Legislation in Wisconsin is threatening to cut the University of Wisconsin System's budget by $32 million despite a projected record-high $7 billion state budget surplus, Associated Press reported.
This move in the state’s Republican-controlled budget-writing committee was made along party lines Thursday, sending the budget bill to the Senate and Assembly. This comes while UW is requesting a significant funding increase due to financial difficulties from a tuition freeze and inflation.
$32 million is the estimated amount that would be spent on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs over the next two years, according to Republicans. But the system can earn back the money later if it demonstrates how it would spend them on workforce development instead.
“They need to refocus their priorities on being partners on developing our workforce and the future of the state, and we’re hopeful that they’re going to be ready to do that as we move forward,” said Rep. Mark Born, co-chair of the budget-writing committee.
The plan also aims to cut more than 180 UW DEI jobs. These efforts are sending a “painful message” to communities and people of color in Wisconsin, said Rep. Evan Goyke.
“We reject the entire concept of what they’re doing, that the university system would be cut at a time of surplus,” Goyke said. “I don’t see in the budget any initiatives that will catch the attention of young people to either come here or to stay here.”
The budget cut will hinder student access and affordability, UW President Jay Rothman said in a statement. And Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a former member of the UW Board of Regents, has said he will veto the entire budget plan if the UW budget is cut.
“For people on the left, (DEI) has become their new religion,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. “They no longer go to church on Sunday, but boy, are they trying to make sure that everybody is evangelized on campus, that there’s only one acceptable viewpoint. That’s not what I think taxpayers should be funding.”