May 30, 2008

Lewis & Clark College Launches Ombuds Office

The small private, independent, liberal arts college in Portland, introduced a pilot Ombuds program in April. According to Lewis & Clark's president Tom Hochstettler, the project was recommended by an all-campus diversity committee, which identified the need for a resource for campus members who do not feel comfortable talking with administrative staff about sensitive interpersonal and professional matters. The new Ombuds office is staffed by former Associate Dean of the Graduate School Valerie White, who has taken training from the International Ombudsman Association. The progam will be staffed half time and operate on a pilot basis for several months, pending an evaluation by the college's Executive Council. (President's Announcement; Ombuds Homepage.)

Profile of Stanford Med Center Ombuds

Stanford University recently appointed Keith Smith as its new Ombuds for the School of Medicine. Although new to the medical side of the campus, Smith is well-known to the rest of the campus, where he has worked since 1977. His career began as an employee relations specialist, then in the affirmative action office. He did stints in human resources, development and the provost's office before landing back in employee relations, where he stayed for 18 years. "He came with a record of tremendous accomplishment and loyalty to the institution, and a reputation of being able to deal with complex, human problems in sensitive, thoughtful and supportive ways," said David Stevenson, MD, vice dean and senior associate dean for academic affairs at the medical school. Smith loves traveling, baseball, classical music, community service, musical theater and cooking. He started a theater club while serving in the Air Force, and he's been part of a campus group that performs Gilbert & Sullivan operas for 30 years. Smith is a graduate of the University of Michigan. (Stanford New Service.)

Prior posts: Job Posting; Stanford Appoints Med Center Ombuds.

May 29, 2008

Ombuds of Texas Unveils New Website

The Ombuds of Texas organization is an informal alliance of about one hundred government, university, corporate, school district and municipality Ombuds (classical or organizational) that was started in 2000. The group meets quarterly to discuss issues that impact the functions of an Ombuds, share information, and provide educational opportunities. This week, the Ombuds of Texas launched an updated website that includes a schedule of meetings, a list of members, links to other websites, a document repository, and frequently asked questions. (Ombuds of Texas.)

Related posts: Effort to Pass Shield Law Comes Up Short in Texas.

May 28, 2008

IOA Unveils Mentoring Program

In an effort to enhance the transition to Ombuds practice, the International Ombudsman Association is developing a mentoring program to connect novice Ombuds with experienced Ombuds. The mentor relationship provides new Ombuds an opportunity to get advice and to discuss the profession. IOA is now accepting applications for potential mentors (Ombuds with at least three years of experience) and those seeking mentors (Ombuds with less than one year experience). (IOA Mentor Sign-Up.)

May 27, 2008

U Penn Appoints Ombuds

The University of Pennsylvania has announced the appointment of Michele Goldfarb as Associate Ombuds, effective July 1, 2008. Goldfarb is currently serving as director of the Penn Women’s Center, a role she assumed in 2007. From 2006-07, she taught in the Penn Law School, primarily in the Civil Practice Clinic, and assisted in the Mediation Clinic, where she has been teaching as an adjunct professor since 1996. “Penn is fortunate to have someone with Ms. Goldfarb’s expertise in mediation and conflict resolution and deep knowledge of the University as its new associate ombudsman. A highly regarded teacher and university citizen, she brings a wealth of experience in alternative dispute resolution to her new role and we are delighted to have been able to recruit her into this new role,” said Joann Mitchell, vice president for institutional affairs. Ms. Goldfarb received her BA in history at Oberlin College and her JD at American University. (UPenn Almanac.)

Prior posts: Job Posting; U Penn Ombuds Issues Annual Report and Marks Retirement of Long-Time Associate.

