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UW Board of Regents to take second vote on DEI, funding deal

The deal with Wisconsin Republican leaders in the state legislature will be voted on again after narrowly failing in a vote Saturday.

UW Board of Regents to take second vote on DEI, funding deal

Source: Universities of Wisconsin

December 12, 2023 7:10 PM CDT
By: Jimmie Kaska

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MADISON, Wis. – The Universities of Wisconsin Board of Regents will vote Wednesday for a second time on a deal negotiated with Republican leaders in the state legislature that would trade cuts to diversity, equity and inclusion programs in exchange for funding for capital projects and pay raises for UW employees.

The Board of Regents will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday to re-consider the proposal after it was voted down 9-8 in a special session on Saturday.

The deal would release funding for a 6% increase in wages for employees in the UW System that was approved in this year’s biennial budget. It would also provide money for building projects at multiple campuses, including a new engineering building for UW-Madison.

In return, the UW System would reassign a third of employees currently working in DEI, freeze DEI positions through 2026, and eliminate a program that promotes diversity in its faculty. Additionally, the UW System would have to create a position for conservative political thought, classical economic theory or classical liberalism.

Republican leaders in both houses of Wisconsin’s legislature said that this was the final offer in the negotiations. UW System President Jay Rothman supports the deal he helped negotiate.

In a statement, Gov. Tony Evers said that he’s disappointed in the decision to reconsider the deal.

“The Board of Regents should be able to make decisions about what’s best for our students, faculty, staff, and, ultimately, what’s best for the University of Wisconsin System without fear of threats and political pressure or retribution,” Evers said. “I supported the regents’ decision on Saturday because I believed it was made consistent with this expectation, their values, and their charge.”

Evers said in a statement that people who brought up concerns about the deal deserve a chance to be heard.

“Rash political decisions, rhetoric, and threats help no one,” Evers said. “Conversations regarding critical, necessary investments in the UW System should continue in the weeks ahead, and it would be my expectation that all parties be interested, engaged, and meaningful participants in that process.”

Evers advocated for the release of pay raises included in the budget signed into law earlier this year.

Assembly Rep. Shelia Stubbs, who represents the 77th District, which includes UW-Madison, said in a statement Tuesday that Saturday’s vote sent a “clear message” to the Board of Regents about the concerns of staff and students at UW.

“I remain deeply distraught and perplexed that this trade was ever on the table to begin with,” Stubbs said. “Diversity, equity, and inclusion will never be values I am willing to compromise, and I would hope that the rest of the state of Wisconsin, a state that consistently ranks highest in racial disparities in the nation across every aspect of a person’s life, would agree with me.”

In a social media post after Saturday’s vote, Rep. Robin Vos wrote, “It’s a shame they’ve denied employees their raises and the almost [$1 billion] investment that would have been made in the UW System all so they could continue their ideological campaign to force students to believe only one viewpoint is acceptable on campus.”

State Sen. Chris Kapenga said on social media that regents who voted against the deal “would rather double down on an ineffective, divisive, and bigoted DEI ideology that promotes racism instead of equal access to affordable, quality education for Wisconsin residents.”

Kapenga added that “it’s good to know before their upcoming Senate confirmation votes that several Regents chose their sacred ideology over getting our students ready for their careers.”

The Board of Regents meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday.

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