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Finance committee defunds DEI at UW; Evers says he’ll veto

The Wisconsin Joint Committee on Finance (JCF) voted in favor of cutting the budget for DEI from UW Systems yesterday.

Over objections of Democratic committee members, the GOP controlled JCF voted in favor of a complete cut of UW Systems’ budget for DEI. The cut will remove $32 million in funding from its operating budget with the ability to have the funds released on approval from the JFC to be allocated towards different programs.

Multiple reasons have been cited as to why Republican members wanted to cut DEI from UW Systems, but the largest reason stems from a large misunderstanding of what DEI is. Republican members claim it furthers racial division — echoing a talking point of Representative Robin Vos.

“Diversity simply just doesn’t have the same meaning as it used to, and I think that’s part of the disconnect. We use the same language and a different dictionary as some people say. Because diversity doesn’t mean nondiscrimination anymore. Which is what it used to be, the goal is different. You have the universities reject efforts, and a colorblind society,” Republican Senator Eric Wimberger said in the committee meeting.

The Democratic minority in the committee voted against the cuts and in favor of an amendment to increase funding for the UW budget. Republican members rejected that motion.

UW-Madison’s office of the chancellor released a statement prior to the vote.

“The committee also shared plans to reduce the UW System budget by $32 million and, while it put that funding into the committee’s supplemental appropriation, this means that UW System’s funding remains flat at best. While we understand that UW System can seek release of the funding for use in high-demand programs such as engineering, nursing, business, computer science and education, it’s disappointing that in a time of historic budget surpluses the committee did not take the opportunity to invest in the state’s most important economic driver. It’s also puzzling and disappointing that the committee has not yet provided funding for a new Engineering building, given the committee’s stated focus on addressing Wisconsin’s workforce development needs,” Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin said in the statement.

This is the final statement the office of the chancellor plans to make on the budget for the time being, according to Assistant Vice Chancellor of University Communications, John Lucas.

The cuts would remove the jobs of around 118 UW DEI workers in the system. The cuts will account for .48% of UW’s previous operating budget of $6.57 billion. 

The budget will move to Governor Tony Evers. Gov. Evers has been adamant that he will veto any budget that includes cuts to UW Systems.