October 31, 2007

Chevron Ombuds Mischaracterized in Press

A federal jury in San Francisco has found Chevron Corporation liable for retaliation and wrongful termination and awarded $5.5 million to a former employee. Unfortunately, in recounting the history of the employee's case, most media reports mischaracterize the role and involvement of Chevron's ombuds:
According to her complaint, in 2001 Pande [the employee] began to suffer harassment and discrimination at the hand of Mitchell [her manager]. By March 2002 Pande complained to Mitchell's supervisor, James Johnson, about Mitchell's conduct. Johnson did not investigate, according to the complaint; rather, Pande was given three choices: leave the company, leave the group, or stay for up to 18 months and get along with Mitchell. Later she filed a formal complaint against Mitchell with a company ombudsman. (Sacramento Business Journal [emphasis added].)

In fact, Chevron's ombuds practices to IOA Standards and would not have formally received such a complaint. The misinformation appears to have originated in a written decision by the appeallate court months before the matter proceeded to trial. (Pande v. Chevron Corp., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3247 [subscription only].) At that point, it's hard to unring the bell.

National Mediation Board Ombuds to Address NJ Conference

Dan Rainey, the ombuds for the National Mediation Board, will be a featured speaker at the New Jersey Mediators' Conference November 3. Rainey will discuss “Culture & Mediation” with Julie Morelli, a Virginia based mediator. (NJAPM; Press Release.)

Profile of Northern Illinois University Ombuds

The NIU newspaper published a profile of Tim Griffin, who has served as the University Ombudsman since 1991. Although the article omits Griffin's extensive administrative experience, it reveals that he worked as a piano tuner and technician, a lumberjack, a short-order cook at an A&W Root Beer restaurant and pumped gas. (Northern Star.)

October 26, 2007

More Annual Reports

Here are four more ombuds offices that have issued reports for the past calender or fiscal year:
Related post Annual Report Round-Up.

U. North Texas Down to Four Ombuds Candidates

The University of North Texas have narrowed the search for a new ombudsman from 66 to four and plan to recommend a candidate to President Gretchen Bataille by next Friday. The final candidates for the position are retired professor from the University of Texas Health and Science Center Jeffrey Kreisberg, Stephen F. Austin State University professor Mark Ludorf, Auburn University Critical Care Program professor Jim Wohl and Provost at the Preston Ridge Campus at Collin County Community College Belinda Newman. (North Texas Daily.)

Update: DC Schools Appoint First Ombuds

Washington DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has announced the appointment of Tonya Vidal Kinlow as the first ombuds for public education and the final major appointment of his education team. Kinlow is a former DC school board member and was, most recently, vice president for Government Relations for the District of Columbia Hospital Association. She has been a public policy advocate for the National Medical Association and the American Society of Anesthesiologists. Kinlow holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Loyola University in New Orleans and a Master’s degree in public administration from American University. Although Kinlow was not initially an applicant, her work with the search committee lead the committee to encourage her to apply. Subject to confirmation by the D.C. Council, Kinlow will earn about $135,00 and begin in December. (DC Press Release; Washington Post.)

Prior posts: DC Mayor's School Plan Includes Ombuds; More Details Emerge Regarding DC School Ombuds; DC Schools Struggle to Hire Ombuds.

October 25, 2007

ICANN Ombuds Publishes Guide to Evaluating Ombuds

Frank Fowlie, the ICANN Ombudsman, has produced a guide entitled “A Practitioner’s Guide to Evaluating Ombudsman Offices.” The how-to manual covers organizational, classical, executive and hybrid ombuds and provides suggested strategies for evaluating and reporting. The guide also provides a framework for applying international technical standards and developing metrics. (ICANN Ombuds Blog.)

As IOA wrestles with certification, this thorough guide may become an important treatise for organizational ombuds.

October 24, 2007

California Fires Shutter Ombuds Offices

The fires raging across Southern California have closed ombuds offices at several institutions: UC San Diego, San Diego State University, and California State University San Bernardino, and San Diego Unified School District. Most campuses are expected to be closed through the end of the week. (Chronicle of Higher Ed.; LA Times.)

Collectively, these offices employ ten ombuds and staff. Certainly many were evacuated from their homes, and our thoughts and hopes go out to them.

October 23, 2007

Job Posting: World Health Organization

WHO is recruiting for its Office of the Ombudsmen in Geneva, Switzerland. The Lead Ombudsman reports directly to the Director-General and has administrative responsibility for the office, including the other ombuds position. It is essential that applicants have an advanced degree and at least 15 years of relevant work experience, including at least 5 years as a mediator/ombudsman/conflict resolution manager or related organizational leadership. Applications are due by November 16. (Lead Ombudsman Posting; Ombudman Posting.)

