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UW-Madison Race-based Hiring Program Likely Unconstitutional, Report Says

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Race-based admissions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison may not be the only thing that could be changing.

A new report from Center for Investigative Oversight at the Institute for Reforming Government takes a look at the university’s Target of Opportunity Program.

“In practice, the TOP program creates a two-track system by which departments can hire ‘diverse’ candidates outside of the normal hiring process, giving the candidates a leg up over non-diverse candidates,” the report states.

Anthony LoCoco, who is IRG’s head of the Center for Investigative Oversight, wrote in an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that using race to determine who gets into college is largely unconstitutional. He said the same theory applies to race-based hiring.

“Similar to Harvard’s and UNC’s admissions policies, for example, the actions of several UW departments approximated racial balancing, something the Supreme Court reminded is ‘patently unconstitutional’,” LoCoco wrote. “UW’s School of Business supported its TOP proposal with a helpful chart showing faculty race by percentage with imprecise categories like ‘Asian,’ ‘White,’ and ‘African American’ and expressed a desire that faculty and student racial diversification proceed ‘at the same rate.’ The School of Medicine and Public Health argued a targeted hire was necessary in part because ‘[n]ationwide, there are only 4.2% of dermatologists of Hispanic origin compared with 16.3% in the general American population’.”

LoCoco and his Center for Investigative Oversight compiled the report based on UW-Madison’s TOP applications and reports.

The university has not said what may become of the TOP program after the Supreme Court’s ruling. Instead UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin said in a statement that the school is reviewing the ruling.

“The full implications of today’s ruling — both nationally and on our campus — will not be known for some time. UW–Madison and UW System attorneys are now carefully reviewing the Court’s opinions and monitoring the potential release of additional guidance from relevant federal agencies,” Mnookin said in a statement to students, faculty members, and university workers.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has suggested ending the UW’s race-based scholarship program because of its reliance on race. LoCoco suggested that lawmakers do the same with the TOP program.

“In Wisconsin, as nationwide, if TOP programs and their ilk are not ultimately corrected legislatively, expect more litigation. The Supreme Court has made clear that it takes seriously the Equal Protection Clause’s ‘core purpose’ of abolishing ‘all governmentally imposed discrimination based on race.’ Faculty diversity programs thus present those seeking to fully vindicate the ‘colorblind Constitution,’ in Justice Thomas’ words, with a major target of opportunity,” LoCoco added.

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