September 28, 2007

New Faculty Ombuds at Michigan

The University of Michigan has appointed Michael Welsh, professor of cell and developmental biology, to succeed Bonnie Metzger as faculty ombuds. Previously, Welsh served 11 years as an ombuds in the medical school. "I think one of the most important facets of the job is to gather information so you can offer reasonable suggestions," said Welsh. The appointment is half time. (The University Record.)

New Ombuds Office at Carleton College

The Minnesota liberal arts college opened an Ombuds Office for faculty and staff this fall to provide confidential, impartial, objective, and informal alternative for resolution of work-related concerns. The first ombuds, Joanne Mullen reports directly to the Vice President and Treasurer of the College. Previously, Mullen acted as Carleton’s Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Consultant. (Carleton Ombuds Office.)

New Ombuds Office at Houston Community College

With relatively little publicity, the third largest community college system in the country has established an ombuds office for faculty, staff, and administrators. According the its website, the office is reports to the Chancellor and adheres to the Code of Ethics of the International Ombudsman Association. Remmele Young will serve as the ombuds, while continuing to as HCC director of government relations. Young earned his Juris Doctorate and Bachelor’s of Arts degrees from the District of Columbia School of Law and the University of South Carolina, respectively. (HSSC Ombuds Office.)

Job Posting: Princeton

Princeton University is accepting applications for an Associate Ombudsperson to replace Nick Deihl. The position provides administrative support for the office and back-up for the University Ombuds Officer by advising visitors, making presentations and mediating. The incumbent, "Must comply with the International Ombudsman Association Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, and the Princeton University Ombuds Office Terms of Reference." No closing date or salary indicated. (Princeton Jobs req. no. 0700722.)

Deihl will be joining the ombuds office at the National Institutes of Health.

September 26, 2007

Western Kentucky University to Create Ombuds Office

WKU President, Gary Ransdell, says he plans to appoint an ombudsman by next spring. According to a job description (which has not yet been posted) the ombuds will serve as a counselor for faculty who have a conflict or grievance with their co-workers. Faculty may begin making nominations in mid-October. (WKU Herald.)

ICANN Ombuds Explains On-Line Dispute Resolution

Frank Fowlie, ombuds for the non-profit Internet management company, will address the Pacific Legal Technology Conference and give his perspective on the growing use of on-line dispute resolution systems. Although the conference takes place October 10, Frank's speech is available now. (Text of Speech via ICANN Ombudsman Blog; Pacific Legal Technology Conference.)

Frank continues to be a bellwether for the profession with regard to emerging technologies.

September 25, 2007

McGill Surveys Students to Develop Ombuds Mandate

McGill University is using an online survey to query students regarding the role of the ombudsperson. The survey, administered by SurveyMonkey, ask about students' awareness and use of ombuds and how they have resolved campus problems in the past. (SurveyMonkey via BGSA News.)

Although the McGill ombuds office has existed for two decades, serves 33,000 students and sees nearly 300 visitors a year, the ombuds is a half-time position filled by a faculty member. Perhaps this survey is a step toward a full-time, dedicated ombuds. (McGill Ombuds Office; see also Senate Minutes, 5/9/07.)

September 21, 2007

New ABA Committee Will Appeal to Ombuds

The American Bar Association's Section of Dispute Resolution has recently created the Expanded Conflict Management Processes Committee. This new committee has been working to identify, describe, and discuss conflict management processes outside of mediation, including facilitation, preventive advising, collaborative problem solving, conflict coaching, conflict systems design, and other processes. (Expanded Conflict Management Processes.)

September 19, 2007

Don't Send That Angry Email

Publisher, CEO and blogger, Michael Hyatt looks back with regret on a meticulous 14-page email diatribe and the lessons learned:
  • Cool down;
  • Talk it out;
  • Write a response;
  • Do your homework;
  • Schedule a meeting; and
  • Admit your mistakes.
Savvy advice as our visitors and we rely increasingly on electronic communications. (From Where I Sit via Lifehacker.)

Ury to Keynote ACR Annual Conference

The Association for Conflict Resolution will hold its seventh annual conference in Phoenix, October 24 through 27, 2007. The conference features specialty and in-depth training on a variety of subjects, discussion of international conflict resolution issues and practices, and over 150 workshops. William Ury, author of “The Art of No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes,” is the keynote speaker. Register by October 12. (ACR Conf Info.)

