A legal battle looms over mask and testing mandates at all University of Wisconsin System Schools.
Former Republican governor and now interim UW System President, Tommy Thompson, is pushing back efforts by GOP lawmakers to get permission for COVID-19 policies on campuses.
"Don't tie my hands, let me run the university," said Thompson.
He claims the law is on his side to implement COVID-19 safety protocols this school year, such as mask mandates or coronavirus testing to protect 170,000 students and 40,000 employees across the UW System.
Thompson, who once led the country's largest health services program as Secretary of Health and Human Services, tells TMJ4's Charles Benson that protocols last school year worked to keep schools safe and open.
"They told me not to mask, but we did it last year, the whole year," said Thompson. "And they told us not to do the testing and we had the best testing program in the country."
Republican State Senator Steve Nass insists Thompson needs approval from his GOP-controlled Rules Committee before implementing COVID-19 safety measures.
"It is sad that 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," said the Whitewater Republican. "This fight is not solely about mask mandates or testing requirements."
The four-time elected former Republican governor, who is vaccinated, says he's encouraging vaccinations - but not mandating them.
Senator Nass, a constant critic of the UW System, has given Thompson until Sept. 2 to comply with state law or face legal action.
"This fight is really about the desire of multiple chancellors to dictate every student, employee and campus visitor be vaccinated for COVID-19 or be banished from their campuses," said Nass.
"I don't want to fight with them," said Thompson. "But if they want to fight with me, so be it. Bring it on. I'm not going to abdicate my responsibility. I'm opening up the university."