David Miller, who has been the WHO Ombudsman since 2004, will be sorely missed by his colleagues.

October 20, 2007

Coburn Amendment Would Defund CDC Ombuds

As part of his effort to reduce earmarks and redirect spending, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) offered several amendments to the appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (H.R. 3043). Among these, Coburn Amendment 3320 would eliminate funding for the Ombudsman program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the 2008 fiscal year. Senators Jon Kyl, John McCain, James Imhofe, Richard Burr and Sam Brownback are co-sponsors. Coburn submitted the amendment on October 16 and a Senate vote is expected shortly. (H.R. 3043 History; Coburn Press Release.)

Clearly, this is dire news for an ombuds office that has seen more than its share of controversy in its first year of operation.

Related posts: CDC Ombuds Become Focus of Sen. Grassley's Ire; CDC Ombuds Issue Memo to Employees; Job Posting.

October 17, 2007

First Red Cross Ombuds Promises to Strengthen "Sacred Trust" With Public

Beverly Ortega Babers begins her tenure as the first Red Cross ombuds later this month. Babers will serve all stakeholders, not just employees and volunteers, but also blood donors, financial donors, disaster victims, and anyone concerned about the organization. She promises her office will be a collaborative resource for the Red Cross.

I say 'collaborative' as opposed to 'adversarial' because when you have an independent entity within an organization that is responsible for looking into the practices of the organization, there's the possibility that the relationship will be adversarial. That's not how I intend to operate. My intention is that my office will be a broker for honest feedback and positive change that might not occur absent a confidential and independent third party.

Babers will be assisted by Daniel T. Riordan, a former labor and employment attorney, who previously oversaw corporate labor relations at the IRS, and Patte Noriega, a long time Red Cross employee with operations experience. (Red Cross News.)

It's very exciting to see such a prominent organization implement an organizational ombuds office and the credentials of the Red Cross ombuds staff are appropriately impressive. Although Congressional oversight remains a concern, the Red Cross ombuds are well positioned to influence policymakers and encourage the creation of more ombuds programs.

Prior posts: Bush Signs Legislation Creating Red Cross Ombuds; Red Cross Head Responds to Criticism Over Appointment of Ombuds.

October 16, 2007

Travelers Pre-Screening Program Includes Privacy Ombuds

Verified Identity Pass, Inc. -- the largest passenger pre-screening provider -- has incorporated a privacy ombuds into its Clear Registered Traveler program. (Travelers who are pre-screened and pay a fee to Clear may shortcut TSA lines at about a dozen airports.) Clear has appointed UC Berkeley Law Professor Paul Schwartz as an independent, outside Privacy Ombudsman. According to the company's website:

He will be identified to members as the person to contact if a member has a privacy complaint or privacy problem with administration of the Clear system or fidelity to our published Privacy Policies. The Independent Privacy Ombudsman is empowered to investigate all privacy complaints, gather the facts, and respond to members, as well as to post responses publicly and prominently on our website. He will also provide Clear's management with recommendations for resolving disputes in keeping with our Privacy promises. (Clear's Ombudsman; Clear's Privacy Policy.)

The ombuds may also be able to post his findings on Clear's website without interference from the company. (ConsumerAffairs.com.)

It's reassuring to see that Clear has designated an independent ombuds, especially one with Schwartz's privacy credentials. However, it is not clear whether or not the Privacy Ombudsman will comply with IOA or USOA standards. (Thanks, Rachel.)

October 15, 2007

Coaching Bullies

Ombuds are regularly consulted by visitors who allege they have been bullied. Ombuds can draw upon a growing body of materials to coach the "victim" and provide updard feedback. Coaching the "bully" is more rare and articles correspondingly scarce. Executive consultant Lynne Eisaguirre of Workplaces That Work has some excellent advice that begins with a simple question for the bully: "Are you safe to confront." (Mediate.com.)

October 11, 2007

New Interim Ombuds at UC Riverside

The University of California, Riverside has appointed Indu Sen as Interim Campus Ombuds. Sen graduated from UCR in 1997 and then earned a JD from the University of San Diego Law School in 2001. Sen is a LLM candidate at Pepperdine University School of Law's Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution. Most recently, she worked in the ombuds office at UC Irvine.

Related post: New Ombuds at UCLA.

