IRG’s CIO Exposes UW-Madison’s Unconstitutional Faculty Hiring Program

Jul 10, 2023 | Oversight, Press Release, Wisconsin Voices Blog

IRG’s CIO Exposes UW-Madison’s Unconstitutional Faculty Hiring Program

Report Highlighted in Wall Street Journal Exposes TOP Program and demands answers and full transparency from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


WHAT IS IT: IRG’s Center of Investigative Oversight’s report highlights new records, obtained by IRG, that thoroughly document UW-Madison’s unconstitutional, highly race-conscious, faculty hiring initiative called the Target of Opportunity Program.

WHY DOES IT MATTER: UW-Madison’s Target of Opportunity Program (or the “TOP program”) permits the university to hire and specially fund applicants to the school’s faculty partly on the basis of race. This is incompatible with the recent United States Supreme Court case striking down affirmative action.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Legislature intends to address race-conscious state programs in the fall. This MUST include correcting the TOP program and faculty hiring processes. Wisconsin taxpayers should not be required to subsidize a university that engages in open and pervasive racial discrimination in hiring.

Read an excerpt from CIO Director, Anthony LoCoco’s op-ed published today in the Wall Street Journal regarding next steps:

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard reaffirmed the court’s view that race-based governmental decision-making as a general matter is hardly ever permissible. Universities hoping to escape constitutional scrutiny won’t be able merely to change their admissions practices. Affirmative action in faculty hiring is the next frontier in Equal Protection Clause litigation.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison, the flagship of the UW system, proudly operates the so-called Target of Opportunity Program (TOP). It allows academic departments to obtain waivers from the requirement to post job positions publicly and instead hire “diverse” candidates directly. The university provides the irresistible incentive of salary funding for approved hires. Public records of internal TOP requests obtained by my group, the Institute for Reforming Government, show blatant, widespread and pernicious racial classification of faculty applicants that is difficult to reconcile with the Supreme Court’s recent decision.

Similar to Harvard’s and the University of North Carolina’s admissions policies, the actions of several UW departments approximated racial balancing, which the court called “patently unconstitutional.” The university’s business school supported its proposal for TOP funding with a helpful chart showing faculty race by percentage with categories such as “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 that a targeted hire was necessary in part because “there are only 4.2% of dermatologists of Hispanic origin compared with 16.3% in the general American population.”

“As recently as five years ago,” boasted the department of gender and women’s studies in another TOP proposal, “our department had only one faculty member who identified as a person of color. Through targeted recruiting and lucky opportunities, roughly 30 percent of our faculty now so identify.” Perhaps those recruits whose race unlocked a separate hiring track felt lucky. It’s doubtful the rest of the applicants did……….”

Wisconsin’s public deserves full transparency regarding the operation of the TOP program and its constitutionality; if it cannot be defended, it should be ended.