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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Wisconsin 'Forward' Statue stands in front of the entrance to the Wisconsin State Capitol. 

Republican lawmakers approve amendment to restrict statewide diversity practices

The amendment is the latest effort by legislative Republicans to strike down diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within the UW System.

Republican lawmakers in the Assembly approved a constitutional amendment Thursday to ban state agencies from using race, sex, ethnicity, color or national origin for hiring practices and public administration. 

The amendment, introduced by Rep. Dave Murphy, R-Greenville, would include the University of Wisconsin System in another strike at eliminating diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs in state offices. 

Murphy said on the Assembly floor the amendment would decrease racial discrimination and restore hiring based on “merit, fairness and equality.”

But Democratic Rep. Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, D-Milwaukee, opposed the amendment, arguing it is divisive.

"I welcome anyone to point to data that shows when it comes to public employment, public education, public contracting, or public administration that there's a disproportionate amount of benefits to marginalized communities,” Ortiz-Velez said. 

To pass, the Senate must approve the amendment this year and again during the next full Legislature next session. The amendment will then go on the ballot for voters to decide. 

Additionally, it would not require Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to sign the proposal. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has led the charge to eliminate DEI initiatives from state agencies and specifically UW campuses. Vos previously said DEI programs are turning UW-Madison into an “institute of indoctrination.”

In December, the UW Board of Regents passed a resolution to restructure DEI positions in exchange for pay raises and building projects. Democratic lawmakers said the deal held the UW System “hostage,” and student leaders argued it would damage an inclusive environment for marginalized students. 

Vos said the deal was the “first step” to dissolve diversity efforts across UW System campuses.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative law firm, is the only registered supporter of the amendment, according to the Associated Press. The registered opponents are the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the National Association of Social Workers. 

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Ava Menkes

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.

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