A University of Wisconsin-Madison official confirmed Wednesday that UW-Madison will not cut diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) positions despite repeated calls from Republican lawmakers to do so.
Lori Reesor, UW-Madison vice chancellor for student affairs, confirmed the decision in remarks during a meeting with the university’s student government body Wednesday evening.
“It’s really important with the things that are happening in the world — whether it’s some of the legislation that’s happening in Wisconsin or the budget cut as a result of DEI — we are not cutting the DEI positions,” Reesor said in her introductory remarks to the Associated Students of Madison (ASM).
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, provoked widespread conversations about DEI programming on UW campuses after the Legislature’s budget-writing committee cut $32 million from the UW System’s 2023-25 state budget.
Republican lawmakers originally tied the cuts to the elimination of 188 DEI positions at UW System schools, but Democratic Gov. Tony Evers used a partial veto to let UW System officials absorb the cut as they see fit.
UW System campuses can recoup the funding with approval from the Legislature’s budget-writing committee if they submit a plan to use it for workforce development programs.
However, Vos has said the UW System will not receive the $32 million unless they eliminate DEI programs, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Reesor said Wednesday that UW-Madison cannot back away from the value of DEI efforts, even as the future of DEI programming across the UW System has been unclear.
Reesor earlier this month confirmed UW-Madison officials have held multiple meetings with Black student leaders on campus, including the Blk Pwr Coalition.
According to Reesor, officials discussed partnering with Black student leaders following protests over the university’s response to a white UW-Madison student using violent racist language in a video widely circulated on social media in May.
Reesor and LaVar Charleston, UW-Madison deputy vice chancellor of diversity & inclusion, said they cannot share information about the contents of those meetings, but Reesor said more information may be coming soon.
Charleston and Dean of Students Christina Olstad also attended Wednesday’s meeting with student government representatives.
Charleston and Reesor broadly spoke about challenges related to DEI and free speech on campus and said the university is exploring more ways to create inclusive spaces on campus and plans to gather student feedback.
Reesor and Charleston also spoke about challenges the university faces regarding free speech and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end affirmative action in June.
The meeting is ASM’s first of the semester. Chancellor Mnookin plans to attend ASM’s next in two weeks, Reesor said.
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.