March 21, 2008

UGA to Hire Three Ombuds

University of Georgia President Michael Adams announced plans to hire three Ombuds to address discrimination and harassment claims. Adams said he wants to employ the three ombudsperson strategy for one or two years and then revisit the policy. According to the independent student newspapers the three Ombuds will "represent students, faculty and staff - one ombudsperson for students in the Division of Student Affairs; one for faculty in Academic Affairs; and one ombudsperson for staff in Human Resources." Although that would seem to imply an advocacy role, the paper also reports that the Ombuds will "provide informal and confidential assistance to persons with issues or concerns." Adams' recommendations are not based on other systems but are tailored to the situation at hand. So far, the university has not released any details of the proposal. (Red and Black; Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AP); Online Athens.)

Prior posts: University of Georgia Petitions for Staff Ombuds; UGA President Agrees to Consider Ombuds for Staff and Students.

The speed with which UGA's President embraced an Ombuds program is stunning and commendable. It has been less than two months since an Ombuds was suggested and many campuses wrestle with the concept for years. Moreover, President Adams's plan goes beyond his initial agreement of an Ombuds for students and staff, and will include an Ombuds for faculty. On the downside, there is likely to be some concern that UGA is choosing to disregard widely-accepted standards for Organizational Ombuds as implemented by other large, public American universities. Although UGA's recent problems have been newsworthy, there is no reason it should reinvent the wheel when it comes to an Ombuds office.

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