March 31, 2007

Washington State Education Ombudsman Begins Offering Services

The Washington State Office of the Educational Ombudsman recently launched its website. The office is a new public service agency within the governor’s office and is not part of the public school system. Ombudsman Adie Simmons and her staff are neutral problem-solvers and mediators who help students, parents and legal guardians understand how the public school system works, how to find services and resources and what to do when conflict happens. (Wash. State OEO via SaveSeattleSchools.)

March 30, 2007

Arizona College District Seeks Vendor for Ombuds Services

The Maricopa Community College District in Tempe, Arizona is accepting sealed proposals for contracted Ombuds Services and for the provision of a 24 hour reporting hotline for faculty and staff. The District may award for these services individually or both to a single firm. Deadline for receipt of proposals is 2:00 p.m. on April 17, 2007. (MCCCD Purchasing Dept.; related post Maricopa County Approves Plan for College Ombuds.)

March 29, 2007

ICANN Ombuds Updates Internet Community

At each meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, Frank Fowlie provides an update on the activities of the ombuds office. At the public forum in Lisbon, Fowlie also discussed how ombuds access information relevant to visitors' inquiries. His remarks are available to download. (ICANN Ombuds Blog.)

Former GE Attorney: Employees Can be Fired for Failing to Bring Concerns to Ombuds

In an article for Corporate Counsel Magazine, a former GE senior VP and general counsel discusses the inherent conflict for attorneys who are also corporate officers. Among other things, Ben W. Heineman Jr. asserts that corporations must have systems available for employees to elevate concerns. However, his perspective is antithetical to IOA's tenets and even ABA guidelines:
Whether through an ombudsman system, an internal corporate audit staff, or division GCs and line lawyers..., employees at all levels of the organization must feel free to bring concerns about financial, legal, ethical or reputational issues to the top. Employees must know that those matters will be fully investigated and resolved, and they must have no fear of retaliation. Indeed, they must know that they have a duty to raise such issues, with failure to do so resulting in serious sanctions, including termination. [Emphasis added.]

Heineman also says that corporate attorneys, finance and audit departments have an obligation to investigate any issue raised by ombuds. (Via; Related Ombuds Blog post Harvard Business Review on Ombuds.)

March 28, 2007

Becoming an Ombuds Teleseminar

Dina Lynch, who publishes two blogs (Mediation Mensch and ADR Practice Builder), will host a teleseminar on Thursday, March 29, featuring Toni Robinson and Jane Bermont. There is a fee, but participants will be able to ask questions of these two experienced ombuds. (Sign-up info.)

March 27, 2007

Princeton Offering Internship

The Princeton University ombuds office is offering an unpaid internship for a graduate or post-doctoral student familiar with conflict resolution theory and mediation. Princeton students are not eligible. Hours and duration of internship to be determined; a travel stipend may be available. (Via Part of the Solution ADR Services.)

Why the World Hasn't Gotten to Yes

On the 25th anniversary of "Getting to Yes," Georgetown Law professor, Carrie Menkel-Meadow reviews why more of the world's actors and institutions have not employed more integrative, problem-solving and peace seeking approaches to conflicts at all levels. She also also reports, more optimistically, on the enormous contributions GTY and its progeny have made to how some people approach each other in resolving disputes and negotiating new transactions and relationships. (Available for download via SSRN.)

New Ombuds at Sandia

Mauricio ("Reese") Ramos is leaving UCLA to join the ombuds office at Sandia National Laboratories. Ramos will work out of Sandia's facility in Livermore, California, and provide dispute resolution services and training for employees. (Related Ombuds Blog post Musical Chairs at the University of California.)

Editorial Urges Student Ombuds for University of Maryland

An Op-Ed piece in the campus newspaper argues that the University of Maryland should follow the lead of Berkeley, Michigan and UCLA, and create an ombuds for students. Moreover, a student ombuds would satisfy a recent recommendation from the accrediting body that the university needed a venue for students to voice their complaints. (DiamondbackOnline.)
(Note: the University of Maryland currently has ombuds for faculty, grad students and staff.)

