October 31, 2008

RBC to Supplement Ombuds Program With Independent ADR Provider

The Royal Bank of Canada announced an agreement with ADR Chambers to provide an independent appeal process for customers who are unsatisfied with the results achieved by the RBC Ombuds. The services of ADR Chambers, an industry-leading alternate dispute resolution firm, are free to all RBC clients. RBC expects that the new arrangement will improve what is already one of the best records in the Canadian banking industry for dealing with client disputes. (Canada NewsWire via TradingMarkets.com.)

Related post: RBC Ombuds Office Implements New Case Management Software.

Ombuds Can Help Minimize Effects of Layoffs

When companies are forced to downsize, the effects are not limited to the employees laid off. David Noer, professor of leadership and business administration at Elon University, coined the term “layoff-survivor sickness” and has extensively studied the affliction and its effects. Noer says the sickness is a pervasive sense of personal violation manifest as “a toxic set of feelings and emotions.” Recent research indicates that attrition among layoff survivors can lead to greater than the cuts achieved through the layoffs. University of Wisconsin-Madison Business School Associate Professor Charlie O. Trevor recommends employers institute programs to give employees a sense that the company is just and fair, and cites Ombuds as an example. In addition, researchers recommend the following strategies:
  • Over-communicate, tell the truth and seek advice;
  • Ensure a perception of fairness in restructuring decisions;
  • Adopt a “helping” relationship, rather than one of “command-and-control management”;
  • Facilitate “grieving” and “venting”;
  • Consider the family;
  • Involve top managers;
  • Do something very visible; and
  • Give survivors a reason to stay.
(HR Magazine, subscription required.)

October 30, 2008

Ombuds Assessment Course

John Zinsser and Frank Fowlie are offering a two-day course for Ombuds considering, planning and conducting office assessments. They will cover all essential components from improving measurements, to demonstrating effectiveness and value, and reporting. The course will take place February 5 and 6, 2009, in Marina Del Rey, California. Zinsser is owner of Pacifica Human Communications, LLC., and an experienced Ombuds. Fowlie is Ombuds for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Tuition for the course is $500 and includes lunch, refreshments and course materials. (Ombuds.ca.)

Related posts: HR Professionals are Also Struggling to Define Effectiveness; Journal of IOA Releases First Issue; IOA Presentation on Ombuds Evaluation.

University of Texas El Paso Creating Hybrid Ombuds Position

UTEP is hiring an Assistant Dean of Students and Student Advocate with a muddled job description. The position manages of several student service departments "with core responsibilities such as the role of providing confidential and informal assistance to students with university-related issues." Despite the managerial and administrative duties, the applicant must The applicant must either be, or willing to be, an active member of "The Ombudsman Association, the University and College Ombuds Association, the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution, in order to stay on the leading edge of critical advocacy issues such as confidentiality, mediation and privilege." None of these organization are still in existence, having merged into either the International Ombudsman Association or the Association for Conflict Resolution. Moreover, the job seems to be inherently conflicted with formal and informal duties. The position pays $60,000-$60,456 per year; no closing date indicated. (UTEP Job Posting.)

FGCU Follow Up

Over the weekend, the Naples News ran an editorial criticizing the decision by Florida Gulf Coast University to settle discrimination claims by three former employees. The editorial repeated the claim by FGCU's attorney that the Ombuds, Charles McKinney, "let the university’s best interests down by failing to keep written records." Yesterday, the paper printed my letter to the editor explaining why McKinney is due an apology. (Naples News Editorial, Letter to Editor.)

Prior post: University Attorney Recommends Settlements - Blames Ombuds for Upholding Standards.

October 28, 2008

New Ombuds for WHO Africa

The World Health Organization has appointed Dr. Issa Sanou as the new Ombuds for staff members in the African Region. Previously, Sanou, an expert in infectious diseases, had been the Acting Focal Person for Research Policy and Coordination at the WHO Regional Office. He replaced Dr. Akpa Gbary who was reassigned to Benin Republic as WHO Representative. “I see my appointment as a privilege and a challenge as well as an opportunity to serve”, Sanou said in an interview. (WHO AFRONews.)

Related: Job Posting.

October 27, 2008

UC Riverside Enacts Ombuds Charter

The University of California has signed a Charter Agreement for the Office of the Ombudsperson according to UCR Ombuds Indu Sen. The first-ever Charter was signed by the UCR Executive Vice Chancellor just weeks before the Office celebrates its 40th anniversary. (Link forthcoming.)

