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Democratic lawmakers push back against reported University of Wisconsin DEI deal

There would also be, according to the reports, a three-year freeze on new DEI hires.

Published: December 8, 2023 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

The reports of a deal between Republican lawmakers and the University of Wisconsin to swap pay raise money and a new UW-Madison engineering building for less spending on DEI are enough to have Democrats at the statehouse speaking out.

A group of Assembly Democrats signed a letter rejecting the reported deal, which they call an “attack” on the Universities of Wisconsin.

“We see Republican legislators’ attacks on diversity, equity and inclusion at our universities for what they are – attempts to divide us and foment culture wars at the expense of the wellbeing of all of our students,” the Democrats said in a statement. “Attacking DEI initiatives is deeply misguided, will move our universities backwards, and will undermine students’ sense of belonging for years to come.”

A number of reports yesterday said the university is reportedly willing to restructure up to 60 DEI administrations and shift their jobs to ‘student success.’

There would also be, according to the reports, a three-year freeze on new DEI hires. Republican lawmakers would then release $32 million for the university, as well as the millions for the university’s 4% pay raise for 35,000 workers.

The deal also includes Republican support for a nearly $350 million engineering building on the Madison campus.

“Our caucus is united in strongly opposing any proposal from Republican legislators that trades the enumeration of building projects or already approved pay raises for cutting diversity, equity and inclusion and enshrining the far right’s agenda in our educational institutions,” the Democrats added. “Throughout his career, Speaker Vos has done everything in his power to undermine our universities and halt progress. We simply cannot allow him to continue.”

Speaker Robin Vos has refused to comment on the specifics of the reported deal. A UW spokesman said the agreement is not final yet.

Whatever the specifics, and whenever the deal may be finalized, the Democratic lawmakers are urging the university to reject it.

“We ask university leaders and our GOP colleagues in the Capitol to join us in opposing Speaker Vos’ blatant attack on our universities and our students, especially students of color and LGBTQ+ students,” the Democrats said in their letter. “Rather than using our students and university system as political pawns, we must work to build a Wisconsin where everyone has the opportunity to thrive – that is our job.”