Texas Tech Considering Faculty Ombuds

At Texas Tech, the first action item at the first Faculty Senate meeting was discussion of a faculty ombudsman. (The university currently has ombuds only for students and staff members.) After hearing from Nathanael Haddox, ombuds for staff members, the senate passed a motion to hire a full-time faculty ombuds. In light of the president's later concern that a full-time position might be difficult to fill, the senate has now agreed to make the position part-time or full-time. Final approval of a revised job description for the senate ombuds is expected next month. (Daily Toreador.)

I don't really understand why it would be easier to recruit for a part-time position.

October 10, 2007

California College to Create Ombuds in Response to Grand Jury Report

In August, Santa Rosa Junior College's Board of Trustees agreed to "consider the grand jury report recommendation on the employment of an ombudsman." (Board Agenda, see p. 7, Agenda Item 9.) This week, the college began accepting applications for a position to support a new department, which includes an office of "Ombudsperson Services." (Santa Rosa Jobs.) Efforts to locate other information regarding the grand jury report or how the new office will be structured have been unavailing.

Update: Howard County Schools Reviewing Applications

The Howard County Board of Education is reviewing 26 applications for ombudsman, a position that has been vacant for the past four months. At its next meeting, the school board will set a new policy for the ombudsman, which will include an official performance evaluation - something that has been missing from the position. A board member stressed that none of the policy changes is tied to the performance of the district's first ombudsman, Robin Shell. (Baltimore Sun.)

Prior job posting: Howard County Schools.

Baylor to Reinstate Faculty Ombuds Position

Baylor University's Faculty Senate passed a proposal to reinstate the position of faculty ombudsperson. The ombudsperson "serves to facilitate resolution of problems, questions or disputes for the faculty in an informal, impartial and confidential manner," according to an approved draft of the proposal to reinstate the position. A committee of faculty and administration appointees will accept applications and conduct interviews. (The Lariat Online.)

Update: UNT Down to Finalists

The University of North Texas is considering four finalists being for its ombudsperson position. Candidates will visit the campus between October 15 and 22 for open forum interviews. (UNT InHouse News.)

Prior job post: University of North Texas

DC Schools Struggle to Hire Ombuds

A small pool of qualified applicants has slowed efforts to hire the first ombuds for the Washington DC public schools. Mayor Adrian Fenty said he won’t rush his national search, but activists are growing impatient. "The challenge has been in finding the absolute right match," said Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso, who has oversight of the ombudsman’s office. (DC Examiner.)

Prior post: More Details Emerge Regarding DC School Ombuds.

October 09, 2007

Former IMF Ombuds Passes

Robert O. Harris, who served as the ombudsman for the International Monetary Fund from 1984 until 1989, has died in Washington, DC. Harris was a labor lawyer who worked as an arbitrator and mediator, primarily in the airline industry, and was a past chairman of the National Mediation Board. (Washington Post.)

McMaster U. Ombuds Profiled

Shelley Lancaster has been the ombuds for McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, since establishing the office in 1998. Carolyn Brendon joined the McMaster ombuds office in 2003. Their work as dispute resolution experts is the subject of an article in the university's newspaper. Both Lancaster and Brendon agree that in some ways inquiries from professors and administrators are the most heartening because they demonstrate a commitment on the part of the University to ensure fair treatment for all its members. (McMaster Daily News.)

October 08, 2007

U. Missouri Plans "Intellectual Diversity" Ombuds

The trustees of the Univeristy of Missouri (known as curators) have approved a plan to protect intellectual pluralism. Each of the four UM campuses will designate an ombudsman to receive student complaints about instructors they think have discriminated against them based on their viewpoints. The ombudsman would work with complainants to resolve their issues, which could include conducting inquiries. The ombudsman on each campus will maintain records of all complaints and prepare a year-end report. (Belleville-News Democrat; Board of Curators Archive.)

It appears that the University of Missouri is the only institution to permit a conservative interest group to redefine the ombuds profession.

(Related posts:
Missouri House Committee Passes "Intellectual Diversity" Bill; UMKC Prof Opposes Intellectual Diversity Ombuds; More States Considering Academic Ombuds for "Intellectual Diversity".)

Student Trustee Seeks Reinstatement of Ombuds at U. Illinois Campus

The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign eliminated its ombuds office in the early 1990s due to budget cuts. Now Chime Asonye, a student represenative to the board of trustees, seeks to revive it. Asonye recently sent a memo to Chancellor Herman's office asking why the position was originally cut and whether he would consider reviving it. Stephen Grabow, faculty ombudsman at the University of Kansas, said he was surprised to hear that an ombuds office would disappear. (Daily Illini.)

