August 29, 2008

University of West Georgia Introduces First-Ever Ombuds for Faculty and Staff

Less than six months after a recommendation by an ad hoc faculty committee, the University of West Georgia has unveiled an Ombuds program and named two new Ombuds. Beheruz N. Sethna, president of the 11,000 student public university, introduced Bruce Lyon as the Faculty Ombuds and Patricia Pinkard as the Staff Ombuds. Lyon retired from UWG after 24 years as a faculty member in the Mass Communications Department, during which he twice served as Acting President. Since retirement, he has acquired considerable mediation experience in the Carroll County magistrate court. Pinkard also has had a lengthy tenure at the university, primarily in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is already an IOA member and was instrumental in advising the university. (UWG Daily Report; Recommendations to Improve Conflict Management Systems at UWG.)

Pennsylvania University Struggling to Hire EEEO/Ombuds

California University of Pennsylvania has been seeking to hire a "Special Assistant to the President for EEEO/University Ombudsperson" since May. After an insufficient pool of initial applications, the position has been reposted. Despite being advised that the position does not comply with IOA best practices, a CUP said there were no plans to change the conflicting responsibilities. (HigherEdJobs.)

August 28, 2008

Update: Iowa State Loses First Permanent Ombuds, Quickly Hires Replacement

In May 2008, Iowa State University has announced the appointment of Sharon Drake as its first permanent Ombuds after a two-year test of an Ombuds program. Earlier this summer, Drake withdrew for "personal reasons." Iowa State has turned to Elaine Newell, who will start on September 12. Newell is a civil rights attorney who has worked for the State of Iowa Board of Regents and the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. She also was assistant attorney general for the State of Georgia and a writer and editor for a number of corporations. "Newell's legal training and experience with higher education make her a good fit for this position," said executive assistant to the president Tahira Hira. "In her previous positions, she has worked with a wide spectrum of clients. She's a good communicator and listener. I am excited that she will be serving Iowa State in this important position." (Inside Iowa State.)

Prior post: Iowa State Appoints Permanent Ombuds.

August 27, 2008

Stellenbosch University Names New Ombuds

South Africa's sixth largest university, has appointed Professor Bernard Lategan as its newest University Ombuds. Previously, Lategan had served as director of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study at Mostertsdrift. “SU has created a huge opportunity for me and I am very grateful for this. I feel like this is a debt of honour and hope to contribute something towards the good management of this University in this manner,” he said. Lategan takes over the office from from the previous Ombuds, Letitia Snyman. (Stellenbosch University News.)

International Franchise Association Touts Ombuds Program

IFA urges franchises to consider the services of its Ombuds as an alternative to litigation. The International Franchise Association's Ombudsman Program provides franchisors and franchisees with an impartial dispute resolution resource, that is confidential and knowledgeable. The program is a primary component of the association's Self-Regulation program that includes its Code of Ethics and participation in the National Franchise Mediation Program. (IFA SmartBrief.)

August 26, 2008

San Jose State Fills Ombuds Position

California's San Jose State University has named Demerris Brooks as its new university Ombuds. Previously, Brooks was an administrative and project specialist for the Division of Student Affairs. She also worked for 13 years as a secondary school educator in the Bay Area. Brooks holds a bachelor's in English from the University of California, Berkeley, a master's in education from Stanford University, and a master's in education administration from Santa Clara University. (SJSU News.)

Related posts: Calif. Appellate Court Relies on Testimony of University Ombuds in Denying Student's Grade Challenge; Job Posting.

USF Ombuds to Dispense Student Relief Funds

Prompted by increasing numbers of students facing financial hardship, the University of South Florida has created a short term emergency fund program for students. The plan called Don't Stop, Don't Drop offers meal cards, gift cards or extra cash. University Ombuds Les Miller is the first step in the process and says students who need help must ask for it. "It's never too late to ask for help. I tell students all the time if you don't ask you never know. If you don't try you fail. The thing is to ask somebody." (TampaBays10; USF DSDD.)

Related posts: Profile of New Ombuds at USF; Texas Tech Ombuds to Help Administer Student Relief Funds.

