University of Wisconsin Regents Reject $800 Million Deal Limiting DEI

The deal would have funded employee raises and new construction in exchange for pausing and eliminating DEI hiring and programs.
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Published on December 11, 2023
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  • Wisconsin Republicans have spent the last six months attempting to defund and eliminate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at public colleges.
  • The University of Wisconsin System's board of regents rejected the latest deal to fund employee raises and new construction in exchange for a DEI hiring freeze.
  • Though the state Legislature already approved employee raises, the legislative committee is withholding the funds.

The University of Wisconsin (UW) System Board of Regents rejected a deal Saturday that would have limited diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) hiring and initiatives in a close 9-8 vote.

The deal, brokered by Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, would have secured UW System schools $800 million for employee raises and the construction of a new engineering building in exchange for (among other items):

  • Freezing hiring for DEI positions
  • Converting some DEI positions to focus on "academic and student success"
  • Closing a program focused on hiring diverse faculty
  • Eliminating diversity statements in employee applications
  • Implementing a conservative political thought chair position on campus

"The Legislature has made decisions over the years that have proved to have a negative lingering effect on our public universities," said Regent Angela Adams during the Saturday meeting, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"But to finally and begrudgingly propose to start funding the universities in exchange for insulting people historically excluded and underrepresented in higher education is a non-starter for me. It's divisive, it's polarizing, and will ultimately lead to even more negative effects on the university system for decades to come."

Over the last six months, state Republicans have offered the UW System several deals that would defund or limit DEI offices and initiatives. The most recent deal was, in many ways, a final offer that Vos still hopes regents will reconsider and accept.

"This deal was negotiated in good faith," said Vos on Monday on WISN-AM. "We're not changing one thing in this deal. We are not going backward. If anything, I’d prefer to go forward. But a deal is a deal, you've got to keep your word. This is not forever. If they want to walk away, they can walk away."

Though faculty raises have already been approved by the state Legislature, the legislative committee is currently blocking them, according to AP News. The UW Board of Regents' rejection of the latest deal further emboldened state Republicans to withhold the funds.

"We are not going to give the raises. We are not going to approve these new building programs. We are not going to approve the new money for the university unless they at least pass this deal," Vos said on WISN-AM.

Prior to Saturday's meeting, students and faculty expressed their disappointment with the deal and its potential impact on DEI efforts.

Jon Shelton, a professor at UW-Green Bay, told WKOW he has been waiting for his pay increase for months. But Shelton believes limiting DEI to receive his raise will too greatly negatively impact students.

"It's really frustrating, I think, to see UW system administration agree to a deal that effectively limits these kinds of resources," Shelton told WKOW. "We know our increasingly diverse student population needs them to be successful."