June 21, 2008

U. Washington Searching Internally for Ombuds

In February 2008, the University of Washington appointed an Advisory Search Committee for the University Ombudsman & Ombudsman for Sexual Harassment. The Provost's charge to the Committee (now available on line) is to "widely advertise and search within the university community for a faculty member qualified to assume this important position" and to propose three candidates. Susan Neff, formerly the Assistant Ombuds, is serving as Interim Ombudsman until the appointment. (UW Leadership Searches; Committee Charge.)

My concern (and this is a purely personal opinion*) is that an internal candidate will be less likely to bring the UW program into compliance with prevailing standards of practice for university Ombuds. Given the recent and deeply troubling decision by the Washington State Appellate Court, it would seem to be a good time to reform the UW Ombuds office.

Related post: U Washington Faces Lawsuit Despite Mediation by Ombuds.

1 comment:

  1. It is another of our relatively unexamined myths that internal candidates are superior choices generally. the argument generally goes that they know the culture and the systems and are therefore more effective. This has in no way been demonstrated by meaningful data.

    There is some evidence though, in the corporate setting that either an external candidate, or a balance of internal and external personnel creates superior usage and therefore increases at least the likelihood of effectiveness and/or value.

    Via non-user surveys in two government agencies and three corporate entities I have cross referenced I see a preference from those willing to answer for OUTSIDERS. Their stated and inferred argument is insiders are sometimes connected to portions of the organization where there are problems and because of history with certain people may not be approached about the problems with exactly those people.

    No doubt there are many good internal candidates for many positions. Clearly though, a search which looks only internally is looking at a fraction of the best possible people available. This inward focus could also be seen as a statement that it is easier to teach some one to be an O than it is to orient a freshman to the systems of a University or a new hire to a corporation.