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Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Which UW DEI positions face restructuring? Emails from Rothman offer a glimpse

In emails obtained by The Daily Cardinal, UW System President Jay Rothman provided an extensive list of position titles in regards to diversity, equity and inclusion per a request by Sen. Rob Hutton in May.

University of Wisconsin System President Jay Rothman provided a list of all UW System positions tied to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to Republican Sen. Rob Hutton in May, detailing which positions are being targeted as part of a Republican effort to cut UW System DEI positions.

In emails obtained by The Daily Cardinal, Hutton, of Brookfield, a member of the Senate Committee on Universities and Revenue, sought specific information about title descriptions, job location and total salary for any employee where the terms “diversity,” “equity” or “inclusion” is contained in the job title or within the employee’s assigned department.  

Across all UW System universities, positions included diversity officers, disability services advisors, associate professors, lecturers, Title IX coordinators, diversity and inclusion liaisons, human resources officers, veteran services coordinators and others. 

Rothman also sent an email to Board of Regent members Bob Atwell and Karen Walsh along with UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin on May 31, saying, “DEI efforts do need to evolve.” 


Contributed by the Daily Cardinal


Contributed by the Daily Cardinal

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Rothman told the regents he would like the UW System to emphasize the “E” in “DEI” and said student opportunities must arrive on an “equitable basis.” 

“Equal opportunity does not, however, equate to equal success. Once given an equal opportunity to succeed, whether a student succeeds or not must be based on merit,” the email read. 

Rothman said he shared Atwell’s concern of “students being judged based solely on the color of their skin or other factors.” 

“Each of us is an individual and must be judged as such, whether that individual is white, black, etc,” he said.

At the time, Rothman said he disagreed with members of the Republican caucus who strove to eliminate DEI programming. 

“Simply eliminating DEI initiatives is not the answer,” Rothman said.

A UW System spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Vos stands his ground 

Since May, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, fixated on dissolving DEI programs across all UW System schools.

In June, the Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget-writing committee killed $197 million in funding for a UW-Madison engineering building project approved by Gov. Tony Evers in the state’s 2023-25 capital budget.

The committee also cut $32 million from the UW System’s 2023-25 budget in June. University officials offered a plan to recoup the lost funds, but Vos has said lawmakers will not restore the money until UW schools cut diversity programs.

Amid the turmoil, Wisconsin Democrats reaffirmed their opposition against Vos, asserting his plan for legislative oversight is accelerated by political rhetoric.

“They’re holding hostage pay raises for these folks because [Vos] is currently more concerned with cutting programs that would include more diverse voices across all of our public system schools,” Rep. Francessa Hong, D-Madison said during a November visit to UW-Madison. 

Sen. Kelda Roys, D-Madison told the Cardinal in September the budget cut is part of a decades-long Republican “war on public higher education.”

“[DEI isn’t] something you’re going to throw away in the garbage because Robin Vos is holding you hostage,” Roys said.

The Board of Regents voted down a deal between the UW System and the Legislature to freeze DEI positions in exchange for state funding and pay raises for UW System employees. The regents will meet again on Dec. 13 to reconsider the controversial negotiation.

The deal would also create an endowed faculty position to focus on conservative political thought at UW-Madison, 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.”

The deal is expected to pass Wednesday despite opposition from groups of students, staff and lawmakers.

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

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

If the proposal is approved, the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will need to sign off on it. 

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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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