October 05, 2007

Job Posting: Merrill Lynch

The financial services company is accepting applications for a "Confidential Workplace Advisor" in its Office of Diversity in New York. Although not an ombuds in name, the position serves as a "confidential, independent and neutral advisor to GWM employees to discuss workplace issues and to help the employee identify options and resources available to him or her for the resolution of such issues." Experience in dispute resolution, including work as ombuds or mediator, is required. No closing date or salary indicated. (Merrill Lynch, Job: IRC48346, via Monster.)

How to Give Criticism

Blogger Leo Babauta writes about habits to achieve goals. His latest post deconstructs the process of giving criticism. His advice is easily summarized: "Instead of criticizing, which is rarely taken well, offer a specific, positive suggestion." Nonetheless, his thoughtful and succinct post is worth reading and passing along. (ZenHabits.)

New Ombuds at UC Santa Barbara

The Ombuds Office at the University of California, Santa Barbara has hired Kirsi Aulin as an Associate Ombuds. Aulin earned a B.A. in French Literature from Bryn Mawr College and an M.S. in Counseling Psychology from California State University at Northridge. She is also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Most recently, Aulin worked with UCSB students at Student Health Service. (Thanks, Priscilla.)

Related Job Posting: UC Santa Barbara.

October 04, 2007

Tyco Touts Ombuds Program

In an interview Matthew O. Tanzer, Tyco's Vice-President and Chief Counsel Compliance and Regulatory Affairs, said that the ombuds office is an important resource for the company:

The Ombudsman and Assistant Ombudsman are part of the team and handle calls and emails relating to concerns raised by employees and others. The Ombudsman officially reports to the Audit Committee of the board. This is important in that it gives her a direct line of communication to our board. On a day-to-day basis she reports to me. We have a very active ConcernLine, which is what we call our hotline for reporting concerns, and we encourage its use globally.

The interview was published in the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, a monthly newsletter for corporate counsel, including the general counsel and corporate law departments of Fortune 1000 companies. (MetroCorpCounsel.)

(Prior post: Tyco Job Posting.)

U. Houston's New Ombuds Profiled

As Teri Elkins Longacre completes her first year at the University of Houston, she is the subject of an interview in UH Today. Her office was created in response to a proposal from the Faculty Senate and Staff Council and has been supported by the administration. Longacre earned a doctorate in management from UH in 1995 and a J.D. from the UH Law Center in 1997. (UH Today.)

U. Colorado Ombuds to Present Program on Incivility at U. Arizona

On January 31, 2008, the Ombuds Office at the University of Arizona will present a seminar on "Incivility in Academia: An Ombuds Perspective." The program will be lead by Mary Chavez Rudolph, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Ombuds Office at the University of Colorado Denver Health Sciences Center and Tom Sebok, M.Ed., Director of the Ombuds Office at the University of Colorado Boulder. (UA Ombuds.)

Pace Ombuds Office Profiled

The campus newspaper at Pace University published a thorough profile of the university's ombuds office. The office marked its 10-year anniversary of providing ombuds and mediation services to faculty, students and staff. University ombuds John S. Barkat, who has been with the office since it has opened in 1997, is assisted by Patricia Barnes, Jeanne Marie Madison and Susan W. Coleman. (Pace Press.)

Tenn. Gov. Hopes New Ombuds Office Will Reduce Lawsuits

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen said Wednesday that he hopes a newly created ombudsman position will help avoid the need for open records lawsuits similar to a recent successful action by the Knoxville News Sentinel. Bredesen considers the ombuds as a go-between for people to who lack the resources to gain access to public information. But the governor acknowledged that no official can prevent the need for future lawsuits. Earlier this year, Tennessee legislature approved $100,000 to create the ombudsman and a special committee is still considering what provisions for the ombudsman need to be written into law. (AP.)

(Prior post: Tenn. Gov. Opposes Plan to Fragment Responsibilities of New Open Records Ombuds.)

UMass-Amherst Ombuds Comments on Student's Lawsuit

A federal court has thrown out a 15-count lawsuit filed by a student against the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Brian Marquis had argued that his "A-" in political philosophy, was reduced to a "C" because of the class curve. Although District Court Judge Michael A. Ponsor dismissed the suit, Marquis said he is considering an appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Catharine Porter, the UMass-Amherst ombudsman and a defendant in the suit, said that Marquis's complaint was the only one she was aware of over a disputed grade in 30 years at the university. "If every student that didn't like his or her grade started to do this, we'd have to hire, I don't know, 25,000 attorneys," Porter said. (Boston Globe.)

