Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin voted Thursday to cut $32 million from the University of Wisconsin’s (UW) budget due to the university’s promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs.
State lawmakers say the $32 million cut is the amount Wisconsin’s flagship university system spends on DEI initiatives, intending for the university to cut those programs altogether. Lawmakers said that the university could get the $32 million back if it shows that the money would be spent on workforce development rather than DEI programs, the Associated Press reported.
According to Republican state Rep. Alex Dallman, the university should not be “forcing these students to view the world through a lens of race, gender or economic class just to obtain one of these degrees.” He continued, “[The] UW System ought to be teaching them different things, such as critical thinking and problem solving, teamwork and collaboration, professionalism and communication skills.”
The vote is part of an ongoing battle between the university, the state’s Republican legislature, and Democratic Governor Tony Evers. The Badger State’s Governor has vowed to veto any budget that cuts diversity funding from the state’s premier university system.
Democratic Rep. Evan Goyke called the plan “garbage,” saying, “You are sending such a painful message to communities of color, people of color around Wisconsin.”
The UW system’s president, Jay Rothman, also derided the cut, saying, “Continued erosion of state investment will diminish student access and affordability at our public universities. This is a missed opportunity and a significant setback to Wisconsin’s efforts to win the war for talent.”
UW-Madison’s Diversity Inventory promotes events like “Citational Justice,” which encourages students to use sources in their research based on the racial or sexual identity of the author rather than the source’s merit, reliability, or relevance.
Another program promoted by the UW-Madison Diversity Inventory is the Coalition for Leading Anti-Racist Schools. According to the program’s “Lunch and Learn” session, the program “disrupts and dismantles long-standing norms and practices steeped in whiteness.”
“For people on the left, (DEI) has become their new religion,” Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told the Associated Press last week. “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.”
Rothman admitted that DEI efforts can “go too far” and ordered campuses to stop asking job applicants to provide diversity and equity statements last month. Similar statements are required by universities like UC Berkeley and are criticized for being “litmus tests” for hiring based on political views, which is unconstitutional for public universities.
Still, the head of the Madison campus, Jennifer Mnookin, said Thursday that she supports DEI employees, saying they “play a critical role on campus.”
University officials asked the state for a $500 million increase in its budget. Governor Evers previously proposed to increase the University of Wisconsin’s budget by $300 million, a number of university officials say is insufficient to prevent tuition increases.
University of Wisconsin officials say that the cut in subsidies will force the institution to further raise tuition costs amid a financial crisis spurred by a tuition freeze and increased spending by the university. The university has not revealed any plans to cut spending for DEI initiatives.