December 14, 2023

UW Regents Vote on Assembly Speaker Vos’ DEI Deal

UW Regents Vote on Assembly Speaker Vos’ DEI Deal Featured Image

Bowing to political and financial pressure, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents reversed course and accepted a deal brokered by UW System President Jay Rothman and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. It was the second vote in four days, after the regents originally rejected the deal.

In exchange for funding for UW employee pay raises and building projects, including a new UW Madison engineering building, Republican legislators delivered a high-priority blow to the UW system’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs. Campuses will be forced to restructure 43 diversity positions across Wisconsin campuses and freeze the total number of jobs through 2026. In the half-year fight over DEI funding, campuses insisted their programs are key to helping a wide range of students make it through college, including veterans, the disabled and students of color.

The Republican-controlled Legislature will now need to approve the deal, and some components may require Governor Tony Evers’ approval.

“This is another overreach by Legislative Republicans pushing an extreme agenda into public schools, from Kindergarten through college,” said WEAC President and teacher Peggy Wirtz-Olsen. “These legislators regularly resort to bullying and holding public education hostage until they get their way. It’s short-sighted and irresponsible and it’s our students who end up paying the price for their politics.”

The deal will further marginalize a wide swath of students and educators, Wirtz-Olsen said. She pointed to a growing number of bills in the Legislature from banning books, to ending the minority teacher loan program, to prescribing what educators can teach.

Governor Evers also spoke out against the Republican tactics. “This vote today represents a vast overreach by a group of Republicans who’ve grown exceedingly comfortable overextending, manipulating, and abusing their power to control, subvert, and obstruct basic functions of government,” he said, adding: “This exercise has been about one thing—the relentless political tantrums, ultimatums, and threats of retribution by legislative Republicans, most especially Speaker Robin Vos, his negotiation-by-bullying tactics, and general disdain for public education at every level,” he said.