In the latest legislative session, the Republican-majority Wisconsin Assembly is poised to endorse a bill that would prohibit the University of Wisconsin system from factoring in race and diversity when allocating state-funded scholarships.
The Democratic Governor, Tony Evers, is projected to veto this legislation, along with another contentious bill revoking state grants from academic institutions that consistently infringe upon freedom of speech rights on their campuses.
There has been a long-standing claim from GOP legislators that universities have been marginalizing conservative perspectives. Jeff Buhrandt, a lobbyist for UW, voiced his opposition to the legislation last month.
He argued that the bill is redundant as many of the stipulations are already being adhered to, and codifying them could strip universities of the flexibility needed to safeguard freedom of speech. He also expressed concern that the sanctions could result in less financial aid for students, thus punishing them for issues beyond their control.
This proposed legislation to exclude race and diversity considerations from scholarship decisions surfaces months after the U.S. Supreme Court dictated that universities cannot include race in the admission process. While this ruling does not extend to financial aid, it has nonetheless been cited by some lawmakers as grounds for curtailing race-centric scholarships.
This year, Republican lawmakers in no less than twelve states have proposed laws aimed at diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs in post-secondary education. In Wisconsin, Republican representatives cut the university system’s budget by $32 million in June and have deferred salary increments for UW personnel until the institution agrees to decrease DEI spending by the same amount.
Separately, the Assembly is also set to endorse a bill to offer automatic admission to UW-Madison for high school graduates in the top 5 percent of their class. Those in the top 10 percent would be granted access to any UW system school except for the main campus in Madison.
In submitted testimony, UW-Madison has publicly opposed this measure, stating that the proposal is “unfeasible” and “does not align with our state’s values or our collective objectives.”
All three bills must pass the Senate before being presented to Governor Evers, who is expected to veto them.