Joan Goodman, University Ombudsman, chronicles the four-decade history of her office in her most recent biennial report. UPenn established one of the first university Ombuds programs in 1971 in response to student demonstrations and general unrest. Although the mix of issues and concerns has changed over the years, Goodman says that the focus of the office remains on “helping aggrieved visitors share their concerns, review options, and plan potential responses.” However, Goodman also raises the issue of whether her office has kept up adequately with changes in the profession.
Forty years ago few universities had an Ombudsman Office; we can take pride in being among the first. But this has changed. Along with the growth of the ombudsman movement in universities, corporations, and government the field has been increasingly professionalized. Today an International Ombudsman Association (IOA) holds conferences, publishes a journal, trains novices, offers certification, and specifies principles of practice. Its explicit normative standards are broadly accepted among the Ivies and other institutions. Because in some instances our practice is not in compliance with IOA standards, we are ineligible for full membership. While there is no one-size-fits-all exemplary model, it is nonetheless my strong recommendation that Penn conduct a review of our Office in light of these standards.