Job Posting: U Tennessee

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville is accepting applications for its first-ever Ombuds. The move implements a recommendation from January 2005 and has generated almost no publicity. Applicants should have a PhD or other terminal degree, and at least five years of relevant job experience. Preference will be given to candidates who have experience in higher education. Salary range: $41,840-$85,070 per annum. No closing date indicated. (UTK Jobs; Salary Schedule; Quality Enhancement Plan.)

Auburn Looking for First Ombuds

After debating the creation of an Ombuds program for several years, Auburn University is finally searching for its first Ombuds. Dr. Bob Locy, chair of the University Senate, said “We expect that if the ombudsperson office works as well as it has at other institutions, the benefits of broadening the functions offered at Auburn will be obvious and clearly demonstrated by this trial.” Only applications from tenured full professors or retired faculty members will be considered by the selection committee. The search committee will begin reviewing applications June 2 and narrow the pool of candidates to no more than three finalists. The final decision will be made by the Executive Committee of the faculty senate. The new Ombuds will start in the fall and initially serve faculty and staff. (Opelika-Auburn News.)

Prior posts: Peek at the Long Playing Effort to Create an Ombuds Office at Auburn University; Auburn Faculty Revives Effort to Create Ombuds; Auburn to Implement Ombuds Program.

(Internal) Job Posting: UC Berkeley

The University of California at Berkeley is accepting applications for a Director and Ombuds for Students and Post-doctoral Appointees. The Director manages staff and ensures adherence to Ombuds standards of practice and code of ethics. An advanced degree and mediation certification are preferred. The listing is open to internal candidates only for three weeks. If this does not yield a sufficiently diverse pool of applicants, the posting will be extended. No salary available. (Northern California HERC.)

May 22, 2008

ICANN Ombuds Offers Advice for Attorneys

Frank Fowlie, the ICANN Ombudsman, is the subject of an interview published in the Spring 2008 issue of the American Bar Association Section on Litigation newsletter, “Conflict Management.” In the article, Fowlie has some words of wisdom for attorneys:
I would suggest that it is very important for a lawyer to realize that the Ombudsman process is not adversarial. The Ombudsman acts as an advocate for fairness, and not for either of the parties. The Ombudsman is interested in redressing unfairness, and in helping the organizational systems to be fair. The Ombudsman doesn't assess blame, nor attribute damages or compensation. So, I believe that clarity of any Ombudsman's role for a lawyer is critical.

* * * It is also important for lawyers to understand that the Ombudsman's work is done in private and in confidence, my Office does not act as a fact finding body for the purpose of providing evidence for litigation. I think that lawyers, like other third parties, can assist in the Ombudsman process by ensuring that there is a reasonable expectation of what an Ombudsman can do to resolve the issue ... and by ever bearing in mind that fairness is the key mandate for the Ombudsman.

(ICANN Ombudsman Blog; ABA Conflict Management Newsletter.)

Too often, Ombuds are inclined to disengage when confronted by an attorney. Yet visitors are increasingly likely (especially in the US) to retain counsel early in the dispute process. Thus, by withdrawing from interacting with attorneys, Ombuds voluntarily isolate themselves from a growing portion of the population. I encourage Ombuds to engage with attorneys who are working with visitors toward an informal resolution. (At the same time, I reassure Ombuds that competent and ethical attorneys will seek to exhaust informal avenues before formal processes.) Ombuds have an obligation to to explain our role to attorneys and not foreclose opportunities for a constructive dialog for informal conflict resolution. Fowlie's comments are on point in this regard.

May 21, 2008

Job Posting: Eaton Corp. (China)

Eaton Corporation has an opening for a Field Ombudsman in Shanghai, China. Initially, the position will manage the launching of an IOA-compliant Ombuds program for employees, including the development of materials, employee training and web page development. (Travel will be extensive during the launch of the program.) Thereafter, the Ombuds will field issues from employees for the purpose of protecting against abuse, bias or other improper treatment. A bachelor's degree is required and an MBA is preferred. Demonstrated experience dealing with employee issues at senior levels of an organization is required. The ideal candidate also will be proficient in Chinese and English. No salary or closing date indicated. (BrassRing AutoReqId 26027BR.)

