Last Updated on November 7, 2023 by Robert C. Hoopes
Title: Universities of Wisconsin Propose $32 Million for High-Demand Field Training Despite Controversy Over DEI Programs
In a bid to meet Wisconsin’s growing workforce demands, the Universities of Wisconsin have put forward a proposal to utilize the $32 million withheld by the Legislature. The plan aims to expand training programs in high-demand fields, such as engineering, nursing and healthcare, business and finance, and computer and data science, across 13 schools within the UW system.
The proposal has ignited a debate regarding the universities’ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs, which some Republican lawmakers want to eliminate. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has stated that the allocated money would only be released if the DEI initiatives were scrapped. However, UW system President Jay Rothman believes the plan aligns with the Legislature’s emphasis on workforce development.
This standoff arose when Republican lawmakers slashed $32 million from the UW system’s budget, in a move to defund the universities’ DEI programs. Governor Tony Evers vetoed a provision that aimed to dismiss all DEI employees at UW campuses, leading to Evers filing a lawsuit against the Legislature, arguing a violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers.
UW President Rothman has expressed his unwillingness to compromise on the DEI programming, underscoring the importance of maintaining an inclusive and welcoming environment on campuses.
If approved, the proposal would still require final approval from the GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee. The plan seeks to address Wisconsin’s workforce needs by increasing the number of graduates in high-demand fields within the next five years.
Several campuses are considering significant expansions under the proposed plan. For example, UW-Madison plans to allocate its funds to the Computer, Data and Information Science school, with the goal of graduating an additional 625 students over the next five years. Additionally, various campuses are contemplating launching degrees in artificial intelligence, expanding nursing programs, and introducing new degrees in robotics and automation.
The Universities of Wisconsin’s proposal holds the potential to bridge the workforce gap in high-demand fields while also advocating for diversity and inclusion. However, the ultimate decision rests with the Legislature and their stance on the future of DEI programs in the UW system.