Thursday, May 29, 2008

Carolyn "Biddy" Martin, next chancellor of UW-M

It's all but official at this point: now-former provost of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, Carolyn "Biddy" Martin has been selected as the new chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From all accounts, she seems well-qualified for the role, and I am optimistic about her tenure.

Martin, 57, is familiar with UW-Madison. She was a lecturer at the university in the early 1980s and earned her doctorate in German literature from the school in 1985.


Martin has spent more than 20 years at Cornell and has been at her current post of provost -- the university's chief academic officer and chief operating officer -- since 2000. As provost, Martin helped raise $110 million for a life science building, developed a program to make financial aid available to students and put together a retention plan for faculty -- something which currently is an issue at UW-Madison due to its relatively low pay scale for professors, at least when compared to peer institutions.
In relation to that last point, Martin, too, will be dealing with that low pay scale. While she'll be making more than former chancellor Wiley--he made $327,000 a year and her pay range has been set at $370,000 to $452,000--this will actually be a pay cut from what she made at Cornell. Not to read too much into it, but this strikes me as a good sign that Martin took the job because she wanted it and thinks she can make a positive difference, rather than because of money.

I'm also encouraged by her history of fundraising and scholarship programs at Cornell. She has stated a desire to "build a strong relationship[s] with members of the legislature, and to sell to leaders how important UW-Madison is to the state's economic, political, social and cultural well being." With the current legislature, this will surely be an uphill battle, but one well forth the fight. Proper funding of the university system, and making sure it's accessible to all students who are interested and qualified, is crucial not just for saving face but too because it helps lead to better lives, a better workforce, and a better environment overall state-wide. Education is and should remain a top priority for any community or society.

In addition, Martin also plans to advocate for and support efforts to secure domestic partnership benefits for UW faculty. Sadly, the UW is the only Big Ten school that doesn't currently offer them, and that's both bad for retention and recruitment, and just poor policy for a school and city that prides itself on being forward-thinking and egalitarian.

Martin's hire won't be official until the Board of Regents meets in early June. After that, only time will tell what her tenure at the school will mean for students, faculty and alumni.


M Big Mistake said...

You should have been at the podcast last night...only one person had an opinion of her, and it was pretty negative based on her interview.

I'm glad to read your article and see that she's not as bad as made out last night...maybe the opposite.

Emily said...

I'm bummed I missed it! Unfortunately, I've been pretty exhausted and busy since getting back from vacation (ain't that the way) so couldn't make it. I'll be curious to hear whatever was said about her, as I never got much of a negative impression from her interview or anything.

jen x said...

Emily, is this the same Biddy Martin who wrote "Sexualities without Genders and Other Queer Utopias"? Now THAT would be cool, but for some reason I'm not sure it's the same person-?

Emily said...

Jen - I'm not sure, but she is probably the same Biddy Martin (I'm basing this on other books/papers she's written, including one called "Femininity Played Straight: The Significance of Being Lesbian").

Anonymous said...

OH, she's gay . That's putting it mildly.

Anonymous said...

Isn't GAY beorgeois????

Emily said...


The Lost Albatross