Books for an Ombuds Library

Diane Levin at the Mediation Channel posts about print and online resources for mediators and negotiators. Her list of books would be a good place to start when building an Ombuds Office library.

Mediation, Conflict Resolution, and Consensus-Building
  • Mediating Dangerously: The Frontiers of Conflict Resolution, by Kenneth Cloke
  • The Promise of Mediation: The Transformative Approach to Conflict, by Robert A. Baruch Bush and Joseph P. Folger
  • The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution: A Practitioner’s Guide, by Bernard Mayer
  • The Mediator’s Handbook, by Jennifer Beer (for new mediators)
  • The Power of a Positive No: How to Say NO and Still Get to Yes, by William Ury
  • Breaking Robert’s Rules: The New Way to Run Your Meeting, Build Consensus, and Get Results, by Lawrence E. Susskind and Jeffrey L. Cruikshank
  • Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People, by G. Richard Shell
  • Negotiation Genius: How to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Brilliant Results at the Bargaining Table and Beyond, Deepak Malhotra and Max H. Bazerman
  • The Negotiator’s Fieldbook, edited by Andrea Kupfer Schneider and Christopher Honeyman
  • Ask for It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want, by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever
  • Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate, by Daniel Shapiro and Roger Fisher
Decision-Making, Influence, and the Mind
  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini
  • Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, by Dan Ariely
  • A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives, by Cordelia Fine
She also has a great collection of links to online resources in these areas. (

Related post: Ombuds Libraries.

May 20, 2008

New Ombuds Workshop at the Midwest Summer Meeting

The Sixth Annual Midwest Summer Meeting of College and University Ombudspersons at Northern Illinois University kicks off with a full-day workshop on July 13. Designed for those new to the college and university Ombuds profession, workshop topics will include:
  • A history of the profession;
  • Professional ethics and standards of practice;
  • Marketing the office;
  • Working with consultees;
  • Appropriate record-keeping;
  • Addressing trends and patterns of problematic behavior;
  • Relationships with other campus entities; and
  • Additional topics identified by participants.
The workshop and meeting (on July 14) are remarkably priced at $65 and $35. (NIU Event Details.)

Colorado U Honors Ombuds Office Administrative Assistant

Administrative assistant Melinda Canino is the first person people speak to when the contact the Ombuds Office at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She has worked at the university since 1978 in service, academic and administrative areas, and has gained a broad understanding of the campus structure and culture. Recently, Chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson named Canino one of six Employees of the Year. (Inside CU Awards; Spotlight.)

The value of knowledgeable and diligent support staff for an Ombuds cannot be understated. Whether they are called administrative assistants, office managers, case coordinators or something else, Ombuds rely on their staff for much more than administrative support. Experienced staff provide valuable insights into organizational politics and history, and enhance Ombuds problem solving, outreach and upward feedback. Having worked in a solo office without support, I can personally attest to the critical benefit of partnering with administrative staff. Congratulations to Canino and the CU-Boulder Ombuds Office, and a heartfelt thanks to all of the individuals working with Ombuds to improve their organizations.

May 19, 2008

International Baccalaureate Opens Ombuds Office

In August 2007, the Board of Governors for International Baccalaureate (formerly the International Baccalaureate Organization, an international non-profit educational foundation), endorsed the creation of an Ombuds program to solve and anticipate problems as the organization continues its growth. Tony Flatley, IB's former International Heads Representative Committee chair, was recently appointed as the first Ombuds. Flatley emigrated to Canada over 30 years ago as a math teacher, and has managed private and state facilities, in elementary and high-school sectors, in cities and in the country. The IB Ombudsman website just went on line. (IB News; IB Ombuds Home; IB World Newsletter.)