Related post: UC Riverside Ombuds Expands Extern/Intern Program.

MIT Ombuds Annual Report

The Ombuds Office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has issued its annual report for the 2007 academic year. According to the report, "The Office heard an unusual number of anonymous concerns; more multi-cohort, multigeneration, multi-ethnic, multi-issue concerns; issues that involved more than one department, laboratory or center; and more from people away from the Institute." Over 900 visitors consulted the MIT Ombuds Office during the year. (MIT Ombuds AY2007 Report.)

Ombuds as Spokesperson

Over the weekend, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. put Georgia-based Alpha Bank into receivership for purchase by Stearns Bank. With bank and state officials unavailable for comment, the press turned to Linda Beavers, a regional FDIC Ombudsman for an explanation. (Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

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

October 23, 2008

Job Posting: Berklee College of Music

Berklee is seeking applications from experienced Ombuds for a two-year contract serving faculty and staff. The Ombuds will report to the President is scheduled initially for 16 hours per week. No salary or closing date indicated.

Related post: Regional ACR Program Features MIT and Berklee Music Ombuds.

GAO Urges USDA to Hire Ombuds

A report by the Government Accountability Office says that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has "fallen far short" in its response to hundreds of civil rights complaints despite creating a civil rights arm in the 2002. The GAO urged the USDA to to reduce the complaint backlog and to consider hiring an Ombuds to handle employee civil rights concerns. This is not a new proposal -- it was discussed at a meeting of Federal Ombuds three years ago. (Arkansas News Bureau; CFO Minutes, 11/9/05.)

Ombuds of Texas Fall Meeting

The Ombuds of Texas will convene at the Texas General Land Office in Austin on November 12. The event will feature a presentation by Beverly Reeves, District Ombudsman for the Austin Independent School District and will include a discussion of the group's mission and vision. (Ombuds of Texas.)

Related post: Ombuds of Texas Summer Meeting.

Ombuds Occupy Place on Bridge Between Psychology and Conflict Resolution

Mediator Kenneth Cloke observes that Ombuds and associated ADR professionals provide “brief therapy,” where the border separating conflict resolution from psychological intervention has become indistinct. He argues for a more integrated, multidisciplinary approach to conflict resolution.
While it is, of course, both necessary and vital that we recognize the key differences between the professions of psychology and conflict resolution, it is more necessary and vital, especially in these times, that we recognize their essential similarities, collaborate in developing creative new techniques, and invite them to learn as much as they can from each other.

Cloke's philosophical arguments cannot be adequately summarized here, but are relevant to Organizational Ombuds. (Mediate.com.)

Related post: How Systems Resist Change.

October 22, 2008

Standard & Poor's Reiterates Commitment to Opening Ombuds Office

In testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on October 22, S&P's President Deven Sharma confirmed the company's decision to establish an Office of the Ombudsman as one of many initiatives is increase transparency and quality. A progress report from S&P on "steps to further manage potential conflicts of interest, strengthen the ratings process, and better serve the markets" leads with news of the Ombuds program:
Establish an Office of the Ombudsman that will address concerns related to potential conflicts of interest and analytical and governance processes that are raised by issuers, investors, employees and other market participants across Standard & Poor's Ratings Services ("S&P") businesses. The Ombudsman will have oversight over the handling of all issues, with authority to escalate all unresolved matters, as necessary, to the CEO of McGraw-Hill and the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors.

The company says that it has "begun a search for candidates and will appoint an Ombudsman by year-end." (MarketWatch; S&P Progress Report.

10/23/08 Update: NY Times reports that S&P "has established an ombudsman office."

Prior posts: S&P to Hire Ombuds; S&P Promises Ombuds by Year-End.

International Workplace Study Reveals Employees Want Conflict Managed

Interviews with 5,000 full-time employees in Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States revealed that a majority of employees (85%) have to deal with conflict to some degree and 29% do so "always" or "frequently." Although Ombuds are not mentioned as a solution per se, employees clearly are seeking Ombuds-type conflict resources. When asked, "What could managers do to address conflict at work more effectively?" the responses would seem to describe Ombuds:
  • Identify and address underlying tensions before things go wrong (54%)
  • More informal one-to-one conversations with people they manage (42%)
  • Act as mediators when conflict develops (40%)
The data indicates that training is the biggest driver for high-quality outcomes from conflict. The report is full of valuable information for people who manage workplace conflict. (Fight, Flight or Face It?: Celebrating the Effective Management of Conflict at Work, via Bill Warter's Campus-ADR Tech Blog.)

