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University of Wisconsin Chancellor Biddy Martin hopes to form a “genuine partnership” with leaders and members of various union groups, she said Wednesday.
In a speech to a group of unions in the Pyle Center, Martin outlined the challenges that will be involved in maintaining UW’s status as a research institute while still holding true to the “public missions and purposes” of the university.
“It’s going to be a set of balancing acts always,” Martin said.
She added her goal throughout this process was to be “a good communicator” for those present and all the groups on campus.
Martin stressed that she intends to always be open with the university community. She said she would continue to be willing to sit down with anyone and “talk straight” with them about her decisions, even if they don’t necessarily agree with what she’s doing.
Drinks and light snacks were served at the event, and attendees got the chance to mingle with and speak to the chancellor before and after her speech.
Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, said this is the first time an event like this has been organized for the unions on campus.
“It’s not something we’ve ever done in the past, but given the chancellor’s rich history, not only here but in Cornell and other places, we thought that it was important that our members get a chance to know her in an informal situation rather than an employment situation,” Beil said.
Martin appeals to the union groups on campus particularly because of her participation in the Teaching Assistant Association while she attended graduate school at UW, said Bryan Kennedy, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 24, who also spoke at the event.
“It’s nice … to know that we have somebody who’s walked the picket lines with us,” Kennedy said.
Mary Czynszak-Lyne, vice president of AFSCME Local 2412, who helped organize the event, also cited Martin’s approachability as an appealing quality in the chancellor.
“She’s inclusive,” Czynszak-Lyne said. “When you’re having a lunch with her, she makes a real effort of bringing you into a conversation and asking what your viewpoint is.”
Martin said she saw this event as “an opportunity just to get to know people and talk to them, (and) think with them about how we can come up with solutions together over time.”
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to meet people in different contexts,” Martin said. “And it’s been remarkably interesting and a lot of fun.”
Martin, who spoke to many people one-on-one and in small groups throughout the course of the evening, said she always enjoys the opportunity to interact with the many people who work on campus.
“I really enjoy interacting with people from all different parts of the university and meeting them, and having at least a little bit of time for conversation so that it doesn’t feel just superficial,” Martin said.