(The Center Square) – The top Republican in the Wisconsin Assembly says he is encouraged by the University of Wisconsin’s plan to focus on in-demand degrees, but it’s not enough to move him off his block of the university’s pay raises.
Speaker Robin Vos told reporters at the Capitol that without an agreement to pull back on diversity, equity and inclusion spending there won’t be any movement on raises for university workers.
“Hopefully, once we’re able to conclude some kind of a deal on changing how we deal with diversity, equity, inclusion will be able to have that come up,” Vos said. “We have the engineering building, and we have the pay raises. They’re all kind of part of one big package. So, my hope is that that is just one of many that can happen once we have an agreement.”
Republican lawmakers put a hold on those raises last month.
That came after Vos ordered a $32 million cut to the university’s budget over DEI. Vos says the school spends about $32 million a year on nearly 200 DEI administrators.
“Just since 2017, almost 1,700 new positions have been created at the university, very few of which are actually focusing on students or teaching,” Vos explained. “So, the goal would be to try to make sure they go back and have a focus on educating students, not indoctrinating and really focusing on having more kids get access to faculty as opposed to just people who are telling them what to think and how to act.”
The university last week announced plans to spend $32 million on in-demand degrees like engineering, math and science.
“This plan is exactly what the Legislature is looking for – a concentrated emphasis on adding more graduates to the workforce in key areas,” University President Jay Rothman said. “I would hope everyone would agree that this is in the best interest of the state of Wisconsin.”
Vos has said he continues to talk with university leaders and says he is optimistic about finding an agreement.
The battle over DEI funding at the university is growing in the meantime.
Vos has said he won’t talk about a new UW Madison engineering building until there’s agreement on DEI.
Gov. Tony Evers sued Vos and the Republican-controlled legislature for blocking those pay raises because of the DEI spat. The governor has asked the state supreme Court to take up the case.