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Universities of Wisconsin Board of Regents Double Back to Approve Republican Funding Deal, Agrees to Cut Diversity Efforts

The Universities of Wisconsin Board of Regents has voted 11-6 to approve a deal with Republicans, a change-up from their close 9-8 vote just days earlierUW Board of Regents President Karen WalshUW Board of Regents President Karen WalshUniversities of Wisconsin

With this approval, the school system will receive funding for employee pay raises and building and renovation efforts – $800 million – which had been withheld by state Republicans for months.

In September, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos demanded that UW cut DEI spending by $32 million, saying that he would not allocate funding for already-approved UW employee pay raises until the school complied. Most UW employees will now see pay raises of 4% in 2023 and 2% in 2024.

By acquiescing, the UW system will have to halt or end several diversity efforts, including freezing the total number of jobs through 2026 with some exceptions; move more than 40 people in diversity positions to student success roles; remove diversity statements from the student application process; and end a diversity-focused UW-Madison hiring program.

The school system will also be required to start a hiring program for faculty proficient at working with underrepresented students; automatically admit Wisconsin students who are in the top 10% or higher; create a mandatory online orientation on free speech for new students; and establish a UW-Madison faculty position on conservative political thought, classical economic theory, or classical liberalism.

However, many still view the decision as the school system selling out its students of color for state money, the Sentinel reported. Rep. Dora Drake, 2023 chair of the Wisconsin Legislative Black Caucus, called the agreement was part of “a systemic, racist deal.”

"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," Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement last Wednesday. “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.”

UW-Madison Chancellor Dr. Jennifer L. Mnookin had admitted Saturday that the deal was “an imperfect compromise.”

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