December 29, 2008

Mediterranean Network of Mediators and Ombudsmen Holds Second Annual Conference

On December 18 and 19, 2008, the organization held its second gathering on the theme, “Mediators of the Mediterranean area – Challenges of a Common Space.” The meeting in Marseille, France, was convened by the French Médiateur de la République, the Mediator of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Defensor del Pueblo of Spain. Participants approved by-laws, agreed to establish a liaison to the United Nations, and endorsed the principle that mediators and Ombuds should enjoy full independence from governments. (The Malta Independent; Business News.)

Related post: Pacific Ombudsman Alliance Launches.

December 28, 2008

FCO Names New Administrator

André Marin, President of the Forum of Canadian Ombudsman and Ontario Ombudsman, has announced that Steve Olive has been retrained as the Administrator for the FCO Secretariat, for a three-year term, effective December 1, 2008. Olive has worked for the FCO for several years providing administrative support, especially with the Education Committee and the web site rejuvenation committee. (FCO Announcement.)

UN Struggles to Revise Justice System

The Wall Street Journal reports that, "An American-backed drive to curb misconduct at the United Nations is faltering, blighted by bureaucracy and accusations of retaliation against whistle-blowers." The U.N. promised to replace its existing "outmoded, dysfunctional and ineffective" internal justice system, with a new system staffed by professional judges in January, but no judges have been appointed yet. The U.N. blames this in part on member states, which delayed approving rules that would govern the new arrangement. The article cites U.N. Ombuds Office as one part of the system that handles allegations of misconduct. (WSJ.) According to a U.N. press release, the new justice system is set to become operational July 1, 2009. (7th Space.)

Related post: UN Ombuds Reports on Activies Amid Concerns Over Progress on Reformed Justice System.

December 23, 2008

2009 Conference Agenda Announced

The Association of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons, The Forum of Canadian Ombudsman, and The International Ombudsman Association have released the tentative agenda for their joint conference in April 2009. The agenda includes many sessions focused on issues of interest to all Ombuds.

Keynote addresses will be given by:
  • Gilles Paquet, Professor Emeritus, Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario
  • Richard William Duncan Pound, OC, OQ Partner of the law firm Stikeman Elliott, former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) based in Montreal and former vice-president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)
  • Rémy M. Beauregard, President of Rights & Democracy (International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development), Montreal, PQ, Canada
(Joint Conference Agenda-at-a-Glance.)

Related post: Three Ombuds Organizations to Hold Joint Conference in April 2009.

Thoughts on Impartiality

London-based mediator and former school teacher Alan Sharland explains why impartiality underpins all effective conflict resolution.
Impartiality is one of the more commonly recognised aspects of the role of the Mediator. This does not mean that the Mediator should somehow become inhuman and not have a feeling of bias towards one party or another, but that they practice in a way that minimises any manifestation of this bias. This is an important distinction to make. No-one can genuinely claim to be impartial, but they can continually review their own feelings and thoughts about someone or a situation in order to acknowledge this and then monitor, and adjust where necessary, their practice as a mediator in the light of this awareness.

His words are just as applicable to Ombuds. (

Professors Urge Adoption of Negotiation Skills for LSAT

Law school professors and administrators continue to debate the utility of the Law School Admission Test. Professor Andrea Schneider at the Marquette Law School observes that the LSAT does not test for creativity, negotiation, and problem-solving skills that are needed successful practice. Jeffrey Brand, dean of the University of San Francisco School of Law, said, “But we also need lawyers with the kind of skill sets that the world needs — like empathy, persuasiveness and the willingness to have the courage to do the right thing — which the LSAT does not measure.” Schneider hopes that someday these skills can be tested and incorporated in law school admissions and education. (ADR Prof Blog.)

Related posts: Why Take ADR Courses in Law School?; Links to Law School ADR Programs.

December 18, 2008

Registration Opens for 2009 IOA Conference

The International Ombudsman Association is now accepting mail and fax registrations for the joint conference, "Evolution of the Ombudsman [1809-2009]: A Rich History, A Promising Future," in Montreal next April. Early registration ends March 27, 2009. Payment will be accepted in US or Canadian dollars. (IOA 2009 Conference.)

Prior post:
Three Ombuds Organizations to Hold Joint Conference in April 2009.

RBC Ombuds Issues Annual Report

The RBC Ombudsman handled 2,113 matters during the fiscal year ended October 31, 2008. The program is remarkable for its significant use of the internet. The office recorded more than 94,000 web sessions and received 47% of initial contacts by email. (RBC Ombuds 2008 Report.)

Related posts: RBC Ombuds Office Implements New Case Management Software; RBC to Supplement Ombuds Program With Independent ADR Provider.

Job Posting: University of Texas Medical Branch

UMTB continues its efforts to recruit a part-time faculty Ombuds for its Galveston campus. Applicants must have a Masters degree and have held a faculty appointment in a university outside of UTMB. No salary or closing date indicated. (UMTB Jobs, job id. no. 12835, via HotJobs.)

Prior: Job Post.

December 17, 2008

Advice to Mediators from an External Ombuds

Chuck Doran has been a mediator and conflict resolution trainer for over 16 years, and finds great fulfillment and purpose in his work. In addition, he has served as a Classical Ombudsman as chair of the New England Chapter of the Association for Conflict Resolution and as an external Organizational Ombuds for a private company in Boston with 800 employees. He writes about his experiences and provides a cogent overview in the NE-ACR winter newsletter. Doran notes suggests that “Mediators looking to make a living in this field may be interested to know that today there are more, and usually more long-lasting, job opportunities for ombudsmen than for mediators.” (NE-ACR News.)