Job Posting: USCIS Extends Application Deadline

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has extended the deadline for applications for the position of Deputy Director to the Ombudsman. The deadline is now November 3, 2008. (USA Jobs.)

Prior: Job Posting.

October 21, 2008

University Attorney Recommends Settlements - Blames Ombuds for Upholding Standards

In a stunning public disclosure, an attorney for Florida Gulf Coast University claimed the University Ombuds was evasive and did not properly investigate or report complaint, forcing the university to settle two discrimination suits.

FGCU recently settled two federal lawsuits after its attorney, Aaron Behar of Miami, warned that key witnesses weren’t credible and a jury would see through holes in the defense. According to transcripts released by the university, the attorney said he had a particular problem with FGCU Ombuds Charles McKinney. Behar told FGCU trustees that McKinney “received complaints and never really followed up,” and “wouldn’t write things down.” Behar reported that the Ombuds refused to produce records or information for the investigation. According to Behar, McKinney said, “He does not like to take notes because he does not want to have a paper trail, which in and of itself is concerning.”

McKinney told a local newspaper that he was appalled when he read Behar’s depiction of him in the transcripts. “I thought the record did not portray reality,” McKinney said of Behar’s statements. “I feel very badly about the transcript and how this might affect my reputation.” McKinney said he has not been asked to resign or retire and plans to stay with the university. He said he hasn’t had a chance to talk to FGCU President Wilson Bradshaw about the accusations. (Ft. Myers News-Press; Naples Daily News.)

* Of course there may be more to this story, but the first impression is that FGCU's attorney utterly failed to understand the role of the University Ombuds. It is as if he had not read the IOA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, or the ABA Standards for the Establishment and Operation of Ombuds Offices. These materials provide the foundation for determining whether an Ombuds falls below the standard of care and should have been reviewed by a litigator representing the university. All are readily available to anyone with an Internet connection and the ability to Google "Ombuds." Indeed, the ethical tenets are clearly enunciated on the FCGU Ombuds website.

In this case, McKinney kept complaints confidential; didn't create records; and declined to participate in a formal process. Check, check and check: all within professional standards. It is appalling that Behar laid any blame on McKinney and equally disappointing that the University President has remained silent on the issue.

University of Maryland Appoints First Ombuds for Students

With the appointment of James Newton as Undergraduate Student Ombuds, University of Maryland undergrads have a new resource this year. The addition of Newton completes the roster of Ombuds officers which already comprised Ombuds for faculty, staff, and graduate students. Newton has been with the university since 1977 and continues to serve as Assistant Dean to the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and Dean for Undergraduate Studies. In his career he also has been Director of the Center for Minorities in Science and Engineering, Director of Minority Affairs, and a member of the President’s Commission on Ethnic Minority Issues and has served as the president of the university system’s chapter of the National Honor Society Phi Kappa Phi. Newton (as well as all other Ombuds officers) will serve as an ex officio member of the University Senate. (Diamondback Online; UMD Undergrad Advisor; UMD Profile.)

The University of Maryland should be commended for filling the obvious need for a student Ombuds. However, with an undergraduate population of nearly 26,000 a part-time Ombuds would seem insufficient. For most universities, a full-time Ombuds will serve a population of 10,000 to 20,000. Moreover, the dual role of Ombuds and Dean may cause students to doubt the independence, neutrality and informality of the service. Hopefully this is a situation that will continue to evolve.

October 20, 2008

University of South Carolina Ombuds Publishes Annual Review

Jim Augustine marked his second anniversary as the University Ombuds at USC with his second annual report. During the year ended August 14, 2008, Augustine met with some 53 faculty visitors (with 107 contacts - in person, via email, or by phone) who sought assistance from the Ombuds Office. He also announced plans to survey all future visitors to better determine the effectiveness of the Ombuds program. (USC Ombuds 2007-08 Report.)

October 18, 2008

Profile of Iowa State Ombuds

After its first permanent Ombuds withdrew just a few weeks into her two-year term, Iowa State University quickly recruited former civil rights attorney, Elaine Newell. She appreciates transitioning to an academic environment. "It has collegial intent, tough topics are not off-limits, and people are always thinking about new things," she said. Newell said her biggest job adjustment is also one of its greatest benefits. "I can't advocate for either party in this role," she said. "I must remain completely neutral to help them resolve the issues. But the good news is I no longer carry the burden alone of finding the one right way to help a client." Newell hopes to see continued growth in visitors to her office. (Ames Tribune.)

