UW regents narrowly reject deal that would have limited DEI initiatives and given school $800 million

In a 9-8 vote, the University of Wisconsin System board of regents voted against a proposal that would reshuffle DEI positions in exchange for state funding for pay raises.

The proposal also would have guaranteed admission into UW-Madison for the state's top 5% of high school graduates.

After school officials spent months negotiating with state Republican leaders, the board of regents of the University of Wisconsin System have voted against a deal that would reform Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion bureaucracies on campus. 

On Dec. 9, the board officially rejected the compromise proposal in a 9-8 vote. The deal had been agreed upon the day before between system president Jay Rothman and Wisconsin lawmakers primarily concerning DEI and state funding.

[RELATED: PROF JENKINS: DEI refuses to die. Let’s kill it anyway.]

The plan would have revised approximately 43 DEI jobs into roles directly supporting all students, placed a hiring freeze on DEI jobs from 2024-2026, launched a donation campaign to create a faculty position concentrated on conservative political philosophy, and ended the DEI-based “Target of Opportunity Program” (TOP), among other measures.

The proposal also would have guaranteed admission into UW-Madison for the state’s top 5% of high school graduates, in addition to guaranteed admission into the other UW schools for the top 10% of high schoolers.

In return, the UW system would have received $800 million to spend on employee salary increases, in addition to creating new campus buildings and renovating existing ones.

[RELATED: Claudine Gay is a DEI hire lacking intellectual credentials, critics argue]

After the decision, Wisconsin Democrat Governor Tony Evers released a statement saying he trusts that the board ultimately made the right decision. 

”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,” he said. “In the meantime, I again urge legislative Republicans to release the already-approved UW System employee raises and investments included in the biennial budget that are well overdue.”

Following the regents’ vote, Rothman took to X to write, “On balance, I believe this proposed agreement was in the best interests of the Universities of Wisconsin. While I am disappointed, I respect the decision of the Board of Regents.”

In a radio interview several days after the vote, Republican State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos stated, “I will do everything in my power to make sure we enforce this deal or wait until the next budget to talk about it again.”

He added, “We are not going to give the raises. We are not going to approve these new building programs. We are not going to approve the new money for the university unless they at least pass this deal.”