Note: The NE-ACR newsletter is usually available only to members and I gratefully acknowledge this exception to share Doran's article.

December 15, 2008

What the Heck is the U.S. Office of the Independent Ombudsman?

This month saw the debut of a curious website for the U.S. Office of the Independent Ombudsman. According to the site, "The OIO comprises of a trusted team of advocates and business advisors providing the highest degree of professional service in resolving complaints, disputes and procedural issues." It offers the following services: Hotline; Research & Investigations; Alternative Dispute Resolution; Mediations; Compliance Issues; and Advocacy. It claims to be a member of USOA, TOA, and IOA. In addition it claims as members many state and local government agencies (including the Texas Youth Commission, Austin ISD, and the University of Texas at Austin), federal government agencies (including the VA, TSA, DOD, and EPA), and corporate entities (PBS/NPR, BP America, IBM, Microsoft, and Neiman Marcus). (USOIO Home.) None of these memberships or members could be confirmed. Moreover, the telephone number provided is not in service.

Other evidence casts doubt on the legitimacy of OIO. Its logo is the coat of arms for Poland. Although located in Texas, the entity is not registered with the Texas Secretary of State. OIO's website says that it is "a division of Mansour Mubaarak & Hogue LLP," a Houston research, management consulting and advocacy firm. Mansour Mubaarak has the same phone number and is the registered owner of the OIO web domain. In addition, Mansour Mubaarak is "an affiliate of Da Vinci & Lombardi SA," a merchant banking and consulting firm with offices in Paris, New York and Houston. (Mansour Mubaarak & Hogue; Da Vinci & Lombardi; Whois Results; Wikipedia - Poland Coat of Arms.)

So, what the heck is the U.S. Office of the Independent Ombudsman? The best explanation may be that it's just a front company. But why? (See Wikipedia - Front Organization; Boing Boing - Donna Blue Aircraft.)

SUNY Purchase Opens Ombuds Office

The public liberal, visual, and performing arts college has opened an Ombuds Office to assist students. Paul Nicholson serves as the University Ombudsperson. Nicholson has a Masters degree in counseling and has been assisting students at Purchase College since 1991, most recently as director of the Educational Opportunity Program. (SUNY Purchase Ombuds.)

Ombuds as Role Models for Bloggers

Blogger and former Simon Frazer University student Ombuds, Maria Lavais suggests that the blogosphere has something to learn from the Ombuds profession. Most significantly, she thinks that bloggers need standards and protections. Drawing on her own experience, the TOA Code and Standards, and the MIT Ombuds website, Lavais proposes a "Blogger/Ombudsman Model." (Maria Write Now.)

Survey Finds Students Do Not Trust Australian University Ombuds

A study funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council interviewed more than 1500 students and more than 500 staff across a dozen universities found that campus Ombuds programs were not trusted. (In Australia, university Ombuds are classical in nature and serve as independent, impartial and confidential complaint offices.) The findings indicated a number of problems:
  • Complainants felt that their problems were not adequately pursued;
  • Ombuds website design and content were lacking; and
  • Ombuds staff were insufficiently trained.
A key question for the pioneering project, is whether to urge a local variant of Britain's independent national office for student complaints. (The Australian Supplement on Higher Education.)

Although this study looked only at classical Ombuds, it serves as a reminder about the issues that are important to visitors. Organizational Ombuds should pay heed.

Related posts: British Panel Recommends Higher Education Ombuds Programs; Persistent Complaints to Ombuds Offices.

December 12, 2008

Update: University of West Georgia Debuts Ombuds Website and Charter

Less than a year after an Ombuds program was proposed, UWG has hired two Ombuds, signed a charter agreement, and rolled out a website. The home page for UWG's Ombuds Office features links to the IOA Code and Standards, brochure, supplemental information, and terms of reference. The four-page chartering document is endorsed by the University President and Faculty Senate. (UWG Ombuds.)

Prior post: University of West Georgia Introduces First-Ever Ombuds for Faculty and Staff.

Central Michigan Ombuds Offers Online Interface

Jon Humiston the new Ombuds for Central Michigan University has developed an internet portal that allows students to submit information and request an appointment. Humiston explains that the interface is similar to one offered by Michigan State on its intranet. The page may be revised further and has not yet been publicized to students. (CMU Ombuds Report a Concern.)

This is one of but a handful of Ombuds programs that have any interactive online capabilities. Yet as communications continue migrating to the electronic domain, Ombuds will be obligated to follow. Humiston is helping pave the way.

Related posts: Army's Ombuds Program for Soldiers Goes Online; Online Bullying an Emerging Issue for Ombuds.

Ombuds Santa

Fred Jenoure, Ombuds for Hartford University, served as Santa Clause for 100 preschoolers from local nursery schools this week. According to press reports, children crowded around Santa, high fiving and hugging him. Each child was able to take a professional picture with Santa to bring home, courtesy of Hartford's President. (UNotes Daily.)

Berkeley Faculty Ombuds Passes

Jeffery Allan Winer, Ph.D., the faculty Ombuds at the University of California Berkeley, died Tuesday, December 9, after a brief battle with cancer. Winer was a neurobiologist and professor of molecular and cell biology who mapped the network of nerves that allow the brain to represent and interpret sound. (UCBerkely News.)

