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Reprinted from: Green Bay News-Chronicle

August 29, 2001

UWGB takes steps to address women's concerns

The changes include a new position and advisory council

By Michelle Kennedy

In response to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay's recent report on the equality of women at the school, Interim Chancellor William Kuepper named University Counsel Melissa Jackson as the new university "ombudsperson."

Kuepper also created a new Chancellor's Advisory Council on Equality for Women. Both were recommendations by the 48-member student, faculty and staff task force that compiled the report, which was submitted to UW System president Katherine Lyall on May 29.

"She is someone who can make a difference," Professor Laura Riddle said. "People were truly at a loss. They did not know where to go." Riddle served as co-chairwoman of the Task Force along with Karen Swan, director of health services.

In her new role Jackson will also chair the new Chancellor's Advisory Council on Equality for Women.

"I am excited by the position, but it is also an awesome responsibility," Jackson said. "I can be more proactive in this role than I can as university counsel. Being the legal counsel, I have to wait until the other shoe drops, so to speak."

Jackson also said that in the past people with work or school climate or environment issues simply were unsure of where to go.

"The goal is to have a centralized resource," she said. "I will be the person to say, 'OK. You need to go here.' Or just be the person to listen if someone doesn't know where to turn."

Immediate goals for Jackson and the committee include developing a more intensive exit interview for when employees leave the university.

"We need to know why people are leaving," Jackson said. "And in the long term, we need to look at child care options and other things that really affect the women and all students on this campus."

Jackson emphasized that she personally understands how difficult resolving issues can be.

"I want people to know that a lot of these issues affect me personally," she said. "I am a single mom. I am a woman and a woman of color. I have a personal stake in improving this university's relations with students, faculty and staff."

Because Jackson is the legal counsel for the university, she said that there will be times when she will have to take herself out of certain issues. She will look to the advisory council for support when this type of issue comes up.

Riddle said that she is excited to see that each of the proposed actions by the task force was taken seriously.

"All of the implementation steps taken are very much in the spirit of what the Task Force proposed," she said.

Jackson joined UW-Green Bay in February after serving as an employee benefits associate in Milwaukee. She has a master's degree in public administration from the State University of New York at Binghamton and earned her law degree from UW-Madison Law School.

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