August 25, 2008

Auburn Names First Ombuds

Four years after its faculty began agitating for an Ombuds program, Auburn University has appointed Jim Wohl, Professor of Emergency and Critical Care in the College of Veterinary Medicine, as its first Ombudsperson. Wohl served as the interim Ombuds for Louisiana State University in 2007, and has completed training with the Cornell University Institute of Conflict Resolution, IOA, and the Consortium on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution of the University System of Georgia. Wohl earned his BA from SUNY Albany, a DVM from Purdue University, and a Master’s in public administration from Auburn. “We are pleased to have someone with Jim’s background available to our employees,” Auburn President Jay Gogue said. Wohl will serve a two-year trial term starting September 2 and will continue to teach in his specialty area of veterinary emergency and critical care medicine. (Wire Eagle; Faculty Profile.)

Prior posts: Peek at the Long Playing Effort to Create an Ombuds Office at Auburn University; Auburn to Implement Ombuds Program; Auburn Looking for First Ombuds.

August 23, 2008

Job Posting: Office of Thrift Supervision

The OTS Ombuds Office is hiring an Assistant Ombuds to assist OTS managers and staff on a wide variety of customer service issues affecting the thrift industry, as well as implement programs and policies for responding to inquiries or problems involving OTS regulatory activities. The position may be filled in one of the following OTS offices: Dallas, New Jersey, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Extensive travel is part of the job. Applicants must have experience in financial services. The position pays $61,563-131,175 per year. Applications are due September 12, 2008. (Federal Government Jobs.)

Related posts: Office of Thrift Supervision Appoints Ombuds; Mortgage Crisis Draws in Ombuds; OTS Ombuds Hiring Scores of Special Assistants.

Study Finds Organizations Failing to Create Trust Internally

A recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity finds that most organizations recognize that trust is an important consideration in their company’s success, but many employees don’t feel it is being nurtured internally. The research finds that lower performing companies do less to nurture trust and that credibility of senior management has been falling. Despite the issues, the study found few formal programs to restore trust. A full 87% of respondents say their organizations do not offer training programs, 69% don’t utilize an Ombuds program, and more than 60% report that employee surveys or audits on trust issues aren’t in place, or are in place to only a small extent. (i4cp Press Release.)

Wait... If 69% of organizations don't have an Ombuds program, 31% do have one. This is very surprising number and I question its accuracy.

FCO Invites Submissions for Canadian Ombuds Research Award

The Forum of Canadian Ombudsman is seeking proposals for a paper that will clearly articulate the current Ombuds role in the Canadian context. The expectation is that this foundational paper will assist the public and potential users of Ombuds services to better understand how this role contributes to fairness. The main deliverable will be a concise report of 5,000 words written in clear, plain language (French or English) with an intended audience of Ombuds practitioners in Canada, the public and the media. FCO will award $10,000 including taxes and expenses for this research project. The deadline for submission of proposals is no later than noon September 15 2008. (FCO Hoffman Award.)

The award honors Liz Hoffman, who had a long career as an Ombuds. She became an Ombuds at Carleton University in the 1970's and subsequently served as the Ombuds at the University of Toronto, Ryerson Polytechnic, and the Ontario College of Art. She was a founding member of FCO and served on its board for many years. In 1999, she joined the National Defence/Canadian Forces Ombudsman’s Office where she worked until her death from melanoma at age 54 in January 2006.

Asilomar Conference Reminder

There is still time to register for the upcoming California Caucus of College and University Ombuds 2008 conference at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California, November 16-19, 2008. The conference is restorative, low-key, and enlightening in an intimate setting at a historic locale on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula. Early bird rates will remain in effect until September 5.

Prior posts: Journal of the CCCUO Calls for Papers; New Website for California Caucus; Details of 35th Annual Cal Caucus.

August 21, 2008

DC Schools Ombuds Criticized for Slow Reporting, Praised for Hard Work

Education activists in the District of Columbia have been complaining that schools ombudsman Tonya Kinlow has failed to file timely reports on the activities of her office. According to the Washington Post, Kinlow did not post reports for March, April and May reports until after an activist complained to the council. Kinlow said she's trying to develop a better process to ensure that reports will be delivered monthly starting in the fall. "We want to make sure the information is accurate. I'm willing to hold it and make sure it's right, as opposed to rushing it and having to explain later," Kinlow said. (Washington Post.)