Related post:
Iowa State Loses First Permanent Ombuds, Quickly Hires Replacement.

October 17, 2008

University of Texas Ombuds Office Celebrates 40 Years

Past and present Ombuds convened at the UT Austin Office of the Ombudsperson to mark four decades of service to the student body. The office, one of the oldest in the nation, is the only one with an Ombuds position filled by a student. According to the UT Ombuds, Lauren Bloom, the office served about 1,000 students in the last academic year. (Daily Texan.)

Related post:
UT Student Govt. Backs Texas Legislation; University of Victoria Ombuds Office Marks 30 Years.

UC Denver Faculty Vote to Add Emeriti Ombuds

At an assembly earlier this week, University of Colorado Denver faculty agreed that it is a priority to add two part-time retired faculty members to serve in the university Ombuds office. Based on the experience of faculty at UCB, faculty are more likely to feel at ease going to a retired faculty member, said assembly Chair Roxanne Byrne. (Silver & Gold Record.)

Updated 11/6/08: Although assembly members recognized the university's need for financial belt-tightening, they argue that hiring additional Ombuds would help faculty members protect their rights and could ultimately save the university money by avoiding protracted legal fights. (Silver & Gold Record.)

October 16, 2008

Job Posting: Citizenship and Immigration Services

The Department of Homeland Security agency is accepting applications for a Deputy Director. The Washington, DC-based position will advise the CIS Ombudsman on policy and program matters, interface with external contacts, including with component parts of DHS, other government agencies and departments, Congress and other non-government activities and groups. The application period is only for just one week and closes Wednesday, October 22. The position pays $115,317 to $149,000.00 per year. (Federal Govt. Jobs; USA Jobs.)

Related posts:
Another Federal Court Relies on Immigration Ombuds' Report to Rule Against Government; Profile of New Immigration Ombuds; Immigration Ombuds Issues Annual Report; SBA Ombuds' Annual Report Acknowledges Cooperative Agencies.

Princeton Ombuds to Head World Bank Mediation Office

The director of the Princeton University Ombuds Office, Camilo Azcarate, has been named Manager of Mediation Services for the World Bank. Azcarate has been the Ombuds for Princeton University since 2003 and previously was the Director of the Conflict Resolution Institute at Florida Gulf Coast University. In his new position, Azcarate will work within the World Bank Group to manage global external mediators. (UMass Boston Alumni News.)

Related job posting: Princeton.

October 15, 2008

McMaster University Ombuds Releases Annual Report

The Ombuds Office at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario reports handling 379 cases in the year ended April 2008. The comprehensive report provides an overview of Ombuds activities and initiatives as well as information about the office's service to the McMaster community. The report provides case examples and many policy recommendations to improve the fairness of campus policies. (McMaster Daily News.)

Related post:
McMaster U. Ombuds Profiled.

ICANN Ombuds Issues Fourth Annual Report

The Office of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers reports that its Ombuds Office resolved 125 matters informally in the 2008 fiscal year. The ICANN Ombuds, Frank Fowlie, reported that he spent 150 days traveling for professional activities and managed his office without the services of an adjunct Ombuds. As in prior years, the report will be available in six languages. (ICANN Ombudsman Blog.)

Related posts: ICANN Ombuds Publishes Guide to Evaluating Ombuds; International Forum on Online Dispute Resolution; ICANN Ombuds Offers Advice for Attorneys.

October 14, 2008

Court Ombuds Permitted to Serve as Paid Facilitator

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan recently upheld the payment of fees to the Court Ombuds who had served as a court-appointed facilitator in a pending case. Earlier this year, the federal trial court ordered the parties to a lawsuit, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and American Laser Eye Centers, to a facilitation with George J. Bedrosian. The matter did not settle and Bedrosian, who was appointed as the District Court's first ombudsman in 2005, submitted a bill for his services to the parties. (In his role as the Ombuds, Bedrosian functions as an intermediary between judicial offices and the bar.) The EEOC argued that is should not have to pay because it was a federal agency and suggested that Bedrosian should not be compensated because he also acts as the Ombuds for the court. The court ruled that Bedrosian's status as Ombuds had no relationship to his status as an appointed facilitator and payment was ordered. (EEOC v. Am. Laser Ctrs., LLC, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77936 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 1, 2008); USDC, ED Michigan Ombuds; Bedrosian Profile.)

Related post: Job Posting: Maryland Courts.