December 10, 2008

Former Professor Recounts Troubling Encounter with Ombuds

In yesterday's Chronicle of Higher Education, a former professor from a "metropolitan university in the South" tells how he was accused of sexual harassment nearly a decade ago. The anonymous author in fact was innocent of the charges–-someone with a remarkably similar email address had sent several messages to his student demanding sex for a higher grade. Although he quickly denied that the emails were his, he was summoned to a meeting with the "university ombudswoman," who confronted him with the evidence and presented an agreement for him to seek psychological help for his behavior. Upon providing a list of dozens of existing email addresses on Hotmail that were similar to his, the suggestion of fault evaporated.

Although the focus of the article was on the false accusation and presumption of guilt, the professor was clearly troubled by how the case was handled by the Ombuds.
The meeting adjourned. The dean, never one for gracious damage control, disappeared. The ombudswoman made some pleasant conversation as I put on my jacket and collected my things. But no one in the room apologized. No one there expressed concern regarding the impact the event might have had on me or my reputation. Their immediate presumption of my guilt was apparently not to be regretted by anyone but me.

The professor concludes his tale with a warning: "Until we devise more-sophisticated approaches for handling this complex problem on campuses, we will continue to see potentially clumsy responses that further complicate an already painful problem." (

This article is no doubt raising the blood pressure of many university Ombuds. The behavior of the unidentified Ombuds clearly violated the prevailing ethical standards of the University and College Ombuds Association and its successor professional organization, the International Ombudsman Association. Under these standards, Ombuds are barred from making administrative decisions for administrators, determining "guilt" or "innocence" of those accused of wrong-doing, or assigning sanctions to individuals. Ombuds have a duty to be neutral, independent, informal and, most especially, confidential.

Of course, the story may not be accurate, but there is no opportunity for the Ombuds to tell her side. The unfortunate effect is that readers will reach a mistaken conclusion about the role of the Ombuds and may avoid working with the rare safe resource for those wrongly accused.

Related post: University of Iowa Endorses Ombuds Office After Faculty Suicide.

What Not to Say in an Email

Tech executive Roger Matus offers a top ten list of things you should never put in an email. One significant reason is that these will likely raise red flags for e-discovery sleuths.
  • Delete this email immediately.
  • I really shouldn't put this in writing.
  • We're going to do this differently than normal.
  • I don't want to discuss this in e-mail. Please give me a call.
  • Don't ask. You don't want to know.
Matus says, "If you find yourself typing one of these phrases, perhaps you should delete the entire e-mail." (Death by Email via ABA Journal.) Good advice for Ombuds and their visitors.

Related posts: Don't Send That Angry Email; Using Email in Dispute Resolution; Wharton Study on Managing Workplace Emotions.

December 09, 2008

Ombuds Offer Insights on Dispute Systems Design

The Harvard Negotiation Law Review has published articles by participants at the Dispute Systems Design Symposium earlier this year at Harvard Law School. Three are by Ombuds.
  • Mary Rowe, the MIT Ombuds, provides an illustrative case for her article, “Systems for Dealing with Conflict and Learning from Conflict—Options for Complaint-Handling.” Rowe also contributed a second article, “An Organizational Ombuds Office In a System for Dealing with Conflict and Learning from Conflict, or ‘Conflict Management System’.”
  • David Miller, the World Health Organization Ombuds, discusses, “Managing Cultural Differences In An International Organization Conflict Management System.”
  • Brian Bloch, the Ombuds for ISKCONResolve, writes about, “Creating a Faith-Based Conflict Management System.”
Rowe and Bloch also provide a valuable tool for analyzing your organization's conflict management system. (Harvard Negotiation Law Review Online; Dispute Systems Design Symposium 2008 Discussion Forum; Analyzing your Conflict Management System Chart.)

Related posts: UN General Assembly Approves Reform of Dispute System; Carole Houk Awarded 5-Year Contract With Dept. of Interior.

December 07, 2008

Mount Holyoke Ombuds Interviewed

Mount Holyoke College's Ombuds, Carol Stewart, was interviewed by the campus newspaper. She has served as the college's Ombuds since July 2007. The location of her office will certainly sound familiar to many Ombuds.
In the Wilder basement, if you follow the gray signs with mysterious black arrows through the darkened bends and winding corners, they will lead you to the office of the Ombudsperson, Carol Stewart.

Once inside, though, people probably don't want to leave.
Stewart's office doesn't feel like an office at all. It feels as if someone picked up a cozy loft apartment and placed it in the dark recesses of the Wilder basement. Soft lamplight glows across couches and ottomans with intricate, speckled, red, orange and green patterns. Hung on the salmon-colored walls are Stewart's collection of green clocks made from plates, adding a touch of Martha Stewart to the atmosphere. * * * Immediately you feel at home in her office. And it's not just the couch, the salmon walls or the toys that make you feel this way-its Carol's soothing voice and happy demeanor.

Stewart has an eight year old son and is completing a Master's degree in Public Policy and Administration at University of Massachusetts. (Mount Holyoke News.)

Related post: New Ombuds at Mt. Holyoke.

December 05, 2008

World Bank Calls for Climate Change Ombuds

At a United Nations climate change conference in Poland this week, participants discussed reforming the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a feature of the Kyoto Protocol which requires countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The World Bank, which was instrumental in starting the CDM, has called for the creation of an Ombuds program that could play a role in building trust and confidence in the CDM. Details of the World Bank's proposal were not available. (Carbon-Finance Online.)

