Tommy Thompson ‘smashes COVID’ at UWEC

Bridget Kelley

More stories from Bridget Kelley


Both UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson and Chancellor James Schmidt spoke at the event Monday.

“Great job guys,” Tommy Thompson said, punctuating the Blugold Marching Band’s set on the Campus Mall. “Let’s smash covid.”

Thompson, former Wisconsin Governor and current UW System interim president, visited campus Monday to encourage Blugolds to get vaccinated.

Thompson’s visit is in accordance with the UW System’s “Vax Up! 70 for 70” initiative, which offers students a chance at one of 70 scholarships worth $7,000 if the campus population is 70% vaccinated by Oct. 15. 

At the time of the rally, 68% of UW-Eau Claire students had reported that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That number now sits at 69%.

“I think that is outstanding,” Thompson said, “but that is not good enough. We want to get 80% of our students vaccinated.”

Thompson also shared that 98% of UW-Eau Claire faculty is vaccinated, as well as 98% of the BMB.

Approximately one-third of the BMB was present at the event, performing to kick off the morning’s happenings. Both Thompson and Chancellor James Schmidt watched and posed for photos with members of the band. 

Schmidt spoke alongside Thompson Monday morning, emphasizing the importance of vaccination and masks in “smashing covid” on the UW-Eau Claire campus.

“I think you’ve seen from the energy this morning that our students are really happy to be back in classes,” Schmidt said. 

Mariah Dorn, a fifth-year accounting and entrepreneurship student, said she is vaccinated despite the discourse surrounding vaccination. 

“I didn’t want to subject myself to something that I could’ve prevented,” Dorn said.  “I didn’t want to be somebody that ended up in the hospital when I’m young and I could’ve made the decision to have a bed open for someone else.”

Dorn received both doses of her vaccine on campus last spring. She said the accessibility of the vaccines right on campus made her decision easier. 

There was a vaccine clinic held at the Flesch Family Welcome Center as a part of Monday’s events, as well as a vaccine clinic being held at the Hilltop Recreation Center from Sept. 14 through Sept. 17.

UW-Eau Claire’s testing and vaccine protocols are what is keeping students safe, according to Schmidt. 

“The safest place to be to defeat the pandemic was on a university campus,” Thompson said. “And Eau Claire led the way.”

The data backs this up, too. Lieske Giese, director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Department, shared with the Student Senate on Monday night that the vaccination rate for people ages 18-24 sits at about 40%.

The former governor also spoke on the recent measure within the Wisconsin State Legislature that was passed on party lines. 

This measure, passed in the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rule, would require the UW System to receive approval from the State Legislation for any covid-related regulations. Thompson was given a deadline from the state legislature to rescind the regulations or seek legislative approval by Sept. 3. 

He did neither. 

“I’m telling the legislation, give us the opportunity,” Thompson said. “Give us flexibility. We’ll build Wisconsin.” 

Thompson said he is not afraid of the legislature. He is confident the UW System has the legal grounds to enforce the protocols currently in place. 

Wisconsin Senator Steve Nass asked Republican leaders in the state legislature to sue the UW- System over these policies last week. At the time of publication, no such lawsuits have arisen.

Kelley can be reached at [email protected].