November 30, 2006

Proposal to Revise IOA Membership Categories Loses

In response to concerns over IOA membership categories, the board held a special meeting on November 27, 2006 to consider changing the by-laws. Despite seeming widespread interest in the issue, less than 25% of the members exercised their vote. The proposal thus failed to reach a quorom and the membership categories will not change. This would seem to be the most disappointing outcome of a critical issue.
India Moves Forward with Health Ombuds

India's health minister announced the creation of a "Health Ombudsman" to monitor discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS. (MedIndia.) Hopefully, the office will be modeled on the UN or WHO ombuds offices.

November 29, 2006

Charlotte Schools Plan for Ombuds

The new superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district in North Carolina plans sweeping reforms, including the creation of an ombuds office to resolve complaints. (Charlotte Observer.) No indication of whether it will be an organizational or classical ombuds.

November 27, 2006

Advice for Visitors with Job Stress

The people more likely to experience desk rage are those with the least power according to an article on MSNBC. One expert offers the following (very familiar) advice:
Tough as it may be, the best approach generally is to try to have a reasonable conversation with your boss about your concerns and to come prepared with some solutions.... However, some bosses simply may not be reasoned with ... sometimes it can be "career suicide" to go up against certain bosses. Tyrants and micromanagers are the worst offenders. In those situations, carefully choose your words.

Rutgers Ombuds Office Profiled

Sybil James, the first ombudsperson for Rutgers University, explains how the office serves the student population (Daily Targum, subscription required). The Rutgers Office of Ombudsperson for Students was established just one year ago.

November 25, 2006

Siemens Hires External Ombuds

In response to a growing fraud investigation and criminal indictments of several employees, the German conglomerate announced the appointment of an external ombudsman to provide a "protected" communication channel for employees. According to Siemens, "Employees can contact this neutral individual on a confidential and anonymous basis if they have observed incorrect business practices in Germany." An attorney, Hans-Otto Jordan of the Nuremburg law firm Dr. Beckstein & Partners, will the the ombudsman.

November 21, 2006

U Penn Ombuds Issues 3-Year Report

Outgoing University of Pennsylvania Ombudsman, David Pope, reported that the two-person office had seen 644 visitors during his three-year tenure. In keeping with U Penn protocol, Pope will be replaced by another tenured faculty member, John C. Keene. Dr. Gulbun O’Connor will continue as the Assistant Ombudsman.

November 20, 2006

Advice for Employees With Paycheck Envy

Forbes Magazine says the best approach is to "have a thoughtful, prepared discussion" your boss (link). Too bad they don't recommend seeing an ombuds as a first step.
Court Allows Ombuds' Lawsuit Against Little Rock Superintendent

On November 16, the federal trial court ruled that James Washington, the former ombuds for Little Rock School District, may proceed with his discrimination suit against the district superintendent. Washington has alleged that he was demoted to classroom teacher based upon his race and in retaliation for his efforts as an ombuds. The citation is Washington v. Brooks, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83698 (E.D. Ark. Nov. 16, 2006) [no link available]. [Ed. note: Washington was appointed to ensure fairness in student discipline cases and was a presenter at the 2001 USOA conference.]
Student's Lawsuit Against Cornell and Its University Ombuds Lives On

A former Cornell veterinary student, Patricia Curto, sued the school alleging she was wrongfully dismissed in 1998. Several administrators, including assistant university ombudsperson Danilee Popensiek, are named as individual defendants. On Curto's appeal of dismissal, the Federal Appellate Court in New York returned the case to the trial court for further hearing. The student is a tenacious litigant: her suit has been appealed several times, and she is pursuing a related action in NY state court. Popensiek is still a member of the Cornell Office of the University Ombudsman, and is being represented in the action by Cornell's General Counsel. [Ed. note: None of the Cornell ombuds are members of IOA.]

November 18, 2006

Pomona College Committees Endorse Ombuds Position

After meeting with almost half of the housekeeping staff, students on the Workers Support Committee recommended that the college hire an ombuds. This echoed an earlier report from the President’s Advisory Committee on Diversity (link).