September 18, 2007

ICANN Ombuds Hosts Externs

Frank Fowlie, the ombuds for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is working with seven graduate students from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University. The externs will learn about the ombuds and other ICANN dispute resolution mechanisms, and assist with ICANN's Los Angeles Meeting, October 29 through November 2. (ICANN Ombudsman Blog, ICANN Los Angeles 2007.)

September 12, 2007

Enhancing Neutrality Through Questions

Pamela Lehman and Norman Page, mediators and Cal State professors, write that about the use of appropriate questions in dispute resolution. They say that skilled questioning facilitates mediations by accomplishing two goals; it allows the content to come from the parties themselves, and it reduces the likelihood that the mediator will add unwarranted opinions and inappropriately influence the outcome. They discuss the five types of inquiries:
  • Open questions;
  • Closed questions;
  • Probing questions;
  • Leading questions; and
  • Loaded questions.
Their observations are equally valid for ombuds. (

Michigan State University Ombuds Office Marks 40 Years of Service

MSU established its Office of the Ombudsman in 1967 -- the first office of its kind at a large U.S university. Today, the office celebrates forty years of continuous service. True to his mandate of confidentiality, the current ombuds, Stan Soffin, declines to identify the name of the graduate student who sparked the idea for the office in 1965. (The State News.)

September 11, 2007

Georgetown Professor Honored for Work as National Intelligence Ombuds

Georgetown University Professor Nancy Bernkopf Tucker has received the National Intelligence Achievement Medal for her work as the first-ever Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analytic Integrity and Standards and Analytic Ombudsman. The award recognizes meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service to the United States by a member of the intelligence community. As the Intelligence Community’s Analytic Ombudsman, Dr. Tucker served as a confidential resource for intelligence analysts with concerns about the timeliness, politicization and objectivity in intelligence analysis. Tucker now returns to Georgetown as a Professor of History specializing in American-East Asian relations. There is no information on who will assume the position. (Georgetown University News; ODNI News Release; ODNI Policy Memo re Role of Analytic Ombuds.)

And you think you keep secrets.

September 10, 2007

Duke Gains Ombuds for Students

Duke University has appointed John Blackshear as its first ombudsperson for students. The impetus for creating the job grew out of discussions with several campus groups, including the President’s Council on Black Affairs, the Graduate and Professional Student Council and Duke Student Government. Blackshear was selected because of his professional experience of working with students, and his commitment to independence and alternative dispute resolution strategies. "Probably the most important role I’ll play is the empathetic ear,” said Blackshear. Because the appointment is part-time and for one year only, Blackshear will continue as Clinical Director of Duke’s Academic Resource Center and the Director of Clinical Services at Therapeutic Strategies, Inc., in Garner, NC. (Duke News; Duke Student Ombuds Office.)

(Prior post: Provost Recommends Ombuds for Duke.)

September 07, 2007

Coalition Advocates Federal FOIA Ombuds

The National Freedom of Information Coalition has released a report endorsing a national ombudsman to mediate FOIA appeals. The report, "Mediation Without Litigation," surveys the range of informal and formal ombuds and mediation programs used by states to resolve disputes over access to information. Scott Hodes at the FIOA Blog says, "As the pending FOIA amendments create an ombudsman, this paper is very timely and worth a read." (NFOIC Summary; Full Text; The FOIA Blog.)

All organizational ombuds should at least read this report to learn how their state's information ombuds functions.

Job Posting: University of New Mexico

UNM is seeking am attorney to develop and administer the Joe M. Stell Water Ombudsman Program in Albuquerque. The position involves working with the State Engineer, the state and federal court administrators and other key agencies to assist litigants in water disputes. The position involves development of the scope of the program and identification of roles for Ombudsman education and outreach activities. Applicants must be admitted to practice in any state; Experience in water law and proficiency in Spanish are preferred. No salary indicated. (Higher Ed Jobs.)

September 06, 2007

40 Recommended ADR Websites

Geoff Sharp, a mediator and attorney in New Zealand, has put together a list of his favorite websites as part of a presentation for LEADR’s 9th International Dispute Resolution Conference. His list includes ADR blogs, mediation marketing and technology, audio and video blogs, and mediation friendly sites. It's a great way to spend an afternoon. (Geoff Sharp; 9th LEADR International Dispute Resolution Conference.)