Meanwhile, the Congressional Record has published remarks by Rep. Charles Rangel from earlier this year commending Kinlow's work to improve the D.C. schools:
That office provides a venue for parents, teachers, and students to voice their frustrations and dissatisfaction with the low-performing school system, and to have investigations launched in order to address those complaints. Kinlow has an impressive record--she, of course, once worked for my office--and she demonstrates a fierce commitment to service that should serve her well in her new post.

(Congressional Record.)

Proactive Ombudsing at NIU

Tim Griffin, the Northern Illinois University Ombuds, wrote an article for the campus newspaper giving students tips to avoid problems. (Northern Star Online.) In organizations with high population turnover, this would seem to be an effective way to help an Ombuds program stand out among available resources.

Related posts: Profile of Northern Illinois University Ombuds; NIU Ombuds Reflects on Campus Tragedy.

August 20, 2008

Olympic Athlete Ombuds in the News

John Ruger, the athlete Ombuds for the United States Olympic Committee, was recently quoted in stories related to proselytizing by the US archery coach, an emergency appeal by swimmer Tara Kirk, and Sheila Taormina's attempt to qualify for the pentathalon. (NY Times; Swimming World Magazine;

Related posts: USOC Ombuds: Anti-Doping System Snares Innocent Athletes; US Olympic Ombuds Helps Athletes in Conflict.

University of Tennessee, Knoxville Names Interim Faculty Ombuds

UTK has appointed William Bradshaw, Ph.D., an Interim Faculty Ombudsperson while efforts continue to restructure the office. Bradshaw is an associate professor in the College of Social Work where his research concentrates on Mental health and family services. He earned his M.S.W. from St. Louis University and Doctorate from the University of Southern California. Meanwhile, Faculty Affairs Committee is considering policy changes that would permit hiring "a professional ombudsperson." (UTK Ombuds Office; Faculty Profile; Faculty Affairs Cmte Minutes; Recommendations for Restructuring Faculty Ombuds Office; History of UTK Ombuds Program.)

August 19, 2008

Job Posting: Maryland Courts

The Maryland Judiciary has issued a request for proposals for an Ombuds to serve approximately 300-400 employees of the courts and related agencies. The Ombuds will report directly to the Chief Judge of the Appellate Court and will be provided with separate, private offices. The RFP requires applicants to have Ombuds experience and mediation training. Proposals are due by noon on August 29, 2008. (MD Judiciary Dept of Procurement; Ombuds RFP.)

The Maryland Judiciary is the only court system with an Organizational Ombuds program. Meanwhile, Maryland as a state generates more than its expected share of Ombuds news.

Related posts: Editorial Urges Student Ombuds for University of Maryland; Howard County Schools Hires New Ombuds and Plans New Limits on Authority; Maryland Considering School Bullying Ombuds; New Ombuds for Queen Anne Public Schools.

Three Ombuds Organizations to Hold Joint Conference in April 2009

Three North American Ombuds groups -- The Association of Canadian College
and University Ombudspersons, The Forum of Canadian Ombudsman, and The International Ombudsman Association -- will convene next Spring to celebrate the bicentennial of the Ombuds profession. The conference, "Evolution of the Ombudsman [1809-2009]: A Rich History, A Promising Future," will take place April 15-18, 2009, in Montreal. Sessions will encourage interdisciplinary dialog and sharing best practices. Potential presenters should note that the Joint Conference Planning Committee is accepting session proposals through Friday September 26, 2008. (FCO Conf Info; IOA Conf Info.)

Related posts: IOI Newsletter Announces 2009 Conference in Sweden; Details of 35th Annual Cal Caucus; USOA Annual Conference in Lexington.

August 18, 2008

New Ombuds at Ramapo College

The public liberal arts and professional studies college in New Jersey has appointed John L. Woods, Jr., as its first Ombuds. Woods is an experienced ADR practitioner and recently served as the Chief Mediator and head of the ADR division for a Federal Agency. He is also an adjunct professor, author and lecturer on issues concerning labor, employment, organizational development, conflict management and dispute resolution. Woods earned his Bachelors Degree from the SUNY Albany, a Masters from New York University, and a JD from Howard University School of Law. (Ramapo Ombuds Office.)

Prior: Job Posting.