Under the circumstances, the court's holding was appropriate because it respected and valued the work of the facilitator. The court also understood that the Ombuds could serve in two roles. However, as a practical matter, the situation indicates the need for the court's Ombuds to avoid serving also as a court-appointed facilitator. In this case, the interest of the Ombuds/facilitator was in direct conflict with the interests of a party. As such, his perceived neutrality and effectiveness as an intermediary has been jeopardized.

In-House Attorneys Predict Increase in Conflict

A survey of in-house counsel by the law firm Fulbright & Jaworski found that nearly a third anticipate an increase in legal disputes. Attorneys working for companies with more than $1 billion in revenue, foresee a 43 percent increase in litigation and the numbers were even higher for financial services businesses. Reasons given for the projected increase included turmoil in the credit markets and subprime related litigation. As a result, 17 percent of in-house counsel said they were likely to beef up their in-house litigation staffs as they prepare for more suits. (ABA Journal.)

Related posts: MoFo Partner Backs Ombuds as Remedy for Micro-Inequties; Study: Settling Better Than Winning a Lawsuit.

Does this mean that there will be a corresponding increase in hiring organizational ombuds, mediators, grievance officers, and other ADR professionals? Probably not in the short term. Yet attorneys predicting an increase in legal disputes have an ethical obligation to advise their clients to implement measure other than simply beefing up litigation staff. Corporations receiving this advice from attorneys should understand that there are more cost-effective options to managing conflict than simply lawyering-up.

October 11, 2008

Dallas Community College District Consolidates Ombuds Offices

The Dallas County Community College District has appointed an Ombuds to serve a single problem-solving agent for the seven campus system. "Employees from several colleges have requested that we begin to consider offering ombudsman services at all DCCCD locations," Chancellor Wright Lassiter explained in a recent email. Dr. Bettie Tully, who has served as the El Centro Ombuds for 20 years, will fill the new position. The campus newspaper supports the consolidation, but points out that a centralized service will make outreach to other campuses crucial. (Eastfield News Article, Editorial.)

California Decimates Long Term Care Ombuds Program

Since it was established three decades ago, California's Long Term Care Ombudsman program has investigated elder abuse and other complaints on behalf of residents of California’s 1,300 nursing homes and more than 8,000 assisted living facilities. In a protracted political battle that delayed the state budget, legislators initially agreed to significant cuts in the LTC Ombuds program. Then, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger used his line item veto power to cut all state funding. (However, the Governor maintained full funding for California Department of Aging’s state Ombuds office, which provides no services to residents.) The veto came just days after a federal report condemned conditions in nursing homes: the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services reported that 99 percent of the California nursing homes had deficiencies that caused actual harm or immediate jeopardy to residents. (CANHR Press Release; Union Democrat; OC Register.)

University of Arkansas Ombuds Sponsors Library Program

Twice a year, the UA Ombuds Office sponsors the "Living Library" program. The office develops the library's collection of Books, schedules "check-out" of books by library patrons, and provides an orientation/ training session. (UA Living Library FAQ.)


October 09, 2008

Job Posting: World Health Organization

WHO in Geneva is accepting applications for a Lead Ombuds. The position reports directly to the Director-General and has administrative responsibility for the Ombuds 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 4, 2008. (UN Jobs.)

Job Posting: Los Alamos National Laboratory

The national Department of Energy lab in New Mexico is seeking an Ombuds to manage the Ombuds Office, developing, supervising and supporting staff in the fulfillment of the Office's roles and responsibilities. The Ombuds Manager serves as a confidential and neutral resource for LANL staff and is part of the risk management system. Applicants selected will be subject to a Federal background investigation and must meet eligibility requirements for access to classified matter. Salary ranges from $91,700 to $154,800. (LANL HR.)

UN Ombuds Reports on Reorganization Efforts

In his first annual report, newly appointed United Nations Ombudsman, John Barkat, provides an update on the transition to a single integrated and decentralized office. Most notably, the office has been given the authority to expand from 9 employees in New York to 33 employees spread among eight UN locations worldwide. Selection of additional staff is expected by the end of 2008. The report also summarizes systemic issues identified in 670 cases opened between August 1, 2007, and July 31, 2008. (UN Bibliographic System, Document Symbol: A/63/283.)

Related posts: UN Budget Increases Funds and Scope of Ombuds Office; Barkat Appointed U.N. Ombuds; Job Posting.