Whether or not the proposal is for an Organizational or Classical Ombuds program is unknown. (The World Bank and UN both have Organizational Ombuds.) Regardless, it is encouraging to see plans for ADR programs being considered as a new and critical industry begins to take shape.

December 03, 2008

University of British Columbia Names First Ombuds for Students

The University of British Columbia has appointed Shirley Nakata as its first Ombuds for Students. Nakata received her BA and LL.B from UBC. She became an attorney in 1989, and has worked a litigator for a law firm and as a human rights investigator with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Most recently, Nakata has been Director of the Professional Conduct Department at the B.C. College of Teachers. Nakata has been a board member of the B.C. Council of Administrative Tribunals, and is a member of the Canadian Association for the Practical Study of Law in Education and the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice. She is a member and has been a board member of the West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund. Nakata will begin her duties in January 2009. (UBC Media Release; Vancouver Sun.)

UC Riverside Ombuds Profiled

Indu Sen, the Ombuds at the University of California, Riverside, is profiled in the Pepperdine Law School alumni magazine, The Docket. Sen reveals that her career in dispute resolution was inspired partly by her experiences reconciling differences between her Hindu Indian family and her husband's, who is a Pakistani Muslim. In addition to her Ombuds work, Sen has been working toward the launch of an online mediation company called FairShake in 2009. (Pepperdine Docket.)

Related post: Profile of UC Riverside Ombuds Gets Some Facts Right, Some Wrong.

November 26, 2008

Ombuds Blog Celebrates Two Years

Since the first post on November 9, 2006, the Ombuds Blog has posted 888 items and drawn 77,000 page views. Monthly visits now approach 3,400 and continue to increase. Almost 58% of visitors return and 183 receive free daily email updates. Although most visitors are located in the United States (89%) and Canada (5%), the site is regularly visited by people in Luxembourg, Australia, Mexico, Switzerland, France, Puerto Rico, Spain and New Zealand. The site now features links to 355 Ombuds offices (up from 281 a year ago).

So far, all this has been accomplished without advertising or financial affiliation. The goal is to continue to map the progress of the Organizational Ombuds profession and to provide relevant resources for practitioners. Please do not hesitate to submit clarifications or news that have been overlooked. Thanks for your support.

Related post: Ombuds Blog Marks First Anniversary.

San Diego State Ombuds Office Marks 40 Years With New Appointment

The Ombuds Office at San Diego State was established as an experiment by the Associated Students Council in 1968. In the 40 years since then, the office has matured into an important resource for students. Marit Bessesen was appointed as the fifth SDSU Ombuds earlier this year, filling the vacancy left by D.A. Graham. Previously, Bessessen was a residence hall administrator for SDSU and Northern Arizona University. She earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls in English Education and taught high school English for one year. She received a master's in Human Development with an emphasis in Human Resources and College Student Personnel from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. (SDSU Bridge.)

Related posts: New Ombuds at Princeton; Job Posting.

Dispute Resolution Forum at Harvard Features Ombuds

The next Harvard Project on Negotiation forum will feature Chuck Doran, Ombuds and founder of Mediation Works Incorporated. Doran and Melanie Lewis, Corporate Manager of Conflict Management and the Solutions Program Director for Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., will discuss the ADR “Solutions” program at CCE. The forum takes place on December 10, from 8:30 to 10:00 a.m. (PON News.)

Update: University of Louisville Ombuds Office Delayed

Details of a new Ombuds program at UofL were expected in October. However, the announcement has been delayed while the University works through a number of logistical issues including location and IT services. University spokesperson John Drees says there isn’t room on campus for another office. No revised timetable for implementation has been offered. (WFPL News; UofL Update.)

Prior post: Out of the Blue, University of Louisville to Open Ombuds Office.

Pacific Ombudsman Alliance Launches

Classical Ombudsmen and government representatives from 11 countries in the Pacific Islands Forum met in Brisbane, Australia recently to launch the Pacific Ombudsman Alliance. Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman John McMillan, who was elected chair of the Alliance at the Brisbane meeting said, “A key aim of the Alliance is to support the development of legislation and programs that recognize the right of citizens to transparent and accountable government services.” (UN Public Administration Network.)

November 25, 2008

University of Minnesota Recommends Faculty Ombuds

At a meeting next week, the UM Faculty Senate will consider a recommendation to implement a faculty Ombuds program for a three year trial period. The recommending committee did not address the administrative details of how to implement the program and suggests that they be worked out by a small group jointly appointed by the President and the Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs. The position, if approved, would supplement the Ombuds services offered to students since 1968. (UM Faculty Senate Agenda; Report and Recommendations for Faculty Ombuds Services.)

Job Posting: BearingPoint

The management and consulting company is staffing a Military Healthcare Ombudsman-Soldier Family Advocate for Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. Applicants must have a high school diploma and 10 years of professional work experience in a military medical system. No closing date or salary indicated. It is also unclear whether this is a job working for the Army or a contractor. (BearingPoint Jobs via

Related post: Army's Ombuds Program for Soldiers Goes Online.

KeySpan Ombuds to Keynote National HR Conference

Kenny Moore, Corporate Ombuds for KeySpan Corp., will present a keynote address to Employers of Excellence National Conference January 26-29, 2009 at the Green Valley Ranch Resort in Las Vegas. Moore will discuss the amusing interplay between our business, personal and spiritual lives. (PR Web.)

Related post: Profile of National Grid Ombuds.

