Republican Leader Aims to Evaluate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in State Government
Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has announced a call for a comprehensive review of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives within state government. Vos, who previously succeeded in reducing DEI staffing at the Universities of Wisconsin, has expressed his intention to take further steps in this direction. Speaking on the matter, he stated, “Stay tuned. This is just the first step and hopefully a lot more to come.”
Agreement Reached Between Vos and Universities of Wisconsin
In a recent development, Vos and Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman have reached an agreement. The deal entails freezing diversity hires, relabeling approximately 40 diversity positions as “student success” positions, discontinuing an affirmative action faculty hiring program at UW-Madison, and establishing a position at the flagship university dedicated to conservative thought. In return, Vos has agreed to provide funding for raises and construction projects across the university system.
Controversy Surrounding the Agreement
Despite the approval of the deal by the regents last week, it has faced significant criticism. Students and faculty have accused the decision-makers of disregarding the interests of students of color and LGBTQ+ students. Vos, who is white, has defended his actions, asserting his commitment to removing what he describes as “cancerous DEI practices” from UW campuses.
Republican Leader Aims for a Colorblind Society
Vos has made it clear that he believes DEI efforts have caused division and that he envisions a truly colorblind society. Addressing the employment committee, he declared, “We’re not done yet trying to look at how pervasive DEI is throughout the entire system of state government.” Vos expressed his faith in legislative Republicans to initiate an extensive and much-needed review of DEI in every aspect of state government. He concluded by saying, “Stay tuned. This is just the first step and hopefully a lot more to come.”
Democratic Response and Ongoing Legal Battle
Governor Tony Evers’ spokesperson, Britt Cudaback, responded to Vos’ actions by affirming that Evers’ administration would continue its diversity efforts, regardless of the objections raised by legislative Republicans. In October, the governor filed a lawsuit arguing that lawmakers had exceeded their authority by blocking the proposed raises. Attorney General Josh Kaul, representing the governor, has sent a letter to the court emphasizing the importance of deciding whether legislative committees can impede previously approved spending.
Raises Approved Despite Opposition
Despite objections, the employment committee voted 6-1 to release funding for the proposed raises. The retroactive 4% increase will be effective from July, with an additional 2% raise scheduled for July 2024. Republican Chris Kapenga, the state Senate president, was the sole committee member to vote against releasing the raises. He passionately stated, “I want to see DEI dead… We have laws in the Constitution that protect people for what DEI supposedly does.”
Future Legislation and Funding
It is expected that the Republican-controlled Legislature will vote on bills this spring to secure funding for construction projects. These projects include a new engineering building at UW-Madison, dormitory renovations at UW-Whitewater (Vos’ alma mater), and demolition projects across the system, amounting to $45 million.