January 31, 2009

Dalhousie University Ombuds Hopes to Reverse Declining Caseload

In his annual report, Daniel Huffaker, Dalhousie University Ombuds, noted that the caseload of his office has been declining in recent years. The annual number of cases has fallen from more than a hundred a few years to about thirty cases in the 2007-08 academic year. Huffaker attributes the decline in part to the expanded number of student services introduced by the University since the early 1990s. He also cites the relocation of the Ombuds Office to a remote location in 2002. Huffaker hopes traffic will rebound after the office moves back to the Student Union Building this summer. (Dalhousie Ombuds 2007-08 Report.)

January 30, 2009

Update/Job Posting: National Archives Hiring FOIA Ombuds

The Congressional effort to create an Ombuds office for Freedom of Information Act disputes is back on track under the new Obama administration. The most significant setback came when when the Bush administration removed the new Office of Government Information Services to the Justice Department. Now, the job is back at National Archives and Records Administration as Congress intended and applications are being accepted. In addition to a comprehensive knowledge of relevant law and regulations, administrative experience and political skills, applicants must able to “establish a mediation program to resolve disputes between persons making FOIA requests and administrative agencies.” The job is located in College Park, MD, and pays $117,787 to 162,900 per annum. The application deadline is Friday, February 27, 2009. (USA Jobs; FOIA Blog; Columbia Journalism Review.)

Related posts: House Panel Approves Bill That Would Create Federal FOIA Ombuds; Congressional Effort to Create FOIA Ombuds at Impasse; White House Seeks to Move FOIA Ombuds to Justice Dept.; Federal FOIA Ombuds Office Remains in Limbo.

University of Puerto Rico Ombuds Publishes Annual Summary

Virginia Santiago Tosado, the Ombuds for the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus, reports that her office handled 135 cases during the 2007-08 academic year. Although a third of the cases had the potential for legal impact, only two resulted in litigation. The office also developed its own logo. (UPR Ombuds Presentation to Academic Senate.)

January 29, 2009

Trucking Firm Settles Discrimination Lawsuit and Agrees to Hire Ombuds

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that it had settled a major sex discrimination lawsuit against Pitt Ohio Express, a carrier with 2,700 employees headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Under the terms of the settlement, the company will pay $2.43 million and provide other remedial relief to resolve claims of unlawful discrimination against women. Among other steps, Pitt Ohio must designate an in-house Ombuds to informally resolve workplace issues that may arise from women filling driver and dockworker jobs. Unfortunately, the court seems to have avoided consulting any relevant authority in creating the Ombuds program. The consent decree states:
Pitt Ohio will appoint from its human resources department an ombudsperson to resolve informally issues arising from or which result from women entering driver and/or dockworker positions pursuant to the terms of this Decree. To the extent necessary, Pitt Ohio will issue procedures for submission and handling of issues by the ombudsperson. The ombudsperson will not be the person in the human resources department responsible for responding to EEO charges or other EEO compliance.

Hopefully, someone will take the time to learn about how an Ombuds program should be structured before this is implemented. The case is EEOC v. Pitt Ohio Express Inc., N.D. Ohio, No. 06-747 (
Consent Decree; EEOC Announcement; OHS Online.)

Related post: Nike Settles Discrimination Lawsuit, Agrees to Ombuds; Study: Settling Better Than Winning a Lawsuit.

January 28, 2009

Santa Barbara School Board Realizes $15/hr is Insufficient for Ombuds Position

The Santa Barbara School Board has been struggling to address the perennial problems that have troubled the district's special education program. In addition to other measures, the school board proposed hiring an Ombuds to serve as a liaison between the district and parents involving special education programs. Although supported by parents, the proposal never gained traction largely because it was advertised as paying just $15 an hour, and requiring only a high school diploma and two years of experience.