Trendspotting: Temp-to-Perm Employees a Growing Concern for Ombuds

Employers are relying more and more on employees who work on a temporary status before becoming permanent. The HR industry calls this "temp to perm" or "temp to hire" and says its a way to "try before you buy." The arrangement benefits employers who are uncertain about the skills of a potential employee or who have concerns about future funding. Employees who may not seem like ideal candidate or who are uncertain about a particular job find the arrangement a good way to work into a permanent position. Although data are hard to come by, anecdotal evidence suggests that the numbers of temp-to-perm employees are growing and increasingly include mid-level managers, professionals and executives. Although the practice had its start while the economy was healthy, the trend may accelerate during this recession.

For many temp-to-perm employees, the arrangement has significant drawbacks. One study found that higher psychological morbidity among temporary workers compared with permanent employees. There was also an indication that temporary workers have a higher risk of occupational injuries but use less sick time. Ombuds are accustomed to seeing employees with psychological disorders so this portends higher numbers of temp-to-perm visitors.

In addition, Ombuds are uniquely positioned as a resource for temp-to-perm workers. A significant concern for temporary employees is unavailability of formal safeguards available to permanent employees. Temp-to-perm employees generally can be released at any time without notice or right to grieve the decision. As such, they are especially interested in the informal remedies offered by Ombuds. For these reasons, Ombuds should expect to see growing numbers of temp-to-perm employees. (; NY Times; Temporary Employment and Health: a Review; Yahoo Answers; New Yorker Cartoons.)

Prior Trendspotting posts: Ombuds Not Exempt From Influence of Internet; Online Bullying an Emerging Issue for Ombuds.

November 24, 2008

UN Ombuds Reports on Activities Amid Concerns Over Progress on Reformed Justice System

On November 20, 2008, John Barkat, the United Nations Ombuds, provided a report to the Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly. Among other matters, Barkat reported the Ombuds Office is revising its terms of reference, and working on the establishment of a Mediation Division and making progress on selecting Regional Ombuds for the seven new branches of the Office. Additionally, according to a recent online report, the UN Budget Committee has also raised some concerns about the slow progress on efforts to reform the UN's internal justice system. UN member states reiterated the urgent need for reform of the UN's justice system and expressed regret over “numerous delays and tasks outstanding” and insisted that exceeding the deadline of January 1, 2009 was “not an option.” Michael Scanlon of the United States also called for clarifying the respective roles of the Office of the Ombudsman and Ethics Office. (7th Space.)

Related posts: UN Budget Increases Funds and Scope of Ombuds Office; Job Posting; UN Ombuds Reports on Reorganization Efforts.

Marquette University Ombuds Reports on Activities

In a report to the campus's Subcommittee on Equity earlier this fall, Kerry Egdorf, the University Ombuds, said that she handled 83 cases between May 1, 2007 and June 30, 2008 (26 staff, 30 faculty, 19 administrators, 5 students, 2 parents, and 1 former employee). Women comprised 90% of her visitors and a majority of matters involved evaluative relationships. Egdorf also sought to quell any negative rumors about the departure of her successor, Rita Burns, who became the Ombuds at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. (MU Subcmte on Equity Minutes.)

Related posts: Federal District Court Respects Role of Marquette University Ombuds.

ICANN Ombuds Earns Doctorate

Frank Fowlie, ICANN Ombudsman, has completed his Doctor of Conflict Resolution from La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. His research dissertation on evaluating Ombuds programs is available on line. (ICANN Ombudsman Blog.)

November 22, 2008

Leading Immigration Lawyer Urges Obama to Retain USCIS Ombuds

Angelo Paparelli, President of the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, says that, "President-elect Obama should consider keeping in place the current Ombudsman to USCIS (Michael Dougherty) who despite a very short tenure has made great strides in keeping USCIS on its toes." (Angelo Paparelli's Blog via Immigration Daily.) Related posts: Profile of New Immigration Ombuds; Immigration Ombuds Issues Annual Report.

Related posts: Obama and the Future of the ADR Profession; Media Coalition Calls on Obama to Revive FOIA Ombuds Office.

November 21, 2008

Has the CIA Created Another Ombuds Program?

A New York Times article on an internal investigation by the Central Intelligence Agency into the accidental downing of a missionary plane in Peru in 2001 reveals that the agency may have created an Ombuds program earlier this year. A report by John L. Helgerson, the CIA’s inspector general, said that the agency routinely authorized interceptions of suspected drug planes “without adequate safeguards to protect against the loss of innocent life.” According to the Times, Helgerson agreed to a series of changes earlier this year, including the creation of an Ombuds position to hear complaints from CIA officers being scrutinized by the IG. This corroborates reports from earlier this year, based on leaked internal emails, of a new CIA Ombuds program. (NY Times;

These recent developments would seem to imply that there had not been an Ombuds program at the CIA previously, but a 2004 report by the Senate Intelligence Committee indicates otherwise. When the Senate investigated the intelligence failures leading up to the Iraq war, it took testimony from the CIA's Ombuds (who reported that the "hammering" of analysts was more severe than he had ever seen in his 32-year career). In summarizing that testimony, the Senate report offers this glimpse into the structure of the CIA Ombuds program:
The CIA created the position of Ombudsman for Politicization in 1992 to respond to alleged issues of politicization and analytic distortion. According to the Ombudsman's Charter, the position serves as an "independent, informal, and confidential counselor for those who have complaints about politicization, biased reporting, or lack of objective analysis. The Ombudsman reports directly to the Director of Central Intelligence.

