UW, legislature ready to fight over health rules

Posted at 4:20 p.m. on August 26, 2021

By Benjamin Yount

Center Square News Service

MADISON - Republican lawmakers are talking about suing the University of Wisconsin over mask mandates and test requirements for those who haven't received a coronavirus vaccine.

State Senator Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said he will ask permission to begin legal proceedings if the UW System doesn’t change its mind about coronavirus restrictions by next week.

“It’s not surprising that the Ivory Tower administrators at the UW System are openly defying state law to issue COVID-19 mandates to control every adult that walks on to their campuses,” Nass said in a statement. “It is sad that UW System interim president Tommy Thompson has once again shown his belief in big government control over the rights of individuals to make their own health related decisions.”



Thompson is a former Republican governor and legislator.

On Tuesday, August 24, Thompson said he would not ask for permission from Nass and other lawmakers before ordering coronavirus precautions at the university’s various campuses.


“I'm not abdicating my responsibility,” Thompson told reporters.

The UW System is not requiring that students or faculty members get vaccinated. But the university says people who are unvaccinated will have to be tested each week. Almost every university campus is requiring masks while inside campus buildings.


Nass said the noticeable exception is Camp Randall Stadium, where Badger football fans can watch the game without a mask on while in their seats.

“Apparently, the UW System has discovered that revenue-generating football games don’t spread COVID,” Nass said, invoking sarcasm.


The next step will likely be a lawsuit from the Republican-led legislature.

Thompson said the UW System is ready.

"I'm fairly confident we're going to win. I have no doubts of that if the Legislature sues us," Thompson said. “I don't want a fight with the Legislature, but we will contest it aggressively, whether it be the circuit court, the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court."

Nass said he will ask Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, also a Republican, to “commence legal action” on September 2.