Conflict Resolution Day Teleconferences

If your organization is not participating in a Conflict Resolution Day event on October 16, consider attending a free teleconference sponsored by the Association for Conflict Resolution, in partnership with the United States Institute of Peace and George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

  • “Conflict Resolution, Democracy, and Policymaking: Lessons and Challenges” -- A teleconference geared to practitioners from 5-6:15 p.m. EDT
  • “Working for Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding: How Can I Make a Better World?” -- A second teleconference geared to undergraduate and graduate students from 2-3:15 p.m. EDT
(ACR Update.)

Related posts: Plan Now for Third Annual Conflict Resolution Day; Gallaudet Ombuds to Mark Conflict Resolution Day; Conflict Resolution Day at University of Colorado Features Ombuds.

Organizational Responses to Workplace Bullies

Attorney, mediator, and therapist Bill Eddy observes that there is little that individuals can do when bullied and concludes that workplace culture must reject bullying. Just as programs aimed at reducing playground bullying focus on the school environment, workplace bullying needs to be addressed at the organizational level. He offers some suggestions for a comprehensive approach.
  • Policies Against Bullying
  • Prevention of Bullying
  • Staff Training
  • Confidential Lines of Communication: There needs to be independent resource people for reporting bullying to the organization and to the leadership.
  • Counseling: It would help employees and organizations to have a resource person for bullied individuals to use to discuss bullying experiences in confidence.
  • Consequences
  • Healthy Workplace Laws
(High Conflict Institute.)

Although Eddy does not mention Ombuds in particular, Ombuds routinely provide confidential lines of communication and counseling. Indeed, there are no other organizational resources better suited to respond to bullying problems.

Related posts: NYT Career Couch: If Bullied, Visit Ombuds; Workplace Bullying More Harmful than Sexual Harassment; Online Bullying an Emerging Issue for Ombuds.

October 08, 2008

Ombuds Prompts Changes at University of Iowa

In response to the latest annual report by University Ombuds Cynthia Joyce, UI faculty are revising their code of conduct. According to a new code faculty leaders are developing, "(Faculty) will not use threatening, intimidating or abusive language; and not engage in conduct that creates a hostile work environment ... and comply with the university policy on violence." The revision is endorsed by provost's office and comes in response to the Ombuds' report of increasing disrespectful behavior among faculty, staff and students. The UI Ombuds Office is also planning to focus on outreach to students this year. (Iowa City Press Citizen; Daily Iowan.)

This type of upward feedback and institutional response exemplify the unique benefit of an Organizational Ombuds. No other ADR mechanism provides this kind of early warning and opportunity for systemic change. A credible and effective Ombuds program has clearly benefited the University of Iowa. The proposed changes in the faculty code will improve the campus climate for many.

Related post: University of Iowa Ombuds Issues Annual Report.

Saying the Right Thing in a Difficult Situation

Gretchen Rubin who blogs at The Happiness Project, offers eight tips for finding the right thing to say in a difficult situation.
  1. Try to identify the real problem;
  2. Don’t assume that you know what’s going to happen next;
  3. Find the right level of questions to ask;
  4. Don’t react with judgment;
  5. Resist the temptation to show empathy by drawing a comparison to your own painful experience;
  6. Acknowledge the reality of other people's feelings;
  7. Follow their lead; and
  8. Think about what a person needs to hear.
Ombuds generally know these tactics, but it's helpful to have this thoughtful and well-organized summary for visitors, especially those who will take the time to read materials after a consultation. (The Happiness Project.)

Related posts: Advice for Stopping a Nag; Tips For Raising Difficult Subjects.

October 07, 2008

Ombuds as Antidote to Office Conflict Over Politics

Kansas State University professor Diane Swanson says that talking about politics at work isn't inherently a bad thing. "I personally think that it's good for morale for employees to feel they can have their own opinions and express them freely over coffee or on break," said the professor of management. However, she acknowledges that the fine line between the right to free speech and appropriate expression can be difficult to walk and disagreements are likely. If politics does cause workplace conflict, Swanson says that employees might want to get help from an Ombuds or conflict resolution specialist. (The Manhattan Mercury.)

NIU Ombuds Dispels Rumors of Office's Demise

In response to recent confusion on campus, Tim Griffin reports that the Northern Illinois University Office of the Ombudsman still exists. It has not been closed, its name has not been changed and it continues to serve students, faculty and staff. (Northern Today.)

