UW Regents Agree to Funding Deal Involving DEI Cuts

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Bascom Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Photo credit: Phil Roeder/Flickr)

The University of Wisconsin (UW) Board of Regents have approved a controversial deal with Republican lawmakers that they previously rejected last Saturday. This agreement promises significant funding for employee salary increases and essential campus construction projects, including a new engineering building at UW-Madison. In return, the university system is expected to reduce its DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) positions, a stipulation that has sparked considerable debate and scrutiny.

The regents voted to pass the plan 11-6 during a public video conference meeting on Wednesday evening.

The deal, brokered by Rothman and Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, will restructure 43 diversity roles to “student success” positions and freeze new hires until 2026 in exchange for $800 million for staff raises and construction projects. UW-Madison will also be required to discontinue its affirmative action faculty hiring program and establish a new position centered on conservative thought, although the specifics of this role are yet to be defined.

Vos has been at the center of a prolonged and heated debate with UW officials over the school’s DEI initiatives. Earlier this summer, he promised to block more than $100 million in pay raises for UW’s 34,000 employees unless officials removed DEI positions at the system’s schools. In October, the Republican-led Wisconsin Legislature greenlit a 6 percent pay raise for all state workers except UW system employees in an effort to force the system to cut its DEI programs.

Following a private regents meeting chaired by Rothman on Tuesday, three regents who initially opposed the proposal, Karen Walsh, Amy Blumenfeld Bogost, and Jennifer Staton, changed their stance and voted in favor of it on Wednesday.

Other regents, including Angela Adams, who voted against the proposal twice, expressed their disagreement with the deal.

“The very premise of this deal is a nonstarter,” said Adams during the meeting. “I did not join this board to be thrust into political gamesmanship. Supporting DEI on campus is not something we should be exchanging, in my opinion, for dollars.”

Rothman stated that the deal was a crucial compromise between the state’s Republican-led Legislature and Democratic governor.

“We live in a political environment,” Rothman told the Associated Press. “It is not shocking to say we live in a polarized state … in that context, if you’re going to move forward, if you’re going to make progress, you have to find a way forward to find compromise. And I think that’s what we did in this process.”