Job Re-Posting: LSU AgCenter

The Louisiana State University Agriculture Center has extended the deadline for its newly-created, half-time Ombuds position. Applications are now due September 5. (LSU AgCenter.)

Prior: Job Posting.

UC Berkeley Appoints Ombuds for Students

After an internal search, the University of California, Berkeley has named Marcia Gee Riley as the Director and Ombuds for Students and Postdoctoral Appointees. Previously, Riley was Cal's Director of Student Involvement. Riley is replacing Carmen McKinnes, who retired in June. (UCB Org Chart; News Brief.)

Prior posts: Berkeley Ombuds for Students Retires; Internal Job Posting.

Lessons from Mediation: The Importance of Follow-Up

Mediator John Ford has come to consider follow-up an essential part of workplace mediation, where the parties have worked out new behavioral arrangements. As he describes it, "In many ways, mediators are like coaches, asking the accountability questions, while leaving decision making and implementation responsibility where it belongs-with the participants themselves." This is entirely consistent with the role of Organizational Ombuds, who will glean some insights from his techniques. (

August 11, 2008

MoFo Partner Backs Ombuds as Remedy for Micro-Inequities

Eric Tate, a prominent attorney and partner at megafirm Morrison & Foerster, recently says everyone has experienced “micro-inequities” in the workplace, and he is no exception. (The term was first coined by Mary Rowe, Ombuds at MIT, in 1973.) Speaking at the ABA Annual Meeting in New York City, Tate called for an awareness of the problem. Among other remedies, he said employers should appoint Ombuds to handle complaints. (ABA Journal; see also Rowe's JIOA Article.)

University of Texas Medical Branch Adopts New Ombuds Policy

With a candidate search still underway, UTMB has added a section to its institutional handbook covering the selection, role and responsibilities of the faculty Ombuds. The policy expressly states that the position is confidential, neutral, independent, and informal, and reports directly to the university president. The policy references UCOA standards (although it links to the IOA website). The position is limited to a one-year term and may be held only by "a highly respected non-UTMB tenured faculty member." A UTMB faculty blogger remains skeptical. (UTMB Policies; Texas Faculty Assn. Blog.)

Related: Job Posting.

August 10, 2008

IOA Unveils Revamped Website

The International Ombudsman Association dramatically upgraded its website last night. The new design keeps the purple and grey color theme, but now incorporates photos and graphics, and new links from the homepage. (IOA.)

August 08, 2008

Office of Thrift Supervision Ombuds Hiring Scores of Special Assistants

In the wake of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the Office of Thrift Supervision is advertising for 54 Special Assistants to the Ombudsman. The Special Assistants will work to foster cooperation and communication between OTS, the banking industry, the public and special interest groups by assisting OTS managers and staff on customer service issues and OTS regulatory activities. The positions require experience in the financial services industry or federal banking regulation, but not conflict resolution. The Special Assistants will be based in cities across the country and will earn $61,563 to 131,175 per year. (USA Jobs, vacancy no.: 2008-0090.)

Related post: Office of Thrift Supervision Appoints Ombuds; Mortgage Crisis Draws in Ombuds.

August 07, 2008

Ombuds Training in Vancouver

IOA is offering introductory and advanced ombuds training in Vancouver, B.C., October 27-30. Courses include:
  • Ombudsman 101 (Oct. 27-29) An introductory program for new ombudsman or those seeking information about the organizational ombudsman role.
  • Ombudsman 101 Plus (Oct. 29) A special half-day program for organizations and entrepreneurs who want to get started.
  • The Role of the Ombudsman in Organizational Change and Conflict (Oct. 28-29) Participants will understand change and conflict in organizations, the potential for being both monitors and managers of organizational conflict and the opportunity to serve as agents of proactive humanistic organizational transformation.
  • Specialized Course: Fundamental Theories of Conflict Resolution and the Implications for Ombudsman Practice (Oct. 30) This course will examine several theories of conflict resolution and their practical implications for pragmatically intervening in difficult situations.
The course will be held at the Marriott Vancouver Pinnacle Downtown. Priority registration deadline is September 12. (IOA Training.)

