Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein

January 12, 2024

Legislature Follows Through on UW Agreement

As 2023 came to a close, the legislature and University of Wisconsin System came to an agreement on a path forward that refocuses the UW’s priorities on our campuses to student success and achievement, ensures our best and brightest students remain in the state, and makes significant investments in building projects across Wisconsin’s universities.  On Thursday, January 11, 2024, the legislature continued to follow-through on this commitment.

I am very pleased to co-author the bill that funds a number of important building projects throughout the system, including a new Engineering Building at UW Madison. This bill was heard by the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC), which I co-chair with the co-author of this legislation, Representative Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam). Moving this bill forward begins to fulfill part of the agreement.
SB 895 and AB 921 enumerates and funds the following building projects across the UW System:

  • UW-Madison Engineering Building ($347,336,000)
  • UW-Madison Kronshage-Jorns-Humphrey Residence Halls ($79,211,000)
  • UW-Whitewater Winther/Heide Hall ($75,489,000)
  • UW Systemwide Demolition Projects ($45,400,000)
  • UW Systemwide Central Plants and Utility Distribution System ($149,269,000)

The new engineering building at UW-Madison will provide the College of Engineering with the space to admit and educate hundreds of additional students, provide increased opportunities for education and research, and allow UW-Madison to recruit and retain world-class faculty. This project has the support of businesses and stakeholder groups across Wisconsin and is a top priority for UW-Madison and the UW System.
The other projects will provide much needed upgrades to living areas, classrooms, and other academic spaces, resolve the most critical heating and cooling plant and utility distribution system repairs at UW campuses, and allow the UW System to demolish empty and unused buildings across Wisconsin. All of these investments will greatly benefit the State of Wisconsin and keep the UW System strong.

I was also pleased to vote for the UW Employee Compensation plan for UW employees on December 19, 2023. I fought for these raises for months and I am glad that we approved the compensation plan. The custodians, executive assistants, food service providers, faculty and staff at our universities, like UW Platteville, work hard to provide a world-class experience for our students.
In return for our investments, the UW has agreed to the following:

1.      Freeze the number of administrators.

2.      Freeze and reduce staff who are tasked with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

3.      Requires UW to follow US Supreme Court ruling about fair admissions practices.

4.      Establishes an endowed Chair on Conservative Political Thought at UW Madison that will be privately funded.

5.      Ends the “Target of Opportunity Program” at UW Madison where the university hired people solely based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc in an effort to increase diversity. It is not based on skill or merit.

6.      Ends the University’s requirement that students sign a diversity pledge as part of the admissions process.

7.      Requires the Universities to establish policies to teach full freedom of expression to all undergraduates.

8.      Guaranteed admission standards for Wisconsin high school seniors at the top of their class.

Again, I am very pleased to lead the bill to invest in our campuses. I am encouraged by the collaborative deal we reached and look forward to positive outcomes on all of our campuses as a result.
As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me to provide input, ideas or to seek assistance.  Send an email to Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov or call 608-266-0703. I want to hear from you.