Santa Monica Schools Considering Ombuds for Special Education Disputes

Beset by problems with its special education program, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School Board is considering systemic improvements to change the contentious dynamic between the district and the community. Among other things, board president Oscar de la Torre has suggested an impartial district Ombuds to mediate disputes between parents and the district. (SMMUSD Agenda; Malibu Times; Santa Monica Daily Press; The Look Out News.)

Other municipalities considering school Ombuds programs: Philadelphia; Loudon County; Little Rock; Pasadena; New Orleans; and Boulder.

May 15, 2008

IOA 2010 Conference Planned for New Orleans

The Fifth Annual Conference of the International Ombudsman Association is set for April 7-10, 2010, at the Marriott New Orleans. (IOA Conf. Details.)

Related post: 2009 IOA Conference Set for Montreal.

May 14, 2008

Halliburton Asserts Ombuds Privilege

As it has in the past, Halliburton touts the work of its in-house Dispute Resolution Program (DRP) in its 2007 Corporate Sustainability Report. The DRP is administered by Ombuds with strong support from senior management. What makes Halliburton's latest Report remarkable is the public assertion of a privilege:
The DRP is administered by ombudsmen who adhere strictly to the code of ethics and standards of practice of the International Ombudsman Association. The code is defined by three key principles: neutrality, independence and confidentiality. Communication with the DRP is considered privileged and, as such, does not constitute notice to the company. [Emphasis added.]

The Fortune 500 multinational thus becomes the most prominent private sector entity to endorse the most significant legal protection for the Ombuds profession. (Halliburton Corporate Sustainability Report; more about Halliburton's DRP at

U. Wisconsin Adds Ombuds

The Ombuds Office for Faculty and Staff at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has hired emeriti staff member John Mather, as an additional part-time Ombuds. Mather managed the D.C. Smith Greenhouse from its conception in until he retired in 2007, and provided support of the floriculture program in horticulture at the university. Throughout his campus career he participated in all levels of academic staff governance. (UW Madison News.)

Duke Elects New Faculty Ombuds

The Academic Council at Duke University has elected Jeffrey Dawson, professor emeritus of immunology and associate dean for basic medical science curriculum in the School of Medicine, to a two-year term as faculty Ombuds. Dawson will report directly to the president and serve as an impartial party in complaints involving faculty members. (Duke Today; Executive Committee Recommendation.)

Related post: Duke Gains Ombuds for Students.

May 13, 2008

U.N. Secretary-General Meets New Ombuds

On May 5, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meet with Johnston Barkat, newly appointed United Nations Ombudsman at the UN headquarters in New York. (UN Photo.)

Prior post: Barkat Appointed U.N. Ombuds

Job Posting: Red Cross

The American Red Cross is accepting applications for an Ombudsman Services Representative in Washington, DC. Bachelor’s degree is required with a minimum of one year of experience interacting with broad customer or constituency base in professional setting and proficiency with spreadsheet applications, word-processing applications, database applications and presentation software are required. Applications are due by July 12; no salary indicated. (Red Cross Jobs, job id: 6977BR, via idealist.)

Related posts: First Red Cross Ombuds Promises to Strengthen "Sacred Trust" With Public; Red Cross Ombuds Unveils Video.

IOI Newsletter Announces 2009 Conference in Sweden

The March 2008 Newsletter for the International Ombudsman Institute is now available online and features an invitation to the Ninth IOI World Conference in Stockholm, Sweden on June 9-12, including a celebration of the Bicentennial of the Swedish Ombudsmen. The newsletter also updates the status of classical ombudsman programs around the world and other news of interest to government watchdogs. The latest IOI directory is also now online. (IOI Newsletter; IOI Directory.)