Top Conversation Hacks

Lifehacker offers ten simple conversational skills to help you recognize what's really being said and help you lead the discussion your way.
10. Feign sincerity with eye contact and repetition.
9. End a conversation with body language.
8. Ask sensitive questions indirectly to skip awkwardness.
7. Use silence to win arguments and nail a negotiation.
6. Soften critiques with the sandwich method.
5. Say "no" gently—or say "yes, but...."
4. Ask questions well.
3. De-code office jargon.
2. "Pace and lead" an irate person.
1. Become a human lie detector.

Ombuds employ many of these techniques intuitively, but the list may be helpful for socially challenged visitors. (Lifehacker.)

August 06, 2008

Calls Continue for Google to Implement Ombuds

Google's recent launch of an online encyclopedia service, an area dominated by Wikipedia, has revived requests that the internet giant establish an Ombuds program. Industry experts are concerned that Google faces increasing conflicts of interest with its original function as unbiased search engine -– essential that Google may be tempted to point to Google content first. Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of Search Engine Land has proposed that Google hire an Ombuds to investigate ethical concerns and report back to the public. Although Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales wouldn’t want a mandated ombudsman, he says that “it would be good business sense for Google to offer.” (Christian Science Monitor; see also, Search Engine Roundtable.)

Related post: Privacy Expert Says Google Needs Ombuds.

Advice for Whistleblowers: Think Carefully and Talk to the Ombuds

Toronto management consultant Randall Craig says that blowing the whistle could have serious ramifications for your own career, as well as those you implicate. Before doing anything, he says, "make sure you've got your facts straight." Generally, there are three options available: ignore it, confront the person, or report the behavior. If employees choose to become a whistle blower, Craig recommends they use confidential hotline or consult a workplace Ombuds. (

August 05, 2008

Updated Standards for Peer Mediation Programs

The Association for Conflict Resolution has revised and expanded its “Recommended Standards for School-Based Peer Mediation Programs.” Originally published in 1996 the document is designed to establish model standards for peer mediator conduct and recommended standards for training (including professional development for adults), program evaluation, and program development & management. Although the standards are intended for K-12 programs, they can be adapted easily for use in other settings. (ACR Education Section.)

For Ombuds that manage or work with peer mediation programs, this is an essential publication.

Related posts: Perspective on Ethical Standards for Federal Mediators and Ombuds. See also: International Mediation Institute Draft Standards.

Plan Now for Third Annual Conflict Resolution Day

Conflict Resolution Day will be celebrated on October 16 -- the third Thursday in October. The Association for Conflict Resolution encourages people to do three simple things to spread the word:
  • • Hang a Conflict Resolution Day poster in your office;
  • • Hold an Open House to let people know about your services; and
  • • Publicize your event and Conflict Resolution Day in the local press.
A poster for the annual event is available for download from the ACR website. In addition, ACR is publishing a list of 2008 activities. (Conflict Resolution Day.)

Organizational Ombuds should participate in this event as a growing and relevant part of the ADR community. This is an opportunity that should not be missed.

August 04, 2008

Brown University Ombuds Issues Second Annual Report

In her report covering May 2007 through April 2008, Faculty Ombuds Flora A. Keshgegian, Ph.D., reported a 20% increase in visitors. The report also marked the end of a two-year pilot program initiated by Brown's President, Ruth J. Simmons, and the Faculty Executive Committee. After an evaluation and review last fall, the university decided to make the office permanent. A search for a permanent Ombuds is underway. (Brown Ombuds' Annual Reports.)

Related: Job Posting.

Differentiating Between Constructive and Destructive Conflict

Mediator and conflict resolution coach Dr. Tammy Lenski offers pointers on recognizing whether conflict is healthy. Indicators of constructive conflict include:
  • Forward movement in the conversation–even if it’s unfriendly;
  • Parties seem reasonably comfortable; and
  • Statements may be difficult to hear but are not meant to be harmful.
If a conflict is still positive, intervention might be premature. On the other hand, Lesinski says it is important for conflict professionals to recognize the warning signs of destructive conflict:
  • Parties have become rigid in their positions;
  • Direct communications are diminishing or absent;
  • The dispute has become more about prevailing that the underlying issue;
  • The dispute has begun to involve others; and
  • Retaliation and attempts at coercion are becoming more frequent.
(Mediation Works Blog; Conflict Zen.)