Episcopal Church Considering Ombuds Office

According to an article in its official news service, the Episcopal Church may hire an ombudsperson to address staff concerns as part of a program to encourage professional excellence. The recommendation was presented by Bernice Lucas, a communication deputy at the Church Center and member of "the Working Group for an Inspired, Trained and Innovative Workforce." No other details are available publicly. (Episcopal Life Online.)

Study Finds Workplace Bullying Widespread

A study by the Workplace Bullying Institute and Zogby Interactive found that nearly half of American employees have suffered or witnessed workplace bullying, including verbal abuse, job sabotage or destruction of workplace relationships. The survey of nearly 8,000 people found:
  • 37% of workers (about 54 million people) have been bullied at work;
  • 49% of workers said they suffered or witnessed workplace bullying, including verbal abuse, job sabotage or destruction of workplace relationships;
  • Bullying is 4 times more prevalent than illegal forms of "harassment
  • 72% of bullies are bosses;
  • Women are targeted by bullies more frequently (in 57% of cases), especially by other women (in 71% of cases);
  • Only 3% of bullied targets file lawsuits and 40% never complain; and
  • Verbal abuse and behavior/action are the most common forms of bullying (53% each) (Reuters; U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey 2007.)
The fact that only a few bullied workers file suit means that most are forced to find an informal resolution. Sadly, most do not have access to an ombuds.

Summaries of Forums Hosted by Immigration Ombuds Available Online

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, Prakash Khatri, has been hosting a series of teleconferences to hear about current concerns. USCIS officers, including service center officers, have also participated so that they also could hear the topics raised by callers during the conference. Summaries of the last two sessions held on April 24, 2007 (Requests for Evidence and Notices of Intent to Deny) and August 23, 2007, (USCIS Service Centers and Lockboxes), and related documents are available from Murthydotcom. (

Former UN Ombuds to Speak in Rockland, NY

The first United Nations ombudsman will speak about education on Friday, September 7, at the monthly meeting of the Jamaican Civic and Cultural Association of Rockland. M. Patricia Durrant, a career diplomat, is a former Jamaican ambassador to the United Nations who served on the U.N. Security Council from 2000 to 2001. (

Pasadena Schools Considering Ombuds

Edwin Diaz, superintendent of the troubled school district in Pasadena, CA, says he will institute a number of measures to win back public trust, including the possibility of hiring of an ombudsperson to handle dispute resolutions and improve communication. (Pasadena Weekly.)

(Other school districts currently considering ombuds include: Washington, DC; New Orleans, LA; Hoquiam, WA; Boulder, CO; Winner, SD; Anne Arundel County, MD; Rochester, NY; and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC.)

September 05, 2007

Managing Millennials

Ombuds, especially in higher education, have already discussed their observations about the Millennial Generation (i.e., 20-somethings born after 1976, also known Generation Y or Echo Boomers ). These anecdotal accounts are becoming the focus of attention by business leaders and management experts. Author and career consultant Alexandra Levit told NPR's Morning Edition that:
This generation of 20-somethings is slightly different in that they grew up very coddled by their parents. And so they're coming into the workforce really not prepared to do some of the grunt work associated with being an entry-level employee and want to do meaningful work right away. This cuts both ways, because in one sense you have people who are very motivated, very smart [and] know how to leverage technology. But on the other hand, you have people who tend to want to be general managers by the age of 23. (Morning Edition.)

The Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge newsletter recently considered the issue and concluded that:

[Millennials] will be more adept at managing in a changing, global, and networked environment. They will do it with a greater emphasis on teamwork, facility for the use of technology, and sensitivity to needs for work/life balance. (HSB Working Knowledge.)

Further research will likely confirm and explain what ombuds already know firsthand.

Rules to Understand People and Avoid Conflict

Blogger Scott Young observes that most people make the same mistakes and that these mistakes eventually create conflicts. With this in mind, he offers the following seven rules.
  1. Never Blame Malice for What can Easily be Explained by Conceit.
  2. Few Social Behaviors are Explicit
  3. Behavior is Largely Dictated by Selfish Altruism
  4. People Have Poor Memories
  5. Everyone is Emotional
  6. People are Lonely
  7. People Are Self-Absorbed
(Scott H Young via LifeHacker.)

These observations may give perspective to visitors who seem overly concerned about their relationships. In addition, these may be valuable for people to consider before beginning a mediated conversation.