Leaders of the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature have withheld pay raises for University of Wisconsin employees. The decision comes as part of an effort to pressure the school system to reduce its DEI expenditures by $32 million, Fox News Digital reports.
The University of Wisconsin, a renowned institution known for its extensive campuses and commitment to academic excellence, has found itself in a political crossfire due to its insistence on implenting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives.
Wisconsin Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who co-chairs the Legislature’s employment relations committee, has explicitly stated that pay raises for UW employees will not move forward until the school system aligns with the desired budget cuts in DEI spending.
However, this decision has not been without its detractors. Democratic Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard raised concerns that withholding pay increases impacts half of the state’s workforce due to resistance to DEI initiatives from one legislator.
The budget battle is rooted in budget decisions made in June, during which Republicans significantly reduced UW’s funding by $32 million, citing their estimate of what the system’s 13 campuses allocated for DEI efforts over two years. Although Democratic Governor Tony Evers exercised his veto power to save 188 DEI positions at the university, the budget cuts endured.
The state budget, approved by the Legislature and signed by Governor Evers, included pay raises for state employees—4% this year and 2% next year. Nonetheless, the employee relations committee, which is predominantly Republican, with a 6-2 majority, opted to approve those raises solely for state workers excluding the university system’s approximately 36,000 full-time employees.
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos recently expressed his openness to granting pay raises for UW employees, provided that the university system relinquishes its autonomy to create positions independently, especially in the DEI category. Vos plans to engage in negotiations with UW officials to work towards a resolution that is agreeable to all parties.
In response to this controversial move, Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman called the committee’s decision unprecedented and claimed that it unfairly penalizes the faculty and staff families who depend on these pay raises.
Rothman expressed his disappointment, saying, “It is unfair and not right to leave families of those faculties and staff behind.”
Committee member Senator Howard Marklein, a Republican, voiced his dissent, emphasizing that local employees on UW campuses should not suffer consequences due to policy decisions made by university leaders.