March 26, 2007

Harvard Business Review on Ombuds

The current issue of the Harvard Business Review has two features of interest for ombuds. Mary Rowe, ombuds at MIT, comments on how management and directors should respond to a whistle-blower’s lawsuit arising out of a flawed system for uncovering misconduct. (Why Didn't We Know? subscription.) In a feature article, Ben Heineman, Jr., draws on his experience as general counsel for GE and advocates for an ombuds system to allow employees to lodge concerns anonymously and without fear of retaliation. (Avoiding Integrity Land Mines subscription.)
(Note: GE's ombuds program is definitely not IOA-compliant. According to its website, "Employees are subject to discipline if they fail to report a known or suspected concern [to the ombudsman].")

When the Boss is a Bully or Jerk

MNSBC has two stories today about bad bosses. (Either these stories are becoming more common or I'm just better at finding them.) The first story was prompted by an Elle/MSNBC survey that found 16 percent of employees considered their bosses to be bullies. Stephen R. Covey (of "7 Habits" fame) advises approaching the boss calmly, learning to live with the stress or looking for another job. The second article features advice from Robert I. Sutton, author of a recent best seller, "The No A------ Rule." He urges employers to screen out and purge jerks. For the unfortunate victims, Sutton says the best options are becoming indifferent or quitting. (How to Cope When the Boss is a Bully; Advice for Tackling Workplace Jerks; related Ombuds Blog post NYT Career Couch: If Bullied, Visit Ombuds.)

March 23, 2007

CDC Ombuds Become Focus of Sen. Grassley's Ire

On March 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declined a request by Sen. Charles Grassley for a briefing by the agency's new ombuds. In an angry letter sent yesterday, Grassley lectured CDC Director Julie Gerberding on federal laws against interfering with a congressional inquiry and questioned why the ombuds would brief her, but not Congress. CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said Friday it was the decision of the ombudsmen — not Gerberding — to refuse Grassley's request for a briefing. (Atlanta Journal Constitution; prior Ombuds Blog posts: Sen. Grassley Seeks More Info From CDC Ombuds; CDC Ombuds Issue First Report.)

The Where of Mediation

Mediator and professor Paula Young has an excellent (and well annotated) article about choosing the right location for a mediation. Whether or not your practice includes mediations, her comments about power imbalances, safety, party comfort, and amenities apply equally to the work of ombuds. (Via

Job Posting: BearingPoint

BearingPoint Public Services is seeking to fill several ombudsman positions with its Healthcare DoD Team. The ombuds will be working at US military bases providing independent, neutral, and confidential assistance to soldiers and their families. Applicants should have military or VA experience. No salary or closing date provided. (BearingPoint HR: Healthcare Field Ombudsman, Sr. Mgt. Analyst; Senior Consultant, Healthcare Ombudsman; Healthcare Ombudsman, Consultant.)

Job Posting: United Nations

The United Nations is accepting applications for the position of UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/UNOPS ombudsperson. The job requires an advanced degree, at least 15 years of international conflict resolution experience, and fluency in English with proficiency in another UN official language. The ombudsperson will be appointed for two years, and may be extended for up to five years. No salary information provided. Application deadline: March 30. (UNDP Jobs; UNFPA Vacancies.)

Yolo County Hires Ombuds

Yolo County, California, has hired Harrison Jack a college professor and veteran as an ombudsman for the county's 1,600 workers. Jack will be paid $90/hour as an outside consultant. There is some ambiguity as to whether this is a classical or organizational ombuds; the job description is ambiguous and requires membership in the State Bar or USOA or IOA. (Sacramento Biz Journal; Yolo County Job Description.)

March 22, 2007

Syracuse Debates Creating Ombuds

The latest Academic Senate meeting at Syracuse University turned into a contentious debate over three proposals by the Vice Chancellor and Provost Committee on Academic Integrity (VPCAI). The recommendations were that the university: 1. make academic integrity a key institutional priority; 2. initiate a procedure to ensure fairness to those accused of violating academic integrity expectations; and 3. create an ombuds office to receive concerns of integrity by members of the university community. As for the ombuds office, Elet Callahan, VPCAI Chair, said. "We believe that this office is needed because it will promote an institutional culture that is characterized by trust." Despite Callahan's explanations, there was still confusion about the ombuds role. Said one faculty member, "I have no idea what the hell an ombuds is." (The Daily Orange.) ... and that is the quote of the week.

