Posted on December 15, 2023

University of Wisconsin Agrees to Cut Back Diversity Initiatives

Rachel Bowman, Daily Mail, December 14, 2023

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved a deal with the state’s Republican lawmakers to ax diversity initiatives in order to receive over $800 million in tax-payer funding – a deal they rejected just days before.

Three regents switched their vote Wednesday night, passing the proposal that freezes diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) hires in a 11-6 vote, after previously rejecting it 9-8 on Saturday.

The deal brokered by Assembly Republican Speaker Robin Vos gives the school system money for pay raises and construction projects, including $200 million for a new engineering building at the system’s flagship campus in Madison.

In exchange, the regents will freeze hiring for diversity positions through 2026 and shift at least 43 current diversity positions to focus on ‘student success,’ according to the Board of Regents meeting book.

Campuses also will have to eliminate statements supporting diversity on student applications. UW-Madison will have to end an affirmative action faculty hiring program and create an undefined position focused on conservative thought.

UW-Madison will also have to create an endowed chair to focus on ‘conservative political thought.’ The whole university system will have to adopt a policy that grants admission to Wisconsin high schoolers that are in the top of their class.

The three regents who initially opposed the proposal – Karen Walsh, Amy Blumenfeld Bogost and Jennifer Staton – said they needed more time for deliberation.

‘So, why are we voting again? It was clear last Saturday that the board did not have sufficient time to discuss this document,’ Walsh said.

President of University of Wisconsin System Jay Rothman said, ‘I thank the Board of Regents for approving this agreement that will deliver more than $800 million in projects, initiatives, and withheld pay to our employees.’

‘As we made clear publicly for months, diversity and inclusion are core values, but we are open to changing how some of these positions can better benefit student retention and graduation.’

Regents who voted against the proposal said it sets a dangerous precedent and questioned what concessions Republicans would demand next in exchange for dollars.

‘The very premise of this deal is a nonstarter,’ said Angela Adams, who voted against the plan twice.

‘I did not join this board to be thrust into political gamesmanship. Supporting DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) on campus is not something we should be exchanging, in my opinion, for dollars.’

Democrat Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers gave a strong rebuke of the board’s vote.

‘I disagree with the regents’ decision today. I am disappointed and frustrated with this result, this proposal, and the process that led up to this point,’ Evers said.

‘It is also my expectation that every individual who promised in this process that the important work of building diversity, equity, and inclusion and making sure our campuses are welcoming and work for everyone would not be diminished by this action will be working in earnest to make good on that commitment. And I’m going to make damn sure that they do.’

The Wisconsin deal comes as over a dozen state legislatures seek to pass legislation ending DEI programs, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In February, the trustees picked by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis to oversee the New College of Florida voted to abolish the school’s office of DEI.