October 06, 2008

Job Posting: Princeton University

Princeton is seeking a University Ombudsperson. The position reports to the Provost and has general administrative responsibility over the University's Ombuds Office, including the Associate Ombuds Officer and campus peer mediators. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree and at 5-7 years of directly-related experience; An advanced degree is preferred, as is prior work in an academic setting. A review of applications will begin immediately with priority given to applications received by October 24, 2008. (Princeton Jobs, Req. No. 0800623; Princeton Salary Plan.)

Related posts:
New [Associate] Ombuds at Princeton.

Study: Settling Better Than Winning a Lawsuit

The results of a study of 2,054 California civil cases that went to trial from 2002 to 2005, indicates that most litigants who forgo a settlement offer end up with less money by going to trial. According to Randall L. Kiser, a co-author of the study published in a Cornell law journal, plaintiffs made a bad decision 61 percent of cases and defendants in 24 percent of cases. In just 15 percent of cases, both sides were right to go to trial (i.e., the defendant paid less than the plaintiff had wanted but the plaintiff got more than the defendant had offered). (Journal of Empirical Legal Studies; NY Times.)

The statistics continue to reinforce the conventional wisdom that alternative dispute resolution is a rational decision for stakeholders. This fact points to continued growth for the Organizational Ombuds profession.

Dealing With Race in the Workplace

Carmen Van Kerckhove an award-winning expert on race and pop culture offers five new rules for dealing with race at work.
  • Rule 1: Don't be colorblind. (Race still matters because racism is alive and well.)
  • Rule 2: Understand that diversity training is about protecting the company, not about educating you.
  • Rule 3: When someone tells a racist joke, play dumb. (Racist jokes rely on an unspoken, shared knowledge of racist stereotypes. Without the stereotypes, there is no humor.)
  • Rule 4: Think twice before reporting racial discrimination to HR. (Your first step should almost always be to discuss your concerns directly with the person whom you believe is discriminating.)
  • Rule 5: Learn about racial stereotypes to advance your career. (Professionals need a clear understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses if they want to take their careers to the next level.)
Van Kerckhove's rules are excellent advice for Ombuds and their visitors. (Brazen Careerist.)

October 05, 2008

TSA Ombuds Surveys Visitor Satisfaction

The Transportation Security Administration Office of the Ombudsman has released the results of a customer satisfaction survey. In the first 13 months, about 1,600 visitors responded to the survey, which started as a telephone survey and later expanded to include an online option. According to TSA Ombuds Joyce DeMoss, the results showed that TSA employees could easily contact an Ombuds staff member and were satisfied with the service. (TSA Weekly.)

Related post: Inspector General Recommends Realignment of TSA Ombuds Program.

University of Texas Austin Appoints Faculty Ombuds

UTA has appointed Mary Steinhardt as its Faculty Ombudsperson for the 2008-2009 academic year. Steinhardt is a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education and has taught a freshman leadership seminar. She earned her B.S. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, M.S. from Lamar University, Ed.D. at the University of Houston. Steinhardt was a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Georgia , and earned a M.A. in professional counseling at Southwest Texas State University. Her research focuses on the resilience education and the health effects of stress (UT Faculty Ombuds; Profile; Vita.)

Related post: UT Austin Screening for Faculty Ombuds.

Conflict Resolution Day at University of Colorado Features Ombuds

Tom Sebok, Director of the campus Ombuds Office, kicks off a day-long series of workshops and seminars for Conflict Resolution Day at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The program is sponsored by the Peace & Conflict Studies Program and includes sessions on Constructive Confrontation, Restorative Justice, and Managing Faculty Conflict. (Schedule, CUB Peace & Conflict Studies Program.)

October 03, 2008

Gallaudet Ombuds to Mark Conflict Resolution Day

Suzy Rosen Singleton, University Ombuds for Gallaudet, will mark International Conflict Resolution Day with a presentation on October 16 by Dr. Caroline Pezzarossi, ADA compliance specialist with the new D.C. Office of Disability Rights. In addition to Dr. Pezzarossi's discussion on resolving conflicts by using available resources, the workshop also will provide a brief primer on campus conflict management resources. (Gallaudet Daily Digest.)

Related posts: Profile of Gallaudet's New Ombuds; Plan Now for Third Annual Conflict Resolution Day.

October 02, 2008

Out of the Blue, University of Louisville to Open Ombuds Office

In the wake of a scandal involving a former dean now under federal investigation and allegations of a broken grievance process, the 22,000-student public university has announced that it is "setting up an interim Ombuds office, similar to those in existence at other major universities." Prior to the announcement, there was no indication that an Ombuds program had even been considered. According to a UofL spokesperson, the independent, neutral and, confidential office will report to the Provost for administrative and budgetary purposes. Full details on the program, including personnel involved, are promised next week. (UofL Update; Inside Higher Ed.)

