NATIONAL NEWS

Wisconsin schools superintendent wants UW regents to delay vote on deal to limit diversity positions

Dec 13, 2023, 11:01 AM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s state school superintendent on Wednesday called for Universities of Wisconsin regents to delay a second vote on a deal with Republican legislators that would limit campus diversity positions in exchange for employee raises and money for construction projects.

The regents rejected the deal on a 9-8 vote on Saturday amid complaints from Democrats that the deal sells out minority and LGBTQ+ students and faculty.

But after a closed-door meeting Tuesday led by Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman, the regents called for another vote Wednesday evening. The agenda indicated that Regent Amy Blumenfeld Bogost, who voted against the proposal on Saturday, had switched positions and now supported it.

State Superintendent Jill Underly automatically doubles as a regent by virtue of her position. She did not vote Saturday because she was out of the country. She issued a statement Wednesday asking regents to reschedule the second vote because she was still out of country, has inconsistent internet access and won’t be available at the meeting time.

“It is clear the Regents are divided, and further work is necessary. I look forward to being able to be a full part of that conversation upon my return to the U.S. next week,” Underly said in a statement requesting Wednesday’s session be rescheduled.

She did not say where she was or why she was overseas. A follow-up email to the state Department of Public Instruction seeking those details early Wednesday afternoon wasn’t immediately returned.

Universities of Wisconsin spokesperson Mark Pitsch didn’t immediately respond to a message asking if the regents would reschedule the vote.

The state budget that Republicans approved and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers signed this past summer called for a 6% raise for university employees over the next two years. But Assembly Republican Speaker Robin Vos refused to allow the GOP-controlled Legislature’s employment committee to release the money in an attempt to force the regents to reduce the number of positions that work on diversity, equity and inclusion projects.

Vos has insisted such efforts only produce division. The dispute reflects a broader cultural battle over college diversity initiatives playing out across the country.

Evers has leveled intense criticism toward Vos and Republicans for withholding the raises. The governor filed a lawsuit with the Wisconsin Supreme Court in October arguing that lawmakers have overstepped their authority by blocking the raises.

Last week Rothman and Vos unveiled a deal that call for releasing money for the raises as well as funding various campus construction projects. The list includes $200 million for a new UW-Madison engineering building, a top priority for officials at the flagship university, as well as money to renovate dorms at UW-Whitewater, Vos’ alma mater. The Legislature’s budget committee will hand the university system an additional $32 million for workforce development.

The regents, in turn, will freeze hiring for diversity positions through 2026 and shift at least 43 current diversity positions to focus on “student success.” Campuses also will have to eliminate statements supporting diversity on student applications. UW-Madison will have to end an affirmative action faculty hiring program and create a position focused on conservative thought.

UW-Madison must accept all applicants who finished in the top 5% of their class at Wisconsin high school. The regional campuses must accept all applicants who finished in the top 10% of their class at a state high school.

Chris Kapenga, a Republican who serves as president of the state Senate, has said that regents who vote against the deal may not get confirmed. Bogost, John Miller and Dana Wachs all voted against the deal on Saturday and have yet to be confirmed.

Bogost did not return messages Wednesday. Wachs told The Associated Press that he wouldn’t change his vote but didn’t know what would happen Wednesday night. Regent Ed Manydeeds, who voted against the deal on Saturday, also said he would vote against it again Wednesday but he didn’t know what the final outcome would be.

“I’m not certain,” Manydeeds said. “I don’t politic my fellow regents to find out what they’re thinking. At the last vote we had, I was surprised. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The Legislature’s Black Caucus planned an afternoon news conference outside the state Capitol to rail against the deal. The caucus released a statement last week saying the proposal left them “appalled and ashamed.”

___

Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this report.

National News

The Butler Farm Show, site of a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate former Preside...

Associated Press

Gunman in Trump rally attack flew drone over rally site in advance of event, official says

WASHINGTON (AP) — The gunman in the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump is believed to have flown a drone around the Pennsylvania rally site ahead of time in an apparent attempt to scope out the site before the event, a law enforcement official said Saturday. The drone has been recovered by the FBI, […]

1 hour ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump and Melania Trump during the final ...

Associated Press

Trump campaign releases letter on his injury, treatment after last week’s assassination attempt

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s campaign released an update on the former president’s health Saturday, one week after he survived an attempted assassination at a rally in Butler, Pennsylvania. The memo, from Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson, who served as Trump’s White House physician, offers new details on the nature of the GOP nominee’s injuries […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

California officials say largest trial court in US victim of ransomware attack

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A ransomware attack has shut down the computer system of the largest trial court in the country, officials with the Superior Court of Los Angeles County said. The cybersecurity attack began early Friday and is not believed to be related to the faulty CrowdStrike software update that has disrupted airlines, hospitals […]

1 hour ago

iPhones are displayed during an event in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. A 12-year-o...

Associated Press

A 12-year-old girl is accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin over an iPhone

HUMBOLDT, Tenn. (AP) — A 12-year-old girl in Tennessee has been charged with murder, accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin as the younger girl slept. A relative said they had been arguing over an iPhone. A security camera recorded the killing, inside the bedroom they shared on July 15 in Humboldt, Tennessee, the county prosecutor […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Man in custody after 4 found dead in Brooklyn apartment attack, NYPD says

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Police Department says it has taken a man into custody in connection with the deaths of a grandmother, a mother and her two children in the family’s Brooklyn apartment. Police said in a statement Saturday that officers responded to a report late Friday night of an assault, and […]

3 hours ago

CrowdStrike...

MATT O'BRIEN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

How a faulty CrowdStrike update crashed computers around the world

All it took was one faulty CrowdStrike software update to cause global disruptions that grounded flights, and other services.

4 hours ago

Wisconsin schools superintendent wants UW regents to delay vote on deal to limit diversity positions