In his testimony, the CIA Ombuds revealed that he had launched a "formal investigation" after receiving a verbal complaint that an intelligence report was misleading. There is no indication that the Ombuds asserted a privilege or revealed the names of the individuals he consulted. (Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence via FAS Intelligence Resource Program; LA Times; US News & World Report.)

So the CIA apparently had an Ombuds program from 1992 until at least 2004. Then, in 2008, the agency agreed to create an Ombuds program for IG matters. Are there now two programs in place? Or was the first program shut down? These questions and others are likely never to be answered. The CIA Ombuds program is not mentioned in the comprehensive Report to the President on Federal ADR Programs, which includes 42 different agencies and departments, nor does the CIA have any representation on the Coalition of Federal Ombudsmen.

Job Posting: Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic is accepting applications for an Ombuds at its South Pointe Hospital. "Through mediation and negotiation, the ombudsman ensures a positive working relationship between physicians, staff, patients, and their families in order to support and maintain the highest quality of patient standards." A bachelor's degree and 3-4 years of experience are required. No salary or closing date indicated. (Health Care Source.)

November 20, 2008

Update: Army's Ombuds Program for Soldiers Goes Online

The US Army has unveiled a website for the Ombudsman Program in Support of Warriors in Transition. The Army Ombuds function as independent, impartial and neutral mediators for injured soldiers and family members who are in need of assistance in the resolution of problems encountered during their healing process. The Ombuds are contract employees who were selected for their experience, determination, and passion to help soldiers. About 60 Ombuds are employed at 32 locations in the United States, Puerto Rico and Germany. A unique aspect of the website is an online submission form that allows individuals to register complaints anonymously. (Army Ombudsman Program website.)

Prior post:
Army Launches Online Ombuds Program.

Related posts:
National Taxpayer Advocate Plans Study of Federal Ombuds; Report to the President on Federal ADR Programs; University of Wisconsin Appoints Ombuds for Veterans.

November 19, 2008

Berkeley Recommends Ombuds After Campus Israeli-Palestinian Incident

After a number of troubling incidents at the University of California Berkeley, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau reaffirmed the campus's commitment to reasoned and civil debate, and called upon individuals to engage in continued vigilance, constructive dialogue and concerted action to protect these values. In a letter to the campus, Birgeneau and other administrators promoted the student and staff Ombuds Offices as a resource for dealing with provocations. (UC Berkeley News.)

Related posts: New Staff Ombuds at Cal Berkeley; UC Berkeley Appoints Ombuds for Students.

What Not to Say at Work

Sometimes, Ombuds are simply a resource for common sense advice. Some visitors seem ill-equipped to discern the standards of workplace culture. Here's a handy list of things one should avoid in conversation with colleagues:
  1. How much you had to drink last night;
  2. How much your shoes cost;
  3. Who you sleep with, and how often;
  4. How you ripped off the system on your last business trip;
  5. How sick you are of the job;
  6. How much you despise the boss; and
  7. How excited you are about all the things God is telling you.
(Men's Health.)

Related posts: Dealing With Obnoxious Coworkers; Saying the Right Thing in a Difficult Situation.

November 18, 2008

Report to the President on Federal ADR Programs

Bill Warters at Campus-ADR Tech Blog highlights the 2007 report by representatives from the Federal Interagency Alternative Dispute Resolution Working Group Sections and Steering Committee. This report is relevant for Ombuds in two ways. Most significantly, it provides compelling evidence of the effectiveness and cost savings associated with ADR processes. In addition, it summarizes the activities of 42 different Ombuds programs in federal agencies, many of which are highlighted as examples of how the government is achieving its mission of accessibility, responsiveness, and inclusiveness. (Campus-ADR Tech Blog; Report for the President on the Use and Results of Alternative Dispute Resolution.)

The report is being added as a permanent link to the list of Critical Ombuds Documents.

November 17, 2008

Job Posting: UN Office for Project Services

The project management and support service agency is accepting applications for an Ombudsman for the Funds and Programmes to be stationed in New York. The two-year position will provide an impartial, independent and informal conflict-resolution mechanism for the settlement of employment-related problems for staff members and personnel. An advanced university degree and fifteen years is requested. No salary indicated. Closing date: December 15, 2008. (UNOPS Vacancy Details.)

Related posts: UN Budget Increases Funds and Scope of Ombuds Office; UN Ombuds Reports on Reorganization Efforts.

Job Posting: Apollo Group

The S&P 500, for-profit educational corporation is seeking an Associate Ombuds for its Phoenix headquarters. Applicants must have five years of relevant experience in a corporate or university setting. The position pays $55,000-60,000 per year. No closing date indicated. (Apollo Group Posting.)

Utah Valley University Introduces Student Ombuds

The 24,000-student public college in Orem offers an Ombuds program to help students with any problem. The office is staffed currently by Ashley Robertson, a third-year UVU student who has worked in five different school departments. She reports that student issues frequently include harassment, housing problems, roommate disputes, student rights concerns, grading issues, and unfair teachers. There are no other Ombuds programs in the state. (UVU Review.)

Georgia Tech Consolidates Ombuds Offices

Georgia Institute of Technology has combined the three Ombuds Offices which previously served faculty, staff and graduate student separately. Under the new structure, the Ombuds office will report to the Institute president through the Office of the Provost. Engineering Professor Emeritus Narl Davidson and Physics Professor Emeritus Ed Thomas are the faculty ombuds; Engineering Professor William (Russ) Callen is the graduate student ombuds; and John Schultz is the classified staff ombuds. Renovations are under way to provide a centralized office. (The Whistle.)