March 20, 2007

Texas Introduces Ombuds Shield Law

IOA has announced its support of an ombuds shield law introduced in the Texas State House. Introduced by Representative Patrick Rose, HB 3578 provides a privilege for organizational ombuds in all sectors. (A competing Senate proposal, SB 160, excludes public sector ombuds programs and is not endorsed by IOA.) It is expected that HB 3578 will be assigned to a committee within the next couple of days and will be calendared for hearing within the next two to three weeks. Although a small minority of the bills introduced in Texas are ever passed, this nonetheless may be a significant development for the profession. (Texas Legislature Online: HB 3578; SB 160.)

March 19, 2007

Cal Caucus Journals Back Online

The Office of the Ombudsman at the University of California Irvine has a new website. Among other things, it includes back issues of the Journal of the California Caucus of College and University Ombudsman from 1988 through 1997. (UCI's Cal Caucus Archive.)

Banking Expert Recommends Ombuds for Accounting and Securities Industries

In a recent speech to the National Association of Business Economists, Alex J. Pollock recommended creating ombuds for the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Insuring checks and balances is a fundamental principle of sound government. This principle should be applied in Sarbanes-Oxley reform by creating an Ombudsman in the PCAOB. This is also a provision of Congressman Garrett's reform bill.
The Ombudsman should report directly to the Chairman and be available to all accounting firms or companies to discuss any disputes, complaints, or suggestions concerning the activity of the PCAOB. These discussions must be on a completely confidential basis, to avoid the possibility of retribution from the regulatory staff.
Creating the Ombudsman function is also desirable for the SEC, where I believe the fear of retribution from the regulatory staff is an even more serious problem.

Pollock, a resident fellow with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said ombuds could alleviate the unintended consequences of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act: unproductive cost, paperwork and bureaucracy. (AEI.)

Job Posting: Eaton Corp.

The Eaton Corporation is seeking a Field Director for its Office of the Ombudsman. Since this is the director position of an established, IOA-compliant office, the individual must have demonstrated success in leading significant programs/projects. An advanced degree and knowledge of Eaton’s values, policies and practices are preferred. Position is slated to be located in Cleveland and will require significant travel. Salary and closing date not provided. (Eaton Corp.)

March 17, 2007

NYT Career Couch: If Bullied, Visit Ombuds

"Career Couch" [not "coach"] is a regular column in the New York Times. Even without the ombuds reference, this week's focus would make it a must read: "Your Manager is a Bully (But You Aren't Helpless)." The article has solid, succinct advice for the intimidated. What drew my attention was this exchange:
Q. At what point should you start searching for another job?
A. Try at least once to repair the situation, and if that doesn’t work, take your complaints to your company’s ombudsman or human resources department, or to your labor union. If the behavior continues beyond that, it may be time to consider asking for a transfer or to start circulating a résumé.
(NY Times.)

AZ State Ombuds Hires Two

Arizona State Ombudsman, Patrick Shannahan, has hired two additional ombuds to mediate disputes between government agencies and people who request public records. The new staff members will help on three levels, Shannahan said: Coaching; Informal assistance; and Investigations. Services, which are confidential and free, are open to individuals and businesses. (The Arizona Republic.)

March 15, 2007

Berkeley Lab Ombuds Named to UC Diversity Council

Harry Reed, Laboratory Ombudsman at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has been appointed to the University of California Staff Diversity Council. Reed will represent other national labs that are part of the UC system and, as part of the new council, will advise senior UC leadership and work with the existing UC Diversity Study Group in setting an agenda that promotes staff diversity. Reed is also Head of Workforce Diversity at Berkeley Lab and was appointed to the ombuds position in early 2005. (Today at Berkeley Lab.)

March 13, 2007

It's Sunshine Week!

