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Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW Board of Regents rejects proposed State Assembly deal, maintains DEI positions

Regents share perspectives, emphasize importance of DEI at UW schools
The Badger Herald archival photo. June 2023. Photo by Cat Carroll.

The Universities of Wisconsin Board of Regents voted 9-8 Saturday morning to reject a proposed deal with Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) that would freeze DEI positions in exchange for funding from the Wisconsin State Legislature.

Ahead of the vote, UW President Jay Rothman said the agreement before the Board came through a “challenging and arduous process,” but compromises were necessary to reach a deal.

“Considering all that is at stake, and given the current circumstances in which we find ourselves, on balance, I believe the agreement is in the best interest of the Universities of Wisconsin, and I recommend the resolution before you today for approval by this Board,” Rothman said.


Regents spoke in support and opposition of the proposed deal, discussing the impact changes to DEI would have on current and future students of UW schools.

Regent Dana Wachs, who opposed the deal, acknowledged the challenging situation Rothman and UW–Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin were navigating, but expressed concern over the impact the resolution would have on students. Wachs emphasized the need for creating a welcoming student environment, adding that education acts as an important tool, an “equalizer,” for students of different backgrounds.

Universities of Wisconsin moves closer on deal to exchange DEI positions for employee pay raises, new engineering building

Regent Jennifer Staton, who also opposed the resolution, echoed Wachs’ sentiments, saying that as leaders, the Board must consider the impact these decisions have on campuses.

Staton specifically mentioned UW–Parkside, where she has found a home.

“Parkside has been a home to me,” Staton said. “Diversity, equity and inclusion is something that they [UW–Parkside] not only speak about, but they live it. I don’t want anyone feeling uncomfortable because it is my home, and I will fight for my home.”

Also in opposition of the deal, Regent Joan Prince said the Board must make a decision that gives future UW students an impression of belonging, not based on how a deal might create political advantages.

“Each one of us sits in a very privileged position,” Prince said. “And I would ask that we remember it is not our job to speak for others unless we have had discussions with them.”

Regents who supported the deal emphasized the need for more time to re-envision DEI efforts at UW schools, saying the current DEI strategies are not producing effective results. Regents also mentioned the importance of fighting for employee pay raises and new campus buildings, specifically a new College of Engineering building at UW–Madison.

Wisconsin Assembly Democrats condemn GOP attempts to ‘trade’ DEI for buildings, pay raises

Supporters of the resolution said withheld pay raises for UW employees was impacting their livelihood, and that infrastructure projects like the engineering building were critical investments for the state economy. 

Regent Ashok Rai, who voted in support of the resolution, also argued that the deal gave UW the opportunity to reimagine DEI to better support students.

“The fact that this [DEI] is an issue that divides us is puzzling, confusing and downright frustrating,” Rai said. “We need to do better. This is an opportunity to do better. No jobs are being lost. It’s an opportunity to create more conversation, which I do believe we need.”

As a result of the Board of Regents’ narrow rejection, the deal will not advance to the Assembly for the Joint Committee on Employee Relations and the Joint Finance Committee to grant withheld pay raises and $32 million in funding to UW.

During discussion, Prince said the raises and new buildings will come, but passing the deal would compromise pride in UW institutions and the students who attend them. Prince said an outcome in support of DEI will represent belonging for future UW students.

“They [students] will be treated with respect,” Prince said. “They will feel as if they belong there. Because the stories that they’ve heard, will help them assume and know that they belong.”

In a statement released Saturday afternoon, Associated Students of Madison applauded the Board’s decision to “listen to their students and staff and deny this deal.”

“This vote provides a beacon of hope for the 6,174 first-generation college students, our 5,267 Pell Grant recipients, our 4,937 underrepresented students of color among our undergraduate cohort, our student veterans, our students who are parents, our queer and trans students, our non-traditional and returning students, our commuter students, and our white students that they all belong and are valued here,” the statement said.

Gov. Tony Evers similarly expressed support for the Board’s decision and vote in a statement Saturday afternoon.

“It’s clear the regents are deeply divided over this proposal, have immense concerns about this process and the difficult position they were put in, and are all committed to their charge—doing what’s best for our past, present, and future students, faculty, and staff, and the institutions that have defined our state for generations,” Evers said in the statement.

Evers said he looks forward to continued discussion in the coming weeks and months, urging lawmakers to remain committed to negotiations.

“I urge legislative Republicans to remain in those conversations so we can work together and find common ground to do what’s best for the UW System, including investing in the UW-Madison engineering building,” Evers said in the statement.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include statements from ASM and Gov. Evers.

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