Improve Listening Skills by Mirroring Gestures

An article in the NY Times offers suggestions for enhancing listening skills. According to Gretchen Neels, a workplace consultant, better listening allows you to get things right the first time, build better relationships and find the nuances behind what is being said. She says that “mirroring” the gestures of the speaker puts the listener into the same groove. Ms. Neels says that if you are feeling very connected, you are probably mirroring each other’s body language since it something people automatically do in situations where they are comfortable. She also advises listeners to: maintain good eye contact; sit without fidgeting; nod your head or lean toward the speaker; and not interrupt. (NYT Shifting Careers.)

May 09, 2008

Profile of New Immigration Ombuds

On March 3, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security appointed Michael T. Dougherty as the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, filling the post vacated by the founding Ombuds, Prakash Khatri. A bio now available on the DHS website states that Dougherty served as Legislative Counsel on the personal staff of Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and also staffed the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security within the Senate Judiciary Committee. He assisted in the drafting and negotiation of the 2007 bipartisan immigration reform effort in the Senate. Dougherty previously served as Senior Policy Advisor for Immigration at the DHS, and worked as an attorney for the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney's Office and the Board of Immigration Appeals. In addition, Dougherty has served as an Administrative Judge for the U.S. Merit System Protection Board. He earned his B.A. from the Catholic University of America (1985) and J.D. from the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America (1988). Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said:
Michael’s 15 years of policy and litigation experience and a deep understanding of immigration law will serve him well as CIS Ombudsman. In this capacity, Michael will identify areas for improvement in the communication individuals and employers have with USCIS and will recommend solutions that will mitigate identified problems. I’m grateful for Michael’s steadfast dedication to the American public, and I look forward to his leadership and many contributions as we further enhance immigration services.

(DHS; Chertoff Statement via

Related posts: US Immigration Officials Rejects Ombuds' Reform Proposal; Immigration Ombuds Tenders Resignation; Corrected: New Immigration Ombuds Appointed.

May 06, 2008

Ombuds Rising: Three More Universities Considering Ombuds Offices

Three American Universities are reviewing proposals to create Ombuds programs for the first time on their campuses:

At Johns Hopkins University, a commission appointed by the president to to address gender, ethnic and racial diversity issues has endorsed an Ombuds office for students, faculty and staff. (JHU Announcements.)

The Academic Council at the University of Texas, Dallas has constituted an Ombuds Policy Committee to review staff dissatisfaction with the response of the HR office to complaints of disrespectful or abusive behavior. (UTD AC Agenda Packet and Minutes.)

And, the General Faculty Committee at Northwestern University is considering the development of Ombuds program. (Northwestern GFC Agenda.)

First Ombuds at U. Mass. Lowell Set to Retire

Alan J. Lincoln has announced that he will be leaving the Ombuds Office at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell within a few weeks. Lincoln was the first member of the Criminal Justice Program at UMass Lowell in 1977 and founded the Ombuds Office eight years ago. (UML eNews; UML Profile.)

Lincoln has been actively involved in the Ombuds field and was instrumental in establishing the Journal of the International Ombudsman Association. Fortunately, he has agreed to continue as the Editor of JIOA for another year.

Related posts: Journal of IOA Releases First Issue.

May 05, 2008

New Ombuds Office at Confederation College

Confederation College in Ontario, Canada debuted its Office of the Ombudsperson on January 7, 2008. The new service for students is provided by Kim Morgan, who is also new to the campus. Previously, Morgan was the Executive Director of the Thuder Bay Alzheimer Society for the past 10 years. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Education degrees from Lakehead University and both Basic and Advanced Certificates in Alternative Dispute Resolution from the University of Windsor. Her new website features an introductory video that is also available on YouTube. (Confederation College; YouTube.)

May 02, 2008

New Faculty Ombuds Coordinator at N. Arizona U.

Northern Arizona University has named Phoebe Morgan, professor of criminology and criminal justice, as the new coordinator of the Faculty Ombuds Program. Morgan earned her B.A. in Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Masters and Doctorate Degrees in Justice Studies from Arizona State University. She has published on the topics of sexual harassment, women's litigation, online gender conflict, and victim/crime worker relationships. Morgan replaces retiring political science professor Gary Buckley, who has coordinated the program since 2006. (Inside NAU; NAU Profile.)

