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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Republican attack on UW System DEI initiatives puts students in danger

Republicans pulling funding from UW System is direct threat to DEI initiatives on college campuses, putting communities at risk

The Wisconsin Legislature pulling funding from the University of Wisconsin System is a direct attack on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives that puts campus communities across the state at risk.

Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature voted in a joint finance committee to pull $32 million from the UW System claiming DEI initiatives at the universities were to blame for the cuts. Speaker of the House Robin Vos is incredibly critical of DEI initiatives, claiming the initiatives “indoctrinate” students with liberal perspectives using taxpayer money.

Vos estimates $32 million is the amount universities in the UW System spend on DEI initiatives each year. Some Republicans in the legislature believe DEI initiatives contribute to liberal biases on college campuses which stifle the voices of conservative students.


The concern of liberal biases on college campuses, specifically in Wisconsin, comes from a survey UW System students completed related to free speech. The survey found conservative students felt uncomfortable speaking up in class or felt pressured to think in a particular, more liberal way.

But DEI initiatives should not be viewed in terms of liberalism or conservatism. DEI initiatives should be important to every single student, legislator and citizen regardless of political opinion because they promote the inclusive treatment of all people.

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DEI initiatives are especially important on college campuses. These initiatives refer to actively and equitably engaging people of various groups or backgrounds (i.e. race, religion, sexual orientation, ability) in a certain community. DEI initiatives focus on making sure all people are treated equitably and feel welcome in a certain environment.

Actively advocating for the equitable inclusion of people from diverse backgrounds is not an attack or indoctrination. Universities or offices implement DEI initiatives so people feel like they belong in a community, so people and their peers feel everyone is treated fairly.

DEI initiatives also have many benefits. In the workplace, DEI initiatives help drive innovation and foster a sense of belonging and community amongst individuals. People tend to collaborate better when they feel connected to their peers.

The implementation of DEI initiatives is incredibly important at UW-Madison in particular given there were multiple race-related acts of hate on campus in the past year. These acts of hate included a physical assault of a UW-Madison student and a video of a UW-Madison student using multiple racial slurs and expressing a desire for Black students to die.

These acts of hate, in addition to other discrimination, are not uncommon on UW-Madison’s campus. The UW System must further improve and implement DEI initiatives so that acts of hate like those that have happened on UW-Madison’s campus never happen in the first place.

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DEI initiatives do not fully eliminate discrimination but help ensure that universities take the proper steps to ensure an equitable and inclusive environment. At UW-Madison in particular, DEI initiatives include resources for educators to be more inclusive in their teaching, workshops to avoid bias and offices and officers that students can seek out for assistance.

These initiatives are not extraordinary or close to indoctrination, they are merely educational resources that for the most part are completely optional. UW-Madison encourages professors to include alternative perspectives in their educational materials, but students do not have such responsibilities.

If anything, DEI initiatives across the UW system need dramatic improvement. If only a month ago a UW-Madison student was spewing incredibly racist slurs and threatening to harm other Black students, clearly the initiatives on their own are not creating a welcoming environment for students of color, especially Black students.

In the wake of the racist viral video on campus, students from the Blk Pwr Coalition and other campus organizations protested, even hosting a sit-in at the chancellor’s office. But students don’t have enough power to create inclusive environments at every campus in Wisconsin, the universities need to chip in too in order to enact systemic change.

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Gov. Tony Evers has the opportunity to stop the pull in funding from the UW System when he evaluates the budget in the coming weeks. Evers is against the decrease in funding in the Republican’s budget, in addition to other changes the legislature wishes to implement.

Evers can partially veto certain aspects of the budget proposed by the Legislature, sending those pieces of the budget back down for reapproval. The budget currently sits on Evers’ desk where he plans to make as many partial vetoes as possible.

Though DEI initiatives are nowhere near effective enough to wholly prevent discrimination based on gender, sexuality, race, ability or religion, they are a step in the right direction for college campuses.

These initiatives are not indoctrinating students nor are they forcing students to change their political opinions. DEI initiatives attempt to make all students feel welcome at their university by providing them with resources and encouraging inclusion and acceptance.

Emily Otten ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.

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