September 30, 2009

Harvard Crimson Faults Ombuds for Silence

An editorial in the Sunday edition of the daily student newspaper decried the mistreatment of an staff member because of his ethnicity. According to the opinion piece, Ravi Raj was subjected to racial slurs and anti-union threats. The editors were especially galled that Raj was unable find resolution through "official avenues for employees to voice complaints of discrimination," including the University Ombuds.
Raj has pursued conflict resolution with management at HMDC, HR, and even the office of the University Ombudsman without success. When contacted, HR and the office of the Ombudsman declined to comment, citing employee confidentiality. While this may be simply their policy, someone needs to step in and speak up on Raj’s behalf. One of the mechanisms in place must be broken—if not the whole system—as it appears Raj’s case has been lost without resolution. Even if there is a reason that Raj’s superiors, HR and the office of the Ombudsman have not pursued his complaints, their official silence has not allowed for resolution of Raj’s unfortunate situation.
(Harvard Crimson.)

The criticism of the Harvard Ombuds is unjustified and reflects a failure to appreciate the mandate of an Organizational Ombuds. The professional standards preclude Ombuds from revealing the identities of their visitors. The fact that the Ombuds would not discuss the case with a reporter is evidence only that the Ombuds was practicing ethically.

Related posts:
FGCU Follow Up; New Ombuds at York University Defends Impartiality; Washington Post Conflates Ombuds Reporting Line With Neutrality.


  1. Does the Crimson have an Ombudsman who will hear this complaint?

  2. I take a slightly different approach to this.
    The Ombuds here was performing to standards/codes.
    Did they help the Crimson to know that?
    This is a lost opportunity for the ombuds to INCREASE understanding of the function. Managing the MEDIA is a critical skill. What if the Opinion piece had written - "We contacted HR and the Ombudsperson. As a matter of professional ethics the Ombuds may not discuss cases. According to the ombuds that is what their role is and where their value comes from - informality and confidentiality. HR, on the other hand, a formal process hid behind the employee confidentiality."

    How many people in the harvard community might have learned something from that? And in fact the opportunity still exists - Harvard Ombuds simply needs to write a letter to the editor of the Crimson.

    We too often blame others when we have the opportunity and responsibility to make things better than they are. I do it all the time.
    WE - the ombuds community - hold the onus here, not the author off the piece in the Crimson, not Ravi Raj. We as a professional community hold that responsibility and honor.

    Also, further pursuit of this article is of value.

    Allegedly, Mr. Raj was confronted by a "threatening" individual - who called him by name, and verbally threatened him. The place and time were such that Mr. Raj was in fact in danger. Violence could have been perpetrated against Mr. Raj. Given recent events at Yale, and the allegations reported in the Crimson, the issue of the imminent threat of physical harm must be part of the ombuds considerations here.

    More angles.
    There are always, more angles.