The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday January 28th

UNC Employee Forum Gains New Chairman

Tommy Griffin, who has worked at UNC for nearly 30 years, was elected to the position in December.

In 2002, he will represent more than 6,500 campus employees as the chairman of the UNC Employee Forum.

Griffin, 51, was elected last December to head the forum, which is dedicated to issues and concerns of non-faculty employees. As chairman, Griffin will lead eight committees and an elected body of 45 delegates representing nine campus divisions.

Employee issues are familiar to Griffin, who first started doing maintenance and construction work for the University in the summer of 1966. He said he originally sought work at UNC to be near his father, a fellow employee, but soon realized the campus would play a far greater role in his life.

"I saw how good the people were, and at the age of 16, I made up my mind that this is where I wanted to be," he said.

Griffin came back to the University in 1973 as a general utility worker and has since worked in the residence halls and for the Department of Housing and Residential Education. He said these various jobs have given him a familiarity with the campus and its employees that will aid him in his new position.

John Heuer, the forum's previous chairman, said he thinks Griffin's employment history makes him a qualified representative. "I have heard people express delight that a rank-and-file University mechanic has the support from his supervisors and other employees," he said. "He has the confidence of UNC employees that he will represent us very well."

Heuer added that Griffin is not new to the Employee Forum and has served twice before as a committee delegate. A recently implemented mentor program will keep the men in close contact, and a new suite on Franklin Street will provide Griffin with a regular office.

But Griffin said he doesn't plan to perform his new role behind a desk. Much like his first summer at UNC, he is willing to go wherever necessary to complete a task. "I have a fishbowl theory," he said. "When you're in the fishbowl, it's hard to see what's going on around you. That's when you need to get out and communicate."

Griffin said he has learned that different people see different aspects of the school. He said his door is always open to anyone because he believes he should learn something from everyone he meets.

He also plans to improve the lines of communication between University faculty, staff and students.

"These three groups have often been separated in the past, but we share common goals," he said. "Whatever takes place on this campus affects us all."

While Griffin stresses the necessity of compromise to achieve unity, he added that University-related decisions should never sacrifice the quality of education. Whether discussing budget cuts or nighttime parking, he says he will always keep students in mind.

"I want them to have whatever they need to come to school and get the best education they can," he said.

"They've kept me young over the years, and I don't want them lacking for nothing."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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