The University of
Wisconsin-Madison is set to become the biggest
university with an openly gay leader, according to gay
rights advocates who hail the appointment as a
milestone for the movement.
University provost Biddy Martin was recommended Wednesday to
be the next chancellor at UW-Madison, a top national
research university with 40,000 students.
number 2 official at Cornell since 2000, is a professor of
women's studies and German studies and author of the 1995
book Femininity Played Straight: The Significance of
About eight to 10
openly gay people have become college presidents and
chancellors but mostly at small colleges, said Candace
Gingrich of the Human Rights Campaign. "None the size
of UW-Madison," she said in a phone interview.
"It is a big milestone, and it's part of the progress
that we're seeing at the college and university levels. When
you've got more and more openly gay faculty members and
openly gay administrators, there are bound to be those
who want to aspire to presidencies and
spokesman David Giroux said Martin's sexual orientation was
not a factor in her appointment, which is expected to
be confirmed by the Board of Regents next week.
''What she is, in
our eyes, is an exceptionally qualified academic
leader, period,'' Giroux said. ''And she was brought here so
she can apply that considerable experience to our
flagship campus and move us forward in areas of
education and research.''
cochairman of the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT
Resource Professionals, said Martin follows in the footsteps
of other openly gay university leaders including Ralph
Hexter, president of Hampshire College in Amherst,
Mass., and Chuck Middleton, president of Roosevelt
University in Chicago.
''They have been
trailblazers in showing to the public that sexual
orientation has little to nothing to do with their ability
to do their job, although it definitely shapes their
world view just like any other identity,'' Taneja
UW-Madison spokesman, Martin downplayed the significance of
her appointment for the gay rights movement.
certainly appreciates the sentiment, she believes the
focus and responsibility of her chancellorship is to make
sure that all constituencies at UW-Madison are treated
fairly,'' spokesman Dennis Chaptman said.
was met with enthusiasm among UW-Madison's gay and
lesbian employees, who were devastated when voters approved
a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2006. They
have fought Republican lawmakers unsuccessfully to
grant them domestic-partner benefits.
professor Jeanne Boydston, chairwoman of a university
committee on LGBT issues, said she was delighted Martin has
a background in humanities and a commitment to
''And yes, I'm
tickled to death to have an out gay person as
chancellor,'' she said. ''This is a savvy and experienced
woman, but certainly the appointment gives some
encouragement to LGBT people.''
Students at the
LGBT campus center erupted in cheers when they learned
Martin got the job. She was the only one of four finalists
who stopped there to chat during her campus visit,
said Eric Trekell, its director. (Ryan Foley,