Tag Archives: Steve Nass

Republican blasts UW diversity program as ‘liberal indoctrination’

A Republican state senator says a new diversity outreach program at the UW-Madison is “sinister.”

Sen. Steve Nass made the comment in reaction to UW-Madison announcing its plans to improve the experiences of minorities on the flagship campus. The plan calls for having new students discuss social differences, a new cultural center for black students and increased opportunities to take ethnic studies courses.

Nass is vice-chair of the Senate’s committee on universities.

Nass said university leaders “constantly complain about lacking money” but “they never lack money for advancing new and more sinister ways of liberal indoctrination of students.”

He said the initiative isn’t about advancing critical thinking, but about “telling students to think and act in ways approved by the liberal leadership of our universities.”

UW-Madison leaders, however, say they created the diversity program at issue after a series of race-related incidents have occurred on campus.

The campus will test the program, called Our Wisconsin, on up to 1,000 freshmen to allow students to learn about themselves and others, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“That’s what the collegiate experience is all about,” UW-Madison Dean of Students Lori Berquam said. “Some of our students are joining us from small towns and they’re going to live in a residence hall that’s bigger.”

More than half of the university’s students are from Wisconsin, which the U.S. Census Bureau said was nearly 88 percent white in 2015.

The campus is part of a national trend of colleges that believe mandatory cultural competency orientation can relieve racial tensions and help students navigate diverse work environments after graduation.

The program’s creators said they consulted with other colleges that have implemented diversity programs, including University of Oklahoma, Oregon State University and the University of Michigan. A diversity consulting firm hired by the university wrote the program’s curriculum.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank set aside $150,000 to $200,000 from a special fund for the pilot program.

Lee Hansen, professor emeritus of economics at UW-Madison, has written several op-eds questioning the program and predicts there will be student backlash. He said the university’s population of more than 43,000 will always include some people who have unshakable views on race and that diversity training only pits students against one another.

Last year, the university saw incidents in which swastikas were taped to a Jewish student’s dorm room door, a Native American elder was heckled and a student of color received an anonymous note with racial threats.



UW regents to consider waiving out-of-state student limits

University of Wisconsin-Madison officials plan to ask UW System regents for permission to lift the school’s cap on out-of-state students, a move they say would attract more young people to Wisconsin. It also would bolster the school’s coffers considerably as it struggles with deep budget cuts.

Currently out-of-state undergraduate enrollment at any UW campus can’t exceed 27.5 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment based on a three-year average. UW officials wrote in a memo to the regents that they want to lift that cap at the system’s flagship institution for four years beginning in the fall of 2016. The school would still be required to enroll and maintain a minimum of 3,500 Wisconsin residents in each new freshman class.

UW-Madison freshmen classes have hovered around 6,250 students each year since 2012. According to the memo, UW-Madison has enrolled more than 3,500 Wisconsin students in each new freshmen class those years.

The memo justified lifting the cap by noting the number of Wisconsin high school graduates is dropping; 71,000 students graduated in 2009 compared with a projected 64,100 this year, according to UW-Madison data. Higher education is already feeling the shortage of in-state students. The number of students enrolled in state, private and technical colleges has fallen steadily in recent years, from 386,570 in 2010 to 361,724 in 2014, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. That will mean fewer workers for Wisconsin, the memo said. But UW-Madison can be an engine to attract young people to the state, it said.

“The changes being proposed will allow us to actively recruit top students from around Wisconsin and beyond so that those students are more likely to seek employment in our state when they graduate,” UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in a statement.

More out-of-state and international students would also widen a revenue stream for the university. The state budget Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed in July cut $250 million from the UW System; UW-Madison lost $53 million this fiscal year.

Blank tried to convince the regents in April to approve a four-year plan that called for raising nonresident undergraduate tuition by $10,000 to $35,523. The regents agreed to implement only the first two years of the plan, which means a $6,000 jump for nonresident undergraduates and generate $40 million more for the school by 2016–17. More out-of-state students would boost those numbers even more.

Mike Mikalsen, an aide to state Sen. Steve Nass, a Whitewater Republican who chairs the Senate’s universities committee and has been an outspoken UW critic for years, said Nass doesn’t support the plan.

The request doesn’t come with any promises to increase the number of in-state students, Mikalsen said. In the end, it’s a pure money grab, he said.

“They’ve made a decision to grab the money,” he said. “This is strictly and solely about the money.”

UW System spokesman Alex Hummel insisted the request is driven by a desire to attract new talent to the state and boost the workforce.

The regents’ education committee is scheduled to consider the request during a meeting Oct. 8. If the committee approves it all the regents could sign off during a full board meeting on Oct. 9.