Republicans Signal University of Wisconsin Funding Plan Won't Go Forward Until DEI Is Cut

University of Wisconsin (Getty Images)
November 8, 2023

Wisconsin Republicans on Monday signaled that they would not advance a funding plan from the state's university system unless it pledges to cut its DEI programs.

University of Wisconsin president Jay Rothman unveiled a $32 million plan to fund development for STEM, business, and health care positions across the system's 13 universities, the Associated Press reported. Republicans in the legislature, however, signaled that they are not likely to advance the plan unless the university system complies with their demand that it cut its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion positions.

"It looks like a good proposal. Once we work out an agreement on DEI, we’d be happy to move forward," said assembly speaker Robin Vos (R.).

Republicans have battled with Rothman over 188 DEI positions throughout the university system since the summer. In its June budget plan, the assembly's Republican-controlled budget committee voted to cut those positions and reduce the university systems's budget by $32 million, the amount of money Republicans estimated the university would spend on DEI.

Gov. Tony Evers (D.) used his partial veto power the next month to save those positions, but he was unable to stop the budget cut. The budget he signed, however, did allow for the university system to receive that money back if it spends the funds on workforce development.

"This plan is exactly what the Legislature is looking for—a concentrated emphasis on adding more graduates to the workforce in key areas," said Rothman Monday. "I would hope everyone would agree that this is in the best interest of the state of Wisconsin."

The workforce plan must receive the approval of the system's Board of Regents and then that of the budget committee.

Wisconsin Republicans have also introduced legislation on related issues in higher education. The assembly approved two bills Tuesday, one of which would prohibit universities from considering race in giving out grants, loans, and student retention plans, while the other would make public colleges liable for up to $100,000 in fines if they violate students' free speech rights.