March 11-17 is Sunshine Week, a national initiative to underscore the importance of open government and freedom of information. In a time of increasing government secrecy, "sunshine" laws promote transparency and often include provisions for ombuds to assist consumers. Both the US Senate and the House of Representatives have scheduled legislative action during Sunshine Week that the Sunshine in Government Initiative says collectively represent "the biggest advancement in open government laws in years." (

March 12, 2007

Job Posting: Tyco

Tyco Electronics is looking for an associate ombudsman for its corporate office in Berwyn, PA. The incumbent will act as the "designated neutral and impartial dispute resolution practitioner for the company" and provide "independent confidential and informal assistance to Tyco employees" as well as "concerns from customers, suppliers, shareholders and the general public." No salary or closing date indicated. (

Job Posting: TSA

The Transportation Security Administration is looking for a Conflict Management Specialist for its Model Workplace Program. The incumbent will create conflict management protocols; prepare written reports and presentations; serve as an ADR expert; and provide coaching, complex facilitation, mediation, etc. The position pays $64,157-121,318 per year and is located in the TSA's Arlington office; applications are due by March 26. (USAJobs, Announcement No: TSA-07-0409.)

Job Posting: DLA Piper

The international law firm of DLA Piper is seeking a Regional Diversity Manager for its New York office. In addition to supporting and coordinating regional diversity efforts, the incumbent will serve as a "Troubleshooter, ombudsperson, sounding board and intervention specialist" for associates. This position sounds similar to the law firm ombuds promoted by Sara Thacker in her recent article in the IOA "Independent Voice." No salary or closing date indicated. (DLA Piper HR.)

March 11, 2007

Debate Over Proposed Tenn Open Govt Ombuds

A debate is brewing in Nashville over a proposal to establish an open government ombudsman at an annual cost of $100,000. The plan, announced earlier this year, would give Tennesseans who experience problems accessing government documents or meetings somewhere to turn. Although endorsed by Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen, the state’s new lieutenant governor, Republican Ron Ramsey, is less optimistic about the likelihood the ombudsman position will be funded this year. (TriCities News.) [For a complete compendium on every state's open records and open meetings laws, including whether or not there is an ombuds, see the Open Government Guide.]

March 10, 2007

How to Craft a Strong Argument

Although many ombuds don't purport to debate issues, they must deal frequently with people eager to argue. Should you decide to rise to the challenge, BookRags has advice. The key to effective debate is preparation: Pick a point, develop related points, research your position and your opponents, and have least three pieces of evidence - hard facts that support your premise. Basically, this is good advice for any situation where you're going in trying to convince someone else of how credible you are. (BookRags, via Lifehacker.)

March 09, 2007

Revisit Lost UCOA and TOA Websites

One of the great resources on the web is the Wayback Machine, a project of the Internet Archive. This non-profit was founded to build an Internet library, with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format. If you are nostalgic or simply trying to remember what was once available on the web, try these archived pages:

Or, run your own search at
Internet Achive Wayback Machine.

Dealing With Emotionally Toxic People

Real Simple magazine explains why emotions are contagious and offers advice for keeping toxic people from ruining your mood. Their experts suggest using the following phrases to use when confronted by someone with a negative attitude and low self-awareness:
  • “Let’s talk about solutions.”
  • “Tell me why this is so important to you.”
These are undoubtedly part of every ombuds' lexicon. Some suggested statements may be good only for visitors who are truly conflict averse and desperate to protect their boundaries:
  • “Do you think that the late winter we’re having will hurt the cherry blossoms?” (or some other non sequitur)
  • “I’d really like to help, but this is starting to upset me.”
  • “Let’s talk about what’s going on at the office for 15 minutes, then let’s talk about something else.”
  • “Excuse me — I need to use the restroom.”
(Real Simple; related post Study: One "Bad Apple" Spoils the Whole Office.)