Dartmouth Ombuds Interviewed on Public Radio

Vermont Public Radio profiled Dartmouth Ombuds Mary Childers as she signed copies of her book, Welfare Brat: A Memoir. According to the campus newspaper, "Unlike many high minded academics, Mary Childers is a true story of the American dream." (Vermont Public Radio; The Dartmouth Review.)

Related post: Interview With New Dartmouth Ombuds.

November 16, 2008

Westmont College Considering Ombuds to Assist Students After Wildfires

The small, private liberal arts campus near Santa Barbara was hit hard by the recent wildfires and lost several buildings. Westmont President Gayle Beebe said the college is developing an Ombuds program and in other ways working to “minimize damage on all fronts including the grading front.” Consideration will be given to students under timelines for projects, for example, or whose academic work was consumed by the fire. (Santa Barbara Independent; Westmont Announcement.) It appears the program will be temporary and the appointed Ombuds will serve as advocates for students.

Related post: California Fires Shutter Ombuds Offices.

Pepperdine Law School Revives Ombuds Course

After a hiatus of nearly three years, the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University is offering a two-unit course about Ombuds practice in Spring 2009. The class is being taught by Kathy Canul, director of the UCLA Ombuds Office. (Straus Class Schedule.)

Related posts: Pepperdine Opens Ombuds Office; UCLA Seeks Extern.

November 14, 2008

University of Iowa Endorses Ombuds Office After Faculty Suicide

A UI professor accused of sexual harassment apparently committed suicide Wednesday afternoon, prompting university officials to reiterate the availability of resources to avoid such incidents. UI spokesperson Steve Parrott said faculty accused of misconduct can go to the Office of the Ombudsperson and have confidential conversations to determine how to protect their reputation and resolve the problem. Coincidentally, the UI Ombuds Office made a presentation to the Graduate Student Senate the same afternoon as the professor's death. (The Maneater; GSS Minutes.)

Of course, the Ombuds' duty of confidentiality would preclude any admission that the professor had sought assistance from the Ombuds Office.

Related posts: University of Iowa Ombuds Issues Annual Report; Ombuds Prompts Changes at University of Iowa.

11/16/08 Update: Cynthia Joyce, the UI Ombuds, said concerns about harassment by a professor or about a faculty relationship are infrequent. "But to be fair they loom very large when they happen," she said. (Cedar Rapids Gazette.)

11/24/08 Update: In an editorial, Ann H. Franke, president of Wise Results, lawyer and consultant specializing in higher-education law, also recommends Ombuds as a resource for for those accused of harassment. (Chronicle of Higher Ed.)

November 12, 2008

List of Leading Dispute Resolution Processes Omits Ombuds

An article at provides brief descriptions of the most common dispute resolution processes:
  • Arbitration
  • Collaborative Practice
  • Facilitation
  • Mediation
  • Parenting Coordination

Ombuds are notably absent from this list despite the fact that the website has featured several articles (by Michael Eisner, Rick Russell, Marsha Wagner, and Ethan Katsch), and even videos (by Howard Gadlin) about Ombuds. Ombuds are certainly as well established in the ADR firmament as collaborative practitioners and parenting coordinators. They really should have been included.

Study of Belgian Ombuds

Research in Belgium suggests that classical ombudsmen not only help citizens with individual concerns but also function as "change agents" and provide early warnings of problems in public administration. The study found that the role of ombudsmen in directly strengthening trust in government is limited at best. The findings also indicate that the socially disadvantaged are less likely to use the service. (The Relationship between Ombudsman, Government, and Citizens: A Survey Analysis.)

Survey Finds Rising Incidence of Paranoia

Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College have found that people in Britain and the United States evidence slowly rising rates of paranoia. Experts say people display a wide spectrum of paranoia, from the irrational fears many people have daily to dangerous delusions, and estimates of the affliction range widely, from 5 to 50 percent. British psychologist Daniel Freeman, author of a new book on the subject, said that in big cities, many ambiguous events can lead to paranoid thoughts because people constantly make snap judgments based on limited information. (MSNBC News; Paranoia: The 21st Century Fear.)

Ombuds everywhere are nodding knowingly.

Related post: Federal District Court Respects Role of Marquette University Ombuds.

November 10, 2008

Media Coalition Calls on Obama to Revive FOIA Ombuds Office

The Sunshine in Government Initiative, a coalition of media groups, is asking President-elect Barack Obama to take immediate steps to strengthen open government and counteract years of growing government secrecy. In particular, SGI urges the Obama administration to "create an independent, online ombudsman to help citizens access their government" by quickly implementing the Office of Government Information Services at the National Archives and Records Administration to mediate disclosure disputes. (SGI White Paper via National Journal's Congress Daily.)

Related posts: Bush Defunds FOIA Ombuds Program; NY Times Calls for Restoration of FOIA Ombuds; Federal FOIA Ombuds Office Remains in Limbo; Obama and the Future of the ADR Profession.

Federal Ombuds Meeting This Week

The Coalition of Federal Ombudsmen holds its next bi-monthly meeting on Wednesday, November 12. At its most recent annual meeting, CFO identified several issues for further discussion, especially Ombuds law and Ombuds position descriptions. (CFO Home.)

Related posts: Federal Ombuds Annual Conference on June 11, 2007; Perspective on Ethical Standards for Federal Mediators and Ombuds; Job Posting: DOD Office of Inspector General.

