MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A University of Wisconsin-Madison program that explores masculinity amounts to a declaration of war on men and the university should be punished in upcoming budget deliberations, a Republican legislator said Wednesday.
UW-Madison offers a six-week program for undergraduate and graduate students called the Men's Project. It's open only to students who identify as male. Participants examine their masculinity and how it plays into pop culture, sexuality and "hook up culture," according to the program website.
Sen. Steve Nass, a frequent UW System critic, sent an email to his fellow lawmakers on Wednesday entitled "UW-Madison Declares War on Men and their Masculinity — Not a Joke." The email accuses UW-Madison of being part of a national liberal effort to rid male students of their "toxic masculinity."
The email comes less than three weeks after Nass and Republican Rep. Dave Murphy ripped the school for offering a course entitled "The Problem of Whiteness." They demanded legislators cut the UW System budget if UW-Madison didn't drop the class.
"Our friends at UW-Madison, not happy enough with labeling 'whiteness' as a societal problem, now are attacking another social ill ..., Men and their masculinity," the email says.
"The supposedly underfunded and overworked administrators at our flagship campus have scrapped (sic) together enough dollars to offer a six-week program open only to 'men-identified students," the email goes on. "In short, the highly paid leaders at UW-Madison now believe that Wisconsin mothers and fathers have done a poor job of raising their boys by trying to instill in them the values and characteristics necessary in becoming a Man."
The email concludes by encouraging legislators to reform the UW System in the next state budget.
UW-Madison spokesman John Lucas declined to address Nass' criticisms. He said the Men's Project is a small, voluntary, not-for-credit program that serves only about 30 students and consists of a retreat and six discussions over six weeks. The program is designed to address common issues of college life, he said, adding that a number of schools across the country offer similar programs, including Arizona, North Carolina, Duke and Washington University in St. Louis.
A spokesman for Gov. Scott Walker, who is in the midst of drawing up the executive version of the state budget, didn't respond to a message.
Caroline Krause, a spokeswoman for Rep. John Nygren, co-chair of the Legislature's finance committee, declined to comment. A spokesman for the other co-chair, Sen. Alberta Darling, didn't immediately respond to a message.
"It's not surprising that the party whose president-elect talked about women the way (Donald) Trump did also has a problem with a course that does not match their outdated view of gender roles," said Jenni Dye, research director at liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now.
After Nass and Murphy criticized UW-Madison's "The Problem of Whiteness" course in December, Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf issued a statement defending the free speech rights of students, faculty and staff. Walker refused to endorse Nass and Murphy's call to cut system funding.
Republicans cut $250 million out of the system in the last state budget and extended a tuition freeze for another two years. System officials have asked the governor to give them $42 million more in the 2017-19 state budget; Walker has said additional state aid probably will be linked to performance benchmarks.
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