March 08, 2007

Senator Endorses Creation of Ombuds for Red Cross

"We need a Red Cross ombudsman," says Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo). The Senator commended the Judiciary Committee’s approval of a bill making key changes to the governing structure contained in the American Red Cross charter, including many recommendations recently made by the organization’s Board of Governors. The American National Red Cross Governance Modernization Act of 2007, will:
  • Create a Red Cross ombudsman to provide dispute resolution assistance on a confidential and informal basis, for both internal and external stakeholders; and
  • Require the ombudsman to report to Congress annually, and to the American Red Cross chief executive officer, and the audit committee of the Board of Governors.
Enzi co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). (The Hill Blog; see also the history of S.655 by the Library of Congress; related post Senate to Propose Ombuds for Red Cross

March 07, 2007

SBA Ombuds to Host Regulatory Fairness Hearing

The Office of the National Ombudsman at the U.S. Small Business Administration will host a national regulatory fairness hearing in Washington D.C. on March 16. The meeting will give leaders from business organizations and trade associations an opportunity to comment on unfair or excessive federal regulatory enforcement that impacts their members and small businesses nationwide. "This is a great opportunity for these groups to weigh in on the challenges their small business members face when trying to comply with regulations for their respective industries," said SBA National Ombudsman Nicholas Owens. (PRNewswire.)

March 06, 2007

House Panel Approves Bill That Would Create Federal FOIA Ombuds

A House committee has approved legislation to make federal agencies more responsive to requests under the Freedom of Information Act. In addition to policy changes, H.R. 1309 would create a FOIA ombudsman at the National Archives to help requesters resolve problems without resorting to litigation. The FOIA ombudsman would also review agency compliance with FOIA. (House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.)

ENOHE Annual Conference Set for May 24-26

The Fifth Annual Conference of the European Network of Ombudsmen in Higher Education will take place May 24-26, 2007, at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. This year's theme is "Ombudsman in higher education: counselor, student advocate, watchdog?" Plenary sessions will feature:
  • The Ombudsman as Multi-role Practitioner in a Complex Environment
  • BaMaDo: An Ombudsman’s Worst Nightmare?
  • Towards a Contractual Relationship Between Students and Institutions for Higher Education
  • Fraud and Plagiarism
Register no later than May 1. (ENOHE Conference Details.)

March 04, 2007

Purdue Takes Next Step Toward Ombuds for Employees

Purdue University has unveiled a new campaign to increase diversity on its campus. Under the plan, known as Mosaic, the university plans to spend $8 million in the next five years, above the $16 million a year it now allocates toward making the university more diverse. Part of that money will go toward hiring an ombudsman who will respond to the complaints of employees. At present, Purdue has an ombuds office only for graduate students. (BoilerStation; Mosaic Plan.)

March 02, 2007

Update: Missouri House Committee Passes "Intellectual Diversity" Bill

An initiative that would require the creation of institutional ombuds to protect intellectual diversity was approved by the Missouri House Higher Education Committee. The vote split the committee along party lines. Committee chairman Gayle Kingery (R) said the bill would be sent to the House Rules Committee for approval before the House votes on it. (The Maneater; related post More States Considering Academic Ombuds for "Intellectual Diversity".)

Job Posting: Affiliated Computer Services

ACS is seeking an organizational ombudsman for its office in Dallas, TX. The posting indicates that two years experience is required and a graduate degree is preferred. Salary and closing date are not indicated. (ACS Job Hotline.)

Profile of New Cal State Long Beach Ombuds

Betsy Newell Decyk, the newly appointed University Ombuds has been introduced by California State University Long Beach President. In addition to her academic work, Decyk is a certified mediator for the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and has received awards and recognition for her volunteerism in community mediation programs in Southern California. She has published articles and made numerous professional presentations related to mediation, critical thinking, and problem solving. (Inside CSULB.)

March 01, 2007

U of Arkansas Office of Student Mediation Changing Name to Ombuds Office

The University of Arkansas' Office of Student Mediation and Conflict Resolution is changing its name to University Ombuds Office. The change reflects the broader range of conflict resolution services provided by the ombuds, Sue Theiss. In addition to conflict resolution services, Theiss gives educational presentations in classrooms, holds workshops on conflict resolution theory, practice, and skills, and provides feedback to administrators and members of the campus community. (U of Arkansas News.)