September 05, 2008

UGA Professors Question Independence of New Ombuds

University professors and outside experts are concerned about the actual and perceived independence of the newly created Ombuds program at the University of Georgia.

UGA associate professor Janet Frick, who led an online petition for the Ombuds office, said the administration needs to adequately publicize the office to ensure they are "without divided loyalties." To protect the Ombuds' independence, associate professor Patricia Richards, stressed that appropriate training would be vital. Fortunately, the new Ombuds are expected to take IOA training this fall. Richards said she was worried about whether the new Ombuds would be "expected to tackle the ombuds duties along with their previous job duties."

These concerns were echoed by other observers. Brad Holland, an Ombuds at the University of Virginia said, "One of the key tenants of being an ombudsman is that you remain independent." Ombuds "can't be seen as extensions of the power structure," Luis Piñero, a University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant vice provost for workforce equity and diversity. "If they are not perceived as independent, people may not seek them out. That does not mean that the office will be obsolete, but if it is not structured and supported, it will not reach its potential." (The Red and Black.)

Prior UGA posts.

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