University of Calgary Considering Ombuds Program

The university and its Student Union are looking at a proposal to create an Ombuds position and eliminating the traditional "Student Rights Advisor." Administrators are considering the Ombuds program at McGill University and hope to have an office opened by the end of the current semester. A faculty representative said that the university had not followed appropriate channels in considering the proposed changes. (Gauntlet News.)

Prior post: University of Calgary Urged to Open Ombuds Office.

Faculty buy-in will be critical in creating an effective Ombuds program. Hopefully, faculty leaders (and all other stakeholders) will learn the value of an Ombuds.

British Panel Recommends Higher Education Ombuds Programs

The Improving Dispute Resolution Project, sponsored by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, has issued a 60-page draft report, titled “Taking a Fresh Look at Disputes in Higher Education.” The report examines how colleges and universities can prevent and respond to conflict involving students, faculties, and staffs. The panel found that most campuses have a fragmented approach to conflict resolution that make it “difficult to keep track of institution-wide patterns in the handling of disputes and improve practice.” The report specifically recommends the type of Ombuds programs found on American campuses:
A campus ombudsman or ombuds ‘office’ could help raise awareness throughout the institution, work with the community at all levels, tactful, respected, quietly inculcating habits of fairness and reasonableness, knowledgeable about all sorts of ground-rules, from the HEI’s legal obligations to its procedures, the way academic politics work, the things that matter to student. An ombudsman might be trusted enough to be approached at an early stage of a conflict, be able to make sensible suggestions about the quickest way to a resolution and get everyone involved to try them, propose mediation here, an apology there, or referral to a committee which can revise the existing procedures; he or she could suggest using the complaints or grievance procedures if there is no quicker way, but make sure they are followed properly.

(Taking a Fresh Look at Disputes in Higher Education; Chronicle of Higher Education.)

Related posts: University Ombuds Still Rare in UK Due to New Judicial Process; UK Researcher Advocates Legislative Support for Ombuds Programs; Britain's University Watchdog Calls for American-Style Ombuds.

October 01, 2008

Job Posting: Red Cross

The American Red Cross is seeking applications for an Associate Ombudsman. The position provides confidential and informal dispute resolution assistance to the American Red Cross community which includes employees, volunteers, service recipients, donors, suppliers, partners, and the general public. A bachelor’s degree is required preferably in counseling, conflict resolution or a related field. A Master’s degree and/or advanced training as a dispute resolution practitioner and/or mediator is highly preferred. Three years of experience in conflict resolution (Ombuds, mediator, facilitator or instructor) or a related field. Salary Range: Low $50’s to mid – $60’s. No closing date indicated. (Red Cross Jobs.)

Job Posting: National Institutes of Health

The Department Of Health And Human Services agency in Bethesda is accepting applications for an Associate Ombudsman. The position serves as a dispute resolution practitioner whose major function is to provide confidential and informal assistance, under the guidance of a senior Ombuds, to NIH managers and employees in resolving work related issues and disputes. Candidates must possess experience practicing as an Ombuds or working in an Ombuds office. The job pays $48,108-90,698 per year. The application period is only one week long and applications are due by Friday, October 3, 2008. (Federal Govt. Jobs; USA Jobs.)

University of Iowa Ombuds Issues Annual Report

For the second year in a row, the University of Iowa Office of the Ombudsperson found that disrespectful behavior is a leading concern on campus. According to its annual report for 2007-08, the number of cases the office handled that involved disrespectful behavior increased from 23 in 2006-07 to 52 in 2007-08. The increase is partly due to a change in the office's record-keeping system. (UI News Services.)

Related post: University of Iowa Ombuds Profiled.

Cal Caucus Calls for Nominations of Distinguished Ombuds

The California Caucus of College and University Ombuds is seeking nominations for its two awards honoring individuals who have distinguished themselves through outstanding and noteworthy contributions to the Ombuds field. Two awards are given at the annual conference in Asilomar: The Service Excellence Award recognizes significant leadership contributions to Cal Caucus; and The Pete Small Award is given to an “Ombud of the Year” for work within Cal Caucus and for advancing the field. Nominations are due by October 27, 2008. For additional information, contact Susan L. Neff at the University of Washington (ombuds[at_sign]u[dot]washington[dot]edu).

Related posts: Cal Caucus.