November 09, 2008

Update: Maine Library to Choose Ombuds

When the Patten Free Library fired a long-time children's librarian in September 2007, a controversy quickly erupted. Seven weeks of mediation sessions lead to an agreement that called for the library to hire an Ombuds for staff, among other provisions. The mediation committee will make a presentation Monday night at the annual business meeting of the library's corporators and recommend a three-year term for the Ombuds, who has yet to be named. (Maine Times Record; Patten Free Blog.)

Prior post: Local Maine Library Considers Ombuds to Quell Public Outcry Over Firing.

City of Flint Ombuds Shuttered by Budget Cuts

Brenda Purifoy, the Ombudsman for the Michigan City, said she has been forced to laying off her entire staff and defer pending cases because of budget cuts. The office investigates complaints of government wrongdoing pursuant to a city charter, had four employees in addition to Purifoy. City-wide budget cuts are currently the subject of pending litigation. Purifoy has asked the court to revisit the latest ruling on the city's budget that failed to address the Ombudsman's budget. "I'm just floored," Purifoy said. "It's been very difficult." Unless funding is restored, Purifoy herself will be out of work in March 2009. (Flint Journal; ABC12.)

Related post: California Decimates Long Term Care Ombuds Program.

November 07, 2008

Job Posting: FDA

The Food and Drug Administration is hiring an Ombuds. The position serves as a "dispute resolution practitioner whose major function is to provide confidential and informal assistance to managers and employees in resolving work-related issues and disputes." In addition, the FDA Ombuds serves as the initial and primary contact for FDA customers and oversees the work of third party neutrals. The position pays $115,317 to $149,000 per annum. Applications are due by November 18, 2008. (USAJobs; FederalGovernmentJobs.)

Related post: FDA CDER Ombuds Issues Annual Report.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Renames Student Ombuds Office

Because most students don't know the meaning of the word "Ombudsperson," UNL decided to rename the Office of Ombuds Services as the "Office for Student Assistance." Assistant vice chancellor and student Ombuds Tim Alvarez explained that, “The name ombudsperson just didn’t resonate with students.” According to Alvarez, the students simply found the term antiquated. The services provided by the newly renamed office are unchanged and remain confidential, impartial, independent, and informal. The webpage for the office has changed in name only. Meanwhile, the UNL Staff Ombuds office is keeping its name. (UNL Scarlet; UNL Office of Student Assistance; Archived UNL Ombuds Services; UNL Staff Ombuds.)

This development highlights a perennial problem for Organizational Ombuds: the name does not resonate with consumers. The "brand" is further diluted by the many variations on the word "Ombudsman," not to mention the differences with Classical Ombuds. If there was an easy solution, it surely would have been adopted. Until there is a clear consensus, Ombuds must be diligent about marketing their service.

Related post: UK Financial Ombudsman Service Debates Name Change.

November 06, 2008

Obama and the Future of the ADR Profession

Mediator Robert Benjamin offers reasons to hope that President-Elect Barack Obama will be a boon to the alternative dispute resolution field and a valuable endorsement of mediation:
  • Obama appears to think in a systemic frame, as opposed to a linear frame, and he operates from a more flexible protean perspective, un-tethered to any particular ideology or orthodoxy.
  • Obama’s personal history, being from a multi-racial and cultural background, offers him up as the embodiment of the ‘protean self’ suggested by Robert J. Lifton.
  • Obama’s leadership style offers a model for the highest quality of negotiation and mediation practice and invites emulation and application in other areas.
Benjamin concludes that professional conflict practitioners should prepare to capitalize on Obama's leadership and the example he sets. (

Resource for Graduate School Conflict

Michigan State University's Graduate School has developed an impressive collection of resources for constructive conflict resolution between faculty and graduate students. In addition to a book, Setting Expectations and Resolving Conflicts, the program has produced video vignettes to spark discussion about the expectations and underlying interests that may be unspoken in many common graduate school conflicts. The clips are available on a DVD and some are online. (MSU Gradaute School; Setting Expectations and Resolving Conflicts in Graduate Education, via Campus-adr Weblog.)

November 04, 2008

University of Idaho to Expand Ombuds Services to Students

On the recommendation of University Ombuds James R. Fazio, Ph.D., the UI Faculty Council approved a plan to extend Ombuds services to the student body. Previously, the Ombuds Office was available only to faculty and staff. However, Fazio did not believe that students would increase the workload unreasonably. The Faculty Council also agreed to recognize both faculty and staff Ombuds with equal status. (UI Faculty Council Minutes.)

November 03, 2008

Job Posting: DOD Office of Inspector General

The US Department of Defense watchdog agency is hiring an Ombuds -- "a neutral, independent, confidential resource tasked with facilitating the resolution of internally-generated complaints, disputes and disagreements regarding the equitable and/or impartial application of OIG policies and procedures and providing feed-back of such systemic problems, issues, and complaints to the IG and senior management." The position will report directly to the Inspector General. Annual salary ranges from $93,107 to $157,412; applications are due November 17, 2008. (

This posting reflects the continued expansion of federal Ombuds programs.

Related posts:
Senate Bill Would Create DOD-Wide Ombuds Office; Inspector General Recommends Realignment of TSA Ombuds Program; Senate Approves Funding for New FOIA Ombuds Office; National Taxpayer Advocate Plans Study of Federal Ombuds; GAO Urges USDA to Hire Ombuds.