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Saturday, June 15, 2024
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University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin is photographed outside Bascom Hall on August 4, 2022.

UW-Madison looking to grow DEI programs despite Republican threats to block pay raises, chancellor says

UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin told reporters Tuesday evening that the university was "looking at ways to grow" diversity programs despite GOP threats to withhold pay raises from UW System employees.

UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin told The Daily Cardinal that UW-Madison will seek to expand its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs after Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said last week he would block a pay increase for UW System employees if the programming isn’t cut.

“[The university has] made our commitment to diversity clear,” Mnookin told the Cardinal. “As a function of the $32 million budget cut, we have not taken any actions focused on DEI and actually, really, we’re looking at ways we can grow what we can do under our diversity umbrella.”

Mnookin added that UW-Madison should help “rural and first-generation students” better define their identities at the university, for example.

Mnookin’s comments come after Vos, R-Rochester, told WisPolitics last week he planned to block 4% and 2% pay raises over the next two years for UW System employees unless the university eliminated diversity programs.

Vos has also said he will seek to withhold returning $32 million in cut funds to the UW System if diversity programs remain.

“I don’t think that they deserve to have any more resources until they accomplish the goal,” Vos said. “Not a nickel. When I say a nickel, that’s what I mean.”

Mnookin did not confirm if she’s talked to Vos or members of the Republican-controlled legislative committee that approves pay raises for state employees but said that conversations are “ongoing.”

The Cardinal spoke to Mnookin after a Cap Times Idea Fest panel Tuesday evening centered on free speech. She attended the panel alongside other Madison community leaders and legal experts. 

“I want to be clear. The value of diversity here at UW-Madison is tremendous,” Mnookin explained. ”Diversity is important for value. We recognize that there’s a lot of literature out there that shows that diverse teams and decision makers make better decisions.”

Mnookin’s comments come after Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor told UW-Madison’s student government last week that UW-Madison will not cut DEI positions. 

Editor's note: This article was updated at 9:25 p.m. on Tuesday, September 19 to correct a quote from Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin that initially read "diversity programs." The quote has since been corrected to read "diversity umbrella."

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Gavin Escott

Gavin Escott is the campus news editor for the Daily Cardinal. He has covered protests, breaking news and written in-depth on Wisconsin politics and higher education. He is the former producer of the Cardinal Call podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @gav_escott.

Liam Beran

Liam Beran is the Campus News Editor for The Daily Cardinal and a third-year English major. Throughout his time at the Cardinal, he's written articles for campus, state and in-depth news. Follow him on Twitter at @liampberan.

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