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UW regents schedule new vote to consider GOP deal on employee raises, DEI

The move comes days after regents narrowly rejected the deal

Golden light shines on Van Hise Hall
Van Hise Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus Friday, April 2, 2021, in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

The Universities of Wisconsin Board of Regents has scheduled another vote for Wednesday to reconsider a GOP deal that would release employee pay raises in exchange for new limits on campus diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

Regents scheduled the vote for Wednesday at 5 p.m. following a closed-door meeting Tuesday. The meeting was recommended by Regents Amy Blumenfeld Bogost, Ashok Rai, Kyle Weatherly and University of Wisconsin System President Jay Rothman.

Bogost voted against the resolution Saturday, which failed 9-8.

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The resolution before the board Wednesday afternoon is identical to the offer the board previously rejected.

Under the agreement, state lawmakers would release around $800 million to the UW for cost-of-living raises and building projects, like a UW-Madison engineering building that was rejected by Republicans earlier this year. In exchange, the UW would have agreed to freeze the number of DEI positions through 2026 and realign some jobs currently focused on diversity.

Other UW concessions would include the end of a UW-Madison initiative aimed at hiring more diverse faculty and staff on campus. The UW would also adopt a Republican proposal requiring campuses to automatically admit the top academic performers from high schools around the state.

In a statement sent Tuesday evening, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who has appointed 13 of the board’s 18 members, said regents should be able to make decisions about what’s best for students, employees and state universities”without fear of threats and political pressure or retribution.”

“I supported the regents’ decision on Saturday because I believed it was made consistent with this expectation, their values, and their charge,” Evers said.

He said he’s “disappointed in this process and recent days of threats” from Republican lawmakers regarding potential future regent confirmation hearings.

“The serious concerns that have been raised about this proposal and process—concerns that I share—deserve to be meaningfully heard and addressed,” Evers said.

The circumstances that led to the second vote are anything but usual. Regents rejected the GOP deal Saturday, a day after it was made public. During the meeting, members who opposed the deal made speeches in favor of DEI programming and warned accepting the offer would lead to future concessions to lawmakers.

During an interview with WISN-AM Monday, Vos said he hoped regents “come to their senses” and reconsider the compromise.

“I will do everything in my power to make sure that we either enforce this deal or we wait until the next budget to talk about it again,” Vos said. “We are not going to give the raises. We are not going to approve these new building programs. We are not going to approve the new money for the university unless they at least pass this deal.”

In a Tuesday statement issued before regents scheduled a new vote, State Rep. Dora Drake, D-Milwaukee, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus, criticized regents for their closed session, claiming the board was going to “reconsider the deal” and urging members to discuss the matter in public. Drake said residents should know if the UW “will succumb to Republican political pressures” or if they’re committed to DEI.

Editor’s note: WPR staff are employees of UW-Madison.