Parents wondered how someone with a limited background in the field might stand up to the district and its board on controversial matters. “It’s really just a joke,” said Karolyn Renard, an attorney who specializes in child and family-centered legal advocacy. School Board member Bob Noel agreed that the pay and requirements were insufficient. “My first thing when I saw $15 an hour was, ‘what’?” he said. “Fifteen dollars is not very realistic. It’s more like $50 to $75 an hour. I am not qualified for this job and I have been trying to learn this stuff for quite a few years.” The district board agreed to take another look at the position, increase the salary and better define the position. The proposal will return to the board for a vote. (Santa Barbara Daily Sound.)

Related posts: Santa Monica Schools Considering Ombuds for Special Education Disputes; Job Posting: UC Santa Barbara.

Noel is absolutely right. The district will not be able to attract or retain a qualified and effective Ombuds for $30,000 a year; especially in one of the most expensive regions of the country. The IOA statement on best practices cautions that inadequate pay may jeopardize an Ombuds' independence and advises that “an appropriate level of funding [for an Ombuds Office], be determined by or in consultation with committees representative of various institutional constituencies.” The American Bar Association notes that qualifications are crucial and says that, “An ombuds should be a person of recognized knowledge, judgment, objectivity, and integrity.” The Santa Barbara School Board should realize that this position is important enough to justify significant credentials and a commensurate salary.

January 27, 2009

Petition Urges Creation of Cabinet Level Ombuds

Mediator, author and director of the Center for Dispute Resolution, Kenneth Cloke is sponsoring an online petition calling on President Obama to add conflict resolution to the national agenda. Cloke's five-point proposal asks Obama to take the following steps:
  1. Create a cabinet level ombudsman office or department of peace and consensus building to work proactively to prevent and minimize conflicts;
  2. Build mediation, consensus building, diversity, and democratic conflict resolution processes into every proposal for change, whether domestic or international;
  3. Invite representatives of international institutions, governments, and community organizations to attend a conference to discuss how to improve conflict resolution competencies and encourage collaborative problem solving around the world;
  4. Request that the United Nations initiate a global effort to train diplomats and national representatives in conflict resolution, and incorporate in all treaties a clause requiring signatories to mediate and arbitrate disputes; and
  5. Initiate a program and a fund to support conflict resolution professionals in serving in trouble spots around the world and help people prevent, resolve and recover from conflict.
(Online Petition, via MediationChannel.com.)

Related posts: Obama and the Future of the ADR Profession; Federal Observers Hope for New Era of Government Openness and Accountability; How Systems Resist Change.

Texas A&M Restructuring Ombuds Office

Jeff Vitter, the Provost at Texas A&M University reports that the search for a new faculty Ombuds is continuing while the office is restructured.
The role of faculty ombudsperson has previously been one of the responsibilities of the dean of faculties and associate provost, and that dual role has created confusion and conflicts among the faculty. We are currently surveying our AAU peer institutions to identify models for structuring the post of faculty ombudsperson; it will report to the office of the provost.
(Message from the Provost.)

Related post: Texas A&M Ombuds Promoted.

January 26, 2009

Slate for 2009 IOA Board Election

The International Ombudsman Association has announced the slate for the 2009 Board of Directors election. To supplement the official ballot statements, the Ombuds Blog provides links to public information about the candidates.

Nominees for Board of Directors
Nominees for Associate Member Representative
Voting closes February 20.

Related posts: Balloting Begins for IOA Board (2007); IOA Announces Board Nominees (2008); IOA Board Election Results (2008).

