Some UW Regents could be fired after rejecting campus diversity, funding deal

NOW: Some UW Regents could be fired after rejecting campus diversity, funding deal

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- As pressure builds to approve a deal that would limit diversity efforts on campus in exchange for Universities of Wisconsin funding, a top Republican warned some UW regents who rejected the proposal could lose their jobs.

Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) told CBS 58 four of Gov. Tony Evers' appointees, who have not been confirmed by the Senate, are on thin ice after the UW Board of Regents voted 9-8 Saturday to reject a proposed deal UW President Jay Rothman negotiated with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester).

Those regents include Amy Bogost, John Miller, Ashok Rai and Dana Wachs.

Over the weekend, Rai did vote in favor of the proposed deal, but Kapenga said all four unconfirmed appointees could be rejected as soon as January when lawmakers reconvene for session.

"We have [Republican] colleagues who have concerns about different actions or things they've said in the past, and now they've just added one more thing to the list of items that concerns people," Kapenga said. "I don’t think that would bode well for them."

He added, "I do think this action will probably move people into the position when they're ready to vote no on them."

The Senate has the power to approve or vote down appointments. If appointments are rejected, Evers can pick their replacements.

On Tuesday, the Board of Regents met for the first time since turning down the deal that includes restructuring 43 diversity positions, creating a new faculty department chair focused on conservative thought at UW-Madison, and capping the total number of UW positions through 2026.

In exchange, the Universities of Wisconsin would receive about $800 million to pay for building projects, such as a new engineering building on Madison's campus, and already approved pay raises for 35,000 employees.

The meeting was open to the public for less than five minutes before regents moved into closed session for several hours.

Rothman declined to comment on what was discussed or whether he plans to resign after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported he considered stepping down if the vote failed.

Open government advocates argued it's wrong to have these discussions behind closed doors on a deal that has "tremendous public interest."

"I think people might have been a little shocked to see that an issue that has such tremendous public interest is being discussed behind closed doors and I think it's unfortunate that's the case," said Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.

Lueders said while the Board of Regents can meet in closed session to discuss lawsuits and other sensitive matters, he doesn't think everything that was discussed Tuesday falls under those certain exemptions.

Regents will meet virtually again Wednesday to take up a revised proposal. The meeting will be open to the public.

It's likely to pass now that the agreement is recommended by Rothman, plus three regents, Blumenfeld Bogost, Ashok Rai and Kyle Weatherly.

On Saturday, Rothman was the only one who recommended a vote on the plan.

Vos, who led the effort to withhold UW funding until diversity positions are restructured, indicated Monday he will not support a new proposal because he's "done negotiating."

"We are not going to give the raises, we are not going to approve these new building programs, we will not approve new money for the university unless they at least pass this deal," Vos said on the Jay Weber show, a conservative radio show.

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