October 03, 2007

Job Posting: UC Irvine

The University of California, Irvine, is accepting applications for an associate ombudsman. The position will be part of the large UCI office providing ombuds and mediation services to the entire campus community in compliance with IOA standards. A master's degree or bachelor's with relevant experience is desired. Salary range: $58,262-76,729; no closing date. (UCI Jobs, Req No.: 2007-1285.) (Thanks, Indu.)

(Related posts: UC Irvine Appoints Ombuds Office Director.)

October 02, 2007

New Ombuds at Mt. Holyoke

Mount Holyoke College welcomed Carol Stewart as its new ombudsperson this summer. Stewart has worked in conflict management for more than 14 years and is studying for a master's defree in public policy and public administration at UMass. "Carol's warm, dynamic presence will no doubt be felt immediately. She is a terrific addition to our community," President Joanne V. Creighton said. (MHC News.)

Job Posting: Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic Health System, one of the largest private medical centers in the world, is seeking applications for an ombudsman. The ombuds office serves patients and family members with concerns about medical services at Cleveland Clinic Foundation Main Campus, Family Health Centers, and affiliates. No salalry or closing date indicated. (HealthCareSource.)

Job Posting: Federal Student Aid

The FSA Ombuds is accepting applications for a program specialist in Washington, DC. The incumbent is responsible for managing customer complaint cases by receiving, reviewing and attempting to resolve complaints from student loan borrowers. The position pays $46,041-72,421 and applications are due by October 15. (USAJobs.)

Call for IOA Conference Presentations

The third annual International Ombudsman Association conference will take place in Boston April 13-16, 2008. The theme, "Making a Difference—The Ombudsman Impact," is intended to help attendees increase awareness, knowledge and skills in order to become more effective catalysts for change within their organizations. The Conference Planning Committee is now accepting presentation proposals and suggestions for presentations through October 12. (2008 Conf. Info.)

October 01, 2007

Meeting of Southern California Ombuds

The Fall caucus of Southern California ombuds will be hosted by the Los Angeles World Airports Ombuds Office on Tuesday, October 30. The theme of the meeting is "Protecting the Ombudsman Confidentiality Privilege." Find out how your methods of communication, marketing and office procedures can make or break a challenge to your confidentiality. Lunch will feature presentations by special guests from legal departments. (So Cal Ombuds Blog.)

New Ombuds at UCLA

The UCLA Office of Ombuds Services has announced the appointment of Tom Kosakowski as Associate Ombudsperson for the campus and Ombudsperson for the Center for Health Sciences. Previously, Tom established the ombuds office at Claremont Graduate University and was the interim director for the ombuds office at Riverside.

Iona's New "Ombuds Office" Isn't

Last week, I was excited to learn that Iona College had opened an ombuds office. The private college in New York is well known: it has been named one of America's "Best Colleges" by US News & World Report, and it's men's basketball team went to the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Since it is rare for a small school to invest in an ombuds office, I wanted to spread the news. Then, I read the college's website, which offers this definition:
OMBUDSPERSON: Ombudsperson means the employee designated to coordinate Iona College’s effort to comply with the Iona College Harassment and Discrimination Policy, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, the 1980 implementing regulation, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and any memorandum, directives, guidelines, or subsequent federal or New York state legislation regarding harassment and discrimination that may be issued or enacted. (Iona College Office of the Ombudsperson.)

There is absolutely no assurance that the office is independent, impartial or confidential -- the essential characteristics of an ombuds. (See
ABA Standards, p. 2.) Moreover, Iona's human resources director serves as the "ombudsperson." Clearly, this is an ombuds office in name only. It does not comply with either the IOA Standards or the USOA Standards. Instead, it seems to be little more than a compliance office.

Simply by existing, Iona's "ombuds office" devalues the good reputation that IOA and USOA and their members have created and seek to enhance. Iona's alumni will carry a profound misunderstanding of the ombuds profession into the world. Casual Internet users will be confused if they compare Iona's definition with other ombuds offices. In a worst case scenario, if Iona's office is involved in litigation, legal protections for the profession could be eviscerated.

IOA should reach out to Iona to encourage compliance with the professional standards or to urge that the college discontinue the use of the term ombuds. (Since I am not a member of USOA, I cannot presume to opine on its response.) The profession can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to this sort of misrepresentation. The consequences could be disastrous.