2009 Pre-Conference Courses Announced

Details of the pre-conference training courses at the 2009 Joint Ombudsman Conference have been released.
  • Understanding the Core Principles and Practices of an Ombudsman Through the Eyes of IOA, FCO, and ACCUO (Full Day) Presenters include David Talbot, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc., and Tim D. Griffin, Northern Illinois University. ACCUO and FCO presenters TBD.
  • Courageous Followers - Courageous Leaders: New Tools for Ombuds and their Clients (Full Day) Presented by Ira Chaleff, Founder and president of Executive Coaching & Consulting Associates.
  • Ombudsman Master Class (Full Day) Presenters include Howard Gadlin, National Institutes of Health/NIH; John S. Barkat, United Nations; Linda Wilcox, Harvard Medical School; Marvin Neal, Coca-Cola Enterprises; Nicholas Diehl, National Institute of Health/NIH; and Sara Thacker, University of California, Berkeley.
  • Making the Executive Connection (AM Half Day) Presented by John W. Zinsser, Managing Partner, Pacifica Human Communications LLC.
  • Generation Y is here! You better be ready! (PM Half Day) Presented by Josée Garceau, Université de Sherbrooke.
All courses take place on Wednesday, April 15. (FCO 2009 Joint Conf Info.)

Related posts: Three Ombuds Organizations to Hold Joint Conference in April 2009; Registration Opens for 2009 IOA Conference.

University of Kentucky Debating Ombuds for Staff

The UK Ombuds Office has served faculty and staff since 1970. Staff have sought an expansion of the service since at least 2002, to no avail. At its October meeting, the Staff Senate debated whether an Ombuds could be truly “independent.” A general consensus emerged that independence is an unrealistic goal because the Ombuds would be paid by the University and therefore irreconcilably affiliated. The meeting minutes do not reveal whether the proposal will considered further. (UK SIC Meeting Minutes.)

Related posts: Critics Question Independence of BP Ombuds; Inspector General Recommends Realignment of TSA Ombuds Program; UGA Professors Question Independence of New Ombuds.

It is unfortunate to see UK's Staff Senate have concluded that a staff Ombuds could not be truly independent. These concerns are valid but easily addressed. If an Ombuds office is constituted with a charter, operates according to best practices, and hires ethical and qualified professionals, there should be no problem. This means, don't expect staff to have conflicting responsibilities, don't share physical space with other administrative offices, and don't hire insiders unless they are committed to a complete break from their former responsibilities. These steps and others can assure a viable Ombuds program. Indeed hundreds of other entities, including large universities, have made it work.

January 25, 2009

Update: Louisville Appoints Interim Ombuds

The University of Louisville has named Dennis Hall as its interim Ombudsperson pending the appointment of a permanent Ombuds on the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Grievance Process Review Committee. Hall is a professor in the Department of History and teaches in the areas of popular culture, eighteenth century British literature, and composition & rhetoric. In 2006, he published a critical essay in the Journal of Popular Culture on the cultural significance of Britney Spears' bare mid-riff style. He earned his Ph.D. from the Ohio State University. Most of the content for the Louisville Ombuds website is licensed from the University of Colorado at Boulder. (Louisville Ombuds Office; Faculty Profile; Journal of Popular Culture.)

Update 2/5/09: “Dennis has been an outspoken advocate for students, faculty and staff for many years,” said Provost Shirley Willihnganz. “He brings integrity and a passion for fairness to this position. We are pleased he has agreed to help us lay the groundwork for this office as we address the concerns of our faculty and staff.” (UofL Press Release.)

Prior posts:
Out of the Blue, University of Louisville to Open Ombuds Office; University of Louisville Ombuds Office Delayed.

January 24, 2009

ENOHE Annual Conference in Germany

The European Network of Ombudsmen in Higher Education will hold its seventh annual conference in Hamburg, Germany, on March 26-28, 2009. The conference is cosponsored by the University of Hamburg and the Ombudsman of the German Research Foundation. The theme for the 2009 conference is, “ENOHE Conference 2009: Lost in Transition? Defining the Role of Ombudsmen in the Developing Bologna World.”

Jenna Brown, Denver University Ombuds, will chair a plenary session on Students and Quality: Ombudsmen and Institutional Guidance. Dolores Gomez-Moran, George Mason University Ombuds, is the rapporteur for a workshop on International Networking: Ombudsmen as Contact Points. (
ENOHE Conf Info.)

