MILWAUKEE – The University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents approved an agreement with the State Legislature on Wednesday that brought pay raises for employees of the system and other benefits. In return, UW agreed to freeze the hiring of positions related to efforts to promote ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’, better known as DEI.
The deal satisfies desires from the University of Wisconsin system and the Republican led State Legislature. Professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee Dr. Mordecai Lee says these situations work similar to the way people buy houses.
“There’s an offer and then there is a counteroffer,” said Dr. Lee. “Then all of a sudden, the buyer is willing to pay a little bit more than they wanted and the seller is willing to accept a little bit less. But they want to get the deal done.”
It’s an apt description, as it took multiple rounds of voting from the Board of Regents to pass the deal. The first vote failed to pass the agreement as the Board of Regents voted against it 9-8. This time, the momentum shifted to a passing vote of 11-6.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R- Rochester) led the effort to create the deal. Speaker Vos has been a vocal critic of the DEI positions, and refused to allow the pay raises for UW system employees during budget hearings this summer. He encouraged the Board of Regents to take the deal, and told the Associated Press he would not negotiate it any further. Democrats in the State Assembly, as well as Governor Tony Evers, were outspoken critics of the deal. Because of DEI’s polarizing nature, Dr. Lee says it may not be the last time DEI is discussed in Wisconsin politics.
“Should it happen that in the next election the Democrats become the majority party, I would not be surprised if they want to roll back the DEI section of the compromise,” said Dr. Lee. “But everything else is done. The pay raises have been distributed. The new engineering building is starting to be constructed.”
After it was announced the Board of Regents had agreed to the deal, Governor Evers released a statement saying he disagreed with their decision. It is possible for Governor Evers to veto the agreement.
Both the UW system and the State Legislature got some of what they wanted but not all of it. To describe this compromise, Dr. Lee commonly returned to a phrase: “Half a loaf is better than none.”
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