The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents voted Friday to approve a $32 million plan Monday to expand engineering, nursing, data science and business programs that Republican lawmakers are unlikely to approve without an agreement to cut DEI programs.
The plan strives to fund the in-demand science and technology programs and provide $2.5 million each to UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee. The other 11 system campuses would receive $1 million each for the biennium.
“Each UW university has identified opportunities to increase capacity and develop additional talent in one of more of the high-demand fields identified, both for now and in the future,” said UW System President Jay Rothman.
Rothman will now present the plan to the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, which must approve the funding to be provided to UW.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, told The Daily Cardinal on Tuesday it was a “good proposal” but restated the move to restore lost budget cuts will require cutting diversity programs.
“It looks like a good proposal. Once we work out an agreement on DEI, we’d be happy to move forward,” Vos said in an email.
Rothman told reporters Monday DEI programs are necessary for an inclusive environment.
“We need to be an inclusive and welcoming environment,” Rothman said. “Whether that be for underrepresented groups, whether that be for veterans, disabled students, first-generation students, students of different religious faiths, students of different political ideologies.”
UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin told the Cardinal in September her university plans to grow DEI initiatives.
“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 said.
The back-and-forth between UW officials and Republican lawmakers comes months after the budget-writing committee cut $32 million from the UW System’s 2023-25 state budget.
Vos has remained steadfast on his elimination of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs since May, despite Wisconsin having a record-high budget surplus of $7 billion. He does not plan to deliver the necessary funding or salary increases to UW System campuses and faculty until DEI programs are dissolved.
Vos further said in October he wants legislative oversight over future UW System positions in exchange for approving a 6% raise over two years for UW employees.
It is currently unclear when Rothman will present the $32 million workforce development plan to lawmakers.
Ava Menkes is the state news editor at The Daily Cardinal. She has covered multiple stories about Wisconsin politics and written in-depth about nurses unions and youth voter turnout. Follow her on Twitter at @AvaMenkes.