January 23, 2009

Mount Sinai School of Medicine Opens Ombuds Office

The top-ranked medical school affiliated with New York University has implemented an Ombuds program for students, faculty and staff. Dean Emeritus for Medical Education, Dr. Barry Stimmel is the first Ombudsperson. Stimmel has been an expert in the fields of internal medicine, cardiology, medical education and addiction medicine, and has served in a variety of administrative positions, including Assistant Dean of Admissions and Student Affairs. He has authored seven books and is the founding editor of the Journal of Addictive Diseases. (MSSM Ombuds Office; Faculty Profile.)

Ombuds an Important Resource for Postdocs

An informal survey by Science Careers last year identified some of the factors that make science careers inherently stressful:
  • Competition
  • Limited Job Opportunities
  • Mismatch Between Job Demands and Rewards
  • Pressure to Succeed
  • Lack of Control
  • Lack of Support
These stress factors can be acute for postdoctoral researchers. "Some postdocs discover they are advancing the careers of their mentors instead of their own," says Sam Castañeda, director of the Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs program at the University of California, Berkeley. Castañeda often refers stressed-out trainees to the campus's Ombuds office so they can find ways to work out problems and manage stress. (Science.)

January 22, 2009

New Jersey Realtors Launch Ombuds Program

The Hunterdon/Somerset Association of Realtors has an implemented an Ombuds program as part of the National Association of Realtors Professional Standards Program. As only the second Realtor Ombuds program east of the Mississippi, it will be used by the association to assist parties to resolve disputes both between the public and Realtors, and between Realtors themselves. (MyCentralJersey.com.)

Related post: Realtor Ombuds Programs Continue to Proliferate.

Federal Observers Hope for New Era of Government Openness and Accountability

Advocates for government transparency are applauding President Barack Obama's move to increase disclosure of administration secrets. On Wednesday, Obama instructed federal agencies to be more responsive to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act. Sunshine advocates expect that further steps will give the public unprecedented access. "The fact that Mr. Obama took these actions on his very first day in office signals a new era in government accountability," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "He is turning the page and moving away from the secrecy of the last administration." (Associated Press.)

Similarly, government watchdogs expect that Obama's mandate of transparency will make it safer for federal employees and contractors to blow the whistle on policies and practices that run counter to the public interest. "It's very encouraging that the Obama administration is making improved government transparency such a high priority, to put out a strong policy statement on the first day of the administration," said Sean Moulton, director of federal information policy at OMB Watch, a nonprofit government-watchdog organization. Whistleblower advocates believe that the atmosphere under the Bush administration did not encourage federal workers and contractors to reveal problems. (Washington Post, thanks to Craig Mousin.)

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

January 21, 2009

New Organizational Ombuds Blog

An anonymous blogger has launched an "Organizational Ombudsman Blog" at WordPress. Written in the first person, the author promises that, “Future posts will be exclusively ‘topical’ around my experiences as an Ombudsman, in hopes of providing some insight and educating readings on the value of the service and at the same time holding to the ethics and practices of the profession.” (Organizational Ombudsman Blog.)

Related posts: Trendspotting: Ombuds Not Exempt From Influence of Internet; ICANN Ombuds Launches Blog

Welcome and good luck! I'm hoping this new blog expands the marketplace of ideas about Ombuds.

IOA Spring Training in Texas

In the first week of March, the International Ombudsman Association will offer four courses at the Sheraton Dallas North:
  • Ombudsman 101 (March 2-4) An introductory program for new Ombudsman or those seeking information about the organizational Ombudsman role.
  • Ombudsman 101 Plus (March 4) A special program for organizations and entrepreneurs who want to get started.
  • Specialized Course: Apologies and Reconciliation (March 5) This full-day workshop will focus on Ombudsman skills for working with people who are offended or angry about past incidents or interactions, and who are willing to look forward to reconciliation.
  • Specialized Course: Strategies for Working with Stakeholders (March 6) This course is designed to assist you in establishing, maintaining, and repairing relationships with stakeholders.
The deadline for hotel reservations is February 16, but don't delay; courses often fill up early. (