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UW Board of Regents to take second vote on funding, DEI agreement

The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents previously rejected the proposal Saturday in a 9-8 vote.

The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents will meet Wednesday at 5 p.m. to reconsider a controversial funding deal negotiated with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos despite objection from some students, staff and faculty.

The proposal, initially rejected Saturday in a 9-8 vote, aimed to restructure diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) positions in exchange for $800 million in funding for UW System employee pay raises and building projects. 

The deal is expected to pass Wednesday with the added support of Regent Amy Blumenfeld Bogost, who initially voted against the deal. Bogost is expected to support the deal Wednesday, according to WisPolitics. 

Bogost did not initially respond to a request for comment.

Vos, R-Rochester, would have also signed off on $32 million in funding for workforce development efforts, nearly $200 million for a new UW-Madison engineering hall, $16 million for the state’s tuition reciprocity agreement with Minnesota, two building renovations at UW-Whitewater and funding for UW System utilities projects.

In return, UW-Madison would create an endowed faculty position to focus on conservative political thought, eliminate DEI statements in admissions, support guaranteed admissions programs for students ranked in the top 5% of their class and restructure a third of the UW System’s 130 DEI positions into “student success positions.”

Vos told WISN-AM Monday he hoped the regents will reconsider the deal.

“This deal was negotiated in good faith,” Vos said. “We’re not changing one thing in this deal. We are not going backwards. If anything, I’d prefer to go forward. But a deal is a deal, you’ve got to keep your word. This is not forever. If they want to walk away, they can walk away.”

Additionally, UW student Regent Evan Breknus told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that UW System President Jay Rothman “alluded to resignation” in the days leading up to the initial vote. 

Rothman said he was "disappointed" but respected the Board of Regents' decision in a Twitter post Saturday.

Associated Students of Madison (ASM) released a statement Tuesday night to reaffirm their opposition to the agreement and provide support to marginalized students. 

“This deal tarnishes the student experience across Wisconsin campuses in its entirety, pushing important conversations out of our classrooms, residence halls and student spaces. It disparages the prospect of belonging at our University for those of us who come from historically underrepresented communities,” it reads.

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If the agreement passes, the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will need to approve the proposal. 

All nine of the regents who voted to reject the resolution were Evers appointees, according to WisPolitics.

Senate President Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, told CBS58 that unconfirmed, Evers-appointed regents could lose their jobs “as soon as January.”

Amy Bogost, John Miller, Ashok Rai and Dana Wachs are four Evers appointees who have not been confirmed by the Senate. Rai was the only regent to vote for the deal.

Kapenga warned all appointees could be rejected when a confirmation vote is held. 

Editors Note: This article was updated 7:09 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023

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Ava Menkes

Ava Menkes is the managing editor at The Daily Cardinal. She previously served as the state news editor. She has covered multiple stories about the upcoming election, healthcare and campus, and written in-depth about rural issues, legislative maps and youth voter turnout. She will be an incoming intern with Wisconsin Watch. Follow her on Twitter at @AvaMenkes.

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