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UW President defends diversity, equity and inclusion efforts

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(The Center Square) – The top Republican in the Wisconsin Assembly is not backing down from his fight over diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at the University of Wisconsin.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos over the weekend said the push toward diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives is a threat to the country as a whole.

“This is probably to me the single most important issue that we are facing as a people, as a nation and as, really, humanity,” Vos told the crowd Saturday at the Republican State Convention in La Crosse.

Vos has been leading the fight against DEI funding in the UW budget for more than a month. He said back in May that he wanted to cut $13. million that was earmarked for just under 200 DEI administrators at the university.

Last week, he said those cuts may now go deeper.

“The overt racism, the overt exclusion, the overt indoctrination is so deep inside the UW System, I am embarrassed to be an alumni,” Vos added. “We have got to fix that.”

Vos is a UW-Whitewater graduate.

Vos’ comments came after UW President Jay Rothman took to Twitter to defend the university.

“The reductions being discussed in the face of a $7 billion budget surplus and compelling needs for increased investment will have consequences to the access and affordability students and families have come to expect of Wisconsin’s public universities,” Rothman said.

Rothman has asked for an 8% increase in the new two-year state budget, a 4% increase each year. That is on top of the 4% tuition increase regents approved earlier this year.

The current UW System operating budget for this school year is just over $6.8 billion. Vos’ proposed $32 million DEI cut represents less than half-a-percent of the UW’s total budget.

Still, Rothman painted a grim picture if the cuts become reality.

“I look at the gulf in terms of what the UW System requested in its budget – which was half of inflation – & what is being discussed by some in the legislature, and it is really serious,” Rothman wrote. “As we move into a technology driven knowledge economy, the investments we make or do not make now will define Wisconsin’s future.”

Rothman has remained mostly silent about Vos’ anger about and focus on DEI, but he did share a letter from former UW System Regent Scott Beightol, a Scott Walker appointee, who defended DEI at the university.

“An across-the-board elimination of all DEI initiatives would be a mistake in my opinion,” Beightol’s letter stated. “We need to be able to attract all qualified students so that we can build the pipeline of graduates our state employers need.”

The Wisconsin Senate spent most of the day on Monday talking about the university’s budget, including some conversations about DEI.

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