MILWAUKEE - The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is once again requiring masks on campus, a measure that took effect Wednesday, Aug. 4.
However, a legislative committee on Tuesday voted to block the UW System from enacting COVID-19 restrictions, lawmakers saying the UW System needs to go through a formal rule-making process that requires legislative approval.
UWM's mask mandate applies to indoor public and shared spaces, but not in students' dorm rooms. For the unvaccinated on campus, the university will also require weekly COVID-19 tests.
"It’s just really to me, common sense, public health, and it saves lives," UWM Chancellor Mark Mone told faculty and staff in audio acquired by FOX6.
"This is all about the rule of law and making sure that UW System follows the rule of law," said State Rep. Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee). "We don’t have to strike down every rule. There are probably some, whether it’s capacity limits or online schooling or certain options that they have to protect public safety that we would probably be OK with. My hope would be that they would work with us. What likely will happen is they will press forward with the rules that they think are the right way to go, and the courts will likely strike those down, if there is a court case."
Wisconsin Capitol, Madison
Neylon, co-chair of the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, said he is responding to students' concerns.
"(Students) don’t think this is fair. They think this is sweeping, heavy-handed and they think there needs to be some accountability from chancellors and from people higher up on decisions that impact them, and them having no representation in terms of how these policies look," Neylon said.
UWM Student Union
Democrats oppose the move, which does not require any other legislative action.
"It’s one thing to say, ‘You know what, live and let live.’ But in this case, they’re actively trying to stop action from being able to prevent the spread of a deadly virus while we’re still in the middle of a pandemic," said State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee).
Mone said UW System chancellors will talk about the issue on Thursday, Aug. 5. In the audio acquired by FOX6 News, he spoke to faculty and staff about the legislature's vote.
"Our plan, very clearly, is to continue to stick with exactly what we’ve outlined today. The policies that were announced last week, we plan to continue down that area," Mone said. "I have been having discussions, as I said earlier, with (UW System President and former) Gov. (Tommy) Thompson. He is very supportive. He is with me every step of the way. We will be consulting with the Department of Justice."
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Both Republicans and Democrats agree on one thing: It is likely that the matter could end up in court.
After Tuesday's vote, the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced a mask mandate. The university says more than 80% of their employees have been vaccinated, and estimates at least 80% of their students will be.
While the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is not mandating masks, it will be testing unvaccinated students, faculty and staff.
The UW System is not mandating vaccinations.