November 17, 2006

End of Semester Advice for Students

Northern Illinois University Ombuds, April Morgan, offers the following timely tips for students (link):
  • Simplify your life (adjust exam schedules if necessary, but don't skip classes and miss critical announcements late in the term);
  • Utilize campus resources (consider a tutor)
  • Consult your academic adviser;
  • Chill and consider counseling to managing your stress;
  • Evaluate instructors; and
  • Save everything and secure it before you leave campus.

November 14, 2006

Advice for Visitors Having a Personal Crisis

Real Simple magazine has three tips for people going through a crisis:
  • Leave a message on your phone;
  • Designate a point person to disseminate information; and
  • Send out an e-mail to friends.

Advice for Visitors Facing a Performance Review

Personal-finance blog Binary Dollar offers some good tips on impressing bosses when its time for a review:

Use numbers. Tell them you fixed 30 defects. Say that you saved the company approximately $30,000 dollars. Using numbers will give them the impression that you pay attention to detail. Plus, it will make it easier for your manager to double-check your facts. Managers like it when you make things easier for them.

November 10, 2006

Job Posting: United Nations

The UN Development Program ombuds office is seeking a case manager for a one-year contract. Bilingual required, no salary info.

November 09, 2006

Job Posting: Kaiser Permanente, Santa Rosa

KP is seeking a healthcare ombuds/mediator, preferrably with a healthcare background to manage patient disputes. (KP has an extensive network of HCOM's throughout the western US. This ad runs frequently.) No indication of salary.
Job Posting: University of Nevada, Reno

UNR is seeking a part time ombudsperson. No indication of salary.
Sloan Management Review: Hire Ombuds to to Resolve Board Disputes

In the Fall Issue of MIT's Sloan Management Review, Ralph Hasson suggests that companies create a “board ombudsman” to manage boardroom dipsutes through confidential, informal, independent assistance, and shuttle diplomacy. Hasson (a fellow of the Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution) argues that an ombuds would be able to “identify troubling patterns or trends developing within the board, or between the board and management, and to advise the full board of the need for changes in its policies and procedures.” Most compellingly, Hasson argues that the board ombudsman should be an external resource and not the in-house ombudsman.
Job Posting: Cal State Long Beach

CSULB is searching for a new director of the Office of Ombuds after the departure of Elizabeth Novack. Here's the posting. N
o information available on salary.
Compassionate Checklist

In the November issue of the American Bar Association Journal (subscription only), there is a short article by Steven Keeva, excerpting his book, Transforming Practices: Finding Joy and Satisfaction in the Legal Life. Keeva presents a list of questions for attorneys that will resonate with ombuds:
At the Initial Meeting
  • Why has the client come? [...]
  • What does he expect of me?
  • What role does he want me to take? [...]
  • Am I listening as if he is the only other person on earth at the moment?
  • Have I turned off the phone or made arrangements for someone else to answer? [...]
  • Are my words consistent with my values?
  • Have I made clear what I see as both his and my own role(s) in this relationship?
  • Have I made clear where my loyalties lie -- to him, yes, but perhaps also to minimizing conflict, to the other side or to the community?
  • Have I been clear about the range of options, both legal and nonlegal [ed.: or formal and informal], that may be available? [...]

After the Initial Interview
  • Have I been clear so far about what I see as the merits and deficiencies in the case the client thinks he has?
  • Does the client seem open to striving for a win/win solution?
  • What might such a solution look like in this case? (Even better, ask the client this?)
  • Is he willing to take any responsibility for the problem? If he is willing to forgo the role of the victim, what opportunities does that open up?
  • Can he admit that there were things he coud have done that might have prevented the current problem? If so, can he take an active role in resolving it?
  • Does the client need permission to let go of his anger, and would he accept that permission from me?
  • How attached is the client to winning? Would anything short of it be interpreted as success? [...]
  • Is the client deluding himself about any aspect of this case?
  • What might be the best way to start a dialogue?
  • What ways of looking at this case might locate deeper meanings and broader implications? For example, are there family implications that may at first not be apparent? Community Issues? Spiritual issues? How might these implications matter?
  • Have I made it clear enough that I consider this relationship: Important to me? Worthy of my time? [...] A collaboration in which we each have much to contribute?