fellow regents a letter from a parent who urged him to stay the course.

"It became very clear, very quickly that Steve was not sorry," Farnsworth said.

In a note to his colleagues on the board, Sviggum began by writing, "Not to double down, and certainly not to back off my apology."

A message from Sviggum.

After seeing that letter, Kenyanya said he believed the former vice chair's apology to be "insincere."

In the letter to Sviggum, a parent wrote that marketing for the Morris campus was all about "diversity." The unidentified parent ended the letter by saying, "You're on the right track. Please don't back down. We're with you."

Letter from a parent.

Former regent Michael Hsu, who called for Sviggum's resignation from the board last week, called the stepping down "good start." But Hsu said the next vice chair of the board "has to be a person of color."

On Monday, Melanie Benjamin, chair of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, sent a letter to all the regents saying Sviggum needed to step down from his leadership position, calling his question about diversity "inherently racist."

"If the presence of my granddaughter and other American Indian students and students of color were an actual factor in declining enrollment of white students, which I seriously doubt, wouldn't the real problem that needs addressing be white racism among high school students, versus blaming our students for bringing 'too much diversity'?" she wrote.

The Morris campus, which has a notorious history as an American Indian boarding school, now has 1,068 students and is 54% white. The campus sits on land originally occupied by the Anishinaabe and Lakota people. As a condition of turning over the land to the state, it was stipulated that American Indian students could attend tuition-free, and that remains the case.

Hobot's group sent a letter last Friday that publicly called for Sviggum's resignation. Now he also wants to hear from U administrators.

"Do they not feel any responsibility for these comments that were so hurtful, so impactful? Right now, their silence speaks louder than anything else," Hobot said.

Last week, Sviggum, a former state commissioner and Republican Speaker of the Minnesota State House of Representatives, said he would not resign from the board. He did not respond to phone calls Tuesday.

This isn't the first time Sviggum has been in the news for a resignation related to his position on the regents.

In March 2012, Sviggum choked up when he resigned from the board over conflict-of-interest concerns about his job with state Senate Republicans.

"This hurts bad," he said at the time. "But for the good of all of us, for the good of the university, I will again — again — leave something that I love."

He was reappointed to the board by legislators in 2017.