Studies Show Office Gossipers Accrue Power

The Society for Human Resource Management summarizes several recent studies into the effects of gossip in the workplace. One study finds that women who engage in gossip are viewed as more powerful and as possessing more masculine traits. People who are big gossipers are seen as more dominant, aggressive and overtly communicative and as having a greater need to exert influence, according to Professor Sally Farley of Albright College in Reading, Pa. Although gossip enforces group norms, creates a sense of intimacy, and signals group boundaries, Farley cautions that gossip should not be encouraged. Understanding gossip is an important skill for managers, but the experts have no advice for controlling big workplace gossipers. (SHRM Online.)

Related post: Managing Workplace Gossip.

Simple Guide to Dispute Resolution

The current issue of Real Simple magazine has a five-step guide on "How to Untangle Any Conflict."
  • Step 1: Determine what you really want.
  • Step 2: Gather information.
  • Step 3: Determine your negotiation process.
  • Step 4: Send the right message.
  • Step 5: Negotiate.
  • If All Else Fails…bring in a mediator.
(Real Simple.)

This may be a good handout for new visitors or introductory conflict training.

May 01, 2008

Job Posting: Washington State Office of Education

The Washington State Office of the Educational Ombudsman is recruiting for the position of Legal Analyst Ombudsman. This is a permanent, full-time position which serves at the pleasure of the Director and is exempt from civil service law. The Legal Analyst Ombudsman provides legal support to the agency resolving complaints filed by parents, legal guardians, and students against elementary and secondary public schools. A law degree with at least 5 years of experience in education law, extensive knowledge of the state's K-12 public education system, and experience in conflict resolution techniques are required. The position pays $61,428 to $73,032 and will remain open until filled. (OEO Employment.)

Iowa State Appoints Permanent Ombuds

Iowa State University has announced that Sharon Drake, who has held a variety of positions in higher education, will become the university's permanent Ombuds officer July 1. Drake has been a lecturer in Iowa State's educational leadership and policy studies department since 2001. She also co-directs the department's program to prepare women and minorities for administrative positions in Iowa community colleges. Drake led Iowa State's training and development office for 15 years (1986-2001). She also has held posts at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul; Kharkiv Polytechnic, Ukraine; and Simpson College, Indianola. She has three degrees from Iowa State -- B.S. in home economics education, M.S. in counselor education and Ph.D. in agricultural education. Drake's appointment to the post culminates a two-year pilot of the ombuds program under the former ISU associate provost and the former ISU assistant dean of students. (Inside Iowa State.)

Related posts: Job Posting; Revision to Iowa Open Records Law Could Clarify Protection for Ombuds Notes.

How Medical Ombuds Can Facilitate Apology and Disclosure

Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare magazine is running a series of articles by Carole Houk on the role of Medical Ombuds. The latest installment discusses how the ombuds assists medical professionals prepare for a meeting after an adverse outcome. Simply put, the medical ombuds can help a caregiver be open and honest in disclosing the truth about a medical error to a patient and family because it is the right thing to do. (PSQH.)

Related post: Carole Houk Awarded 5-Year Contract With Dept. of Interior.

This series is an excellent tool for Ombuds to justify their value in an a healthcare setting.

RBC Ombuds Office Implements New Case Management Software

The Royal Bank of Canada Financial Group Ombuds office has implemented new software to improve the management of employee and customer concerns. The RBC Office of the Ombudsman has upgraded from a system based on a Lotus Notes database and Excel spreadsheets to software developed by Customer Expressions. RBC Ombudsman Wendy Knight said that the centralized system reduces time to retrieve case information and makes it easier to identify trends. (Press release by Customer Expressions via PR Leap.)