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University of Wisconsin President Tommy Thompson defies Republican legislature on schools’ COVID plans

‘The UW system is not required to seek political approval for every internal management decision,’ he said

After the University of Wisconsin system failed to submit is COVID-19 mask mandates and testing requirements for approval from the state legislature, interim president and former four-term Republican governor Tommy Thompson suggested the state-owned schools are not under the authority of the state’s elected assembly.

“The UW system is not required to seek political approval for every internal management decision, nor should it,” Thompson claimed in a press call, Channel 3000 reported.

Yet the Wisconsin Constitution, which establishes the UW school system, states that the college system is “directed by the state legislature.”

“It is not surprising that the Ivory Tower administrators at the UW System are openly defying state law to issue COVID-19 mandates,” Republican State Senator Steve Nass, who co-chairs Wisconsin’s committee for Review of Administrative Rules, said in a statement.

Nass asked the state speaker and majority leader to “force the UW System to comply with state law.”

In response, Thompson stated in the press call that he was “not a virgin to litigation,” and that the schools will “answer it” if the state legislature were to try to compel him to seek approval.

“We will be in circuit court, we’ll be in supreme court, we’ll be in federal court: wherever they want to go. I think they’re gonna lose; I think they’re gonna waste their time,” Thompson said.

Where things stand

The current Wisconsin university system COVID policies include mask requirements inside all indoor spaces except for dorm rooms. Unvaccinated students and employees are required to take weekly COVID tests on campus.

Not all Republican state senators agree with Nass, however, about the desirability of litigation.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke stated on Twitter, “As students look to return to class for the first time in months, a lawsuit from the legislature would only add more confusion during an already stressful time.”

Steineke also noted the school’s lack of a vaccine mandate in an earlier Tweet, thanking Thompson.

Nass’s chief of staff Mike Mikelsen fired back at Steineke on Twitter, saying that his words were a “[g]reat example of why the GOP base is so frustrated with certain elected GOP members. Says he is not ok with Covid vaccine mandate, but won’t go to court to stop UW System. He is ok with unvaccinated students being forced to have a stick shoved up the nose every week to test.”

MORE: U. Wisconsin-Madison professor vows to fight the patriarchy by refusing to wear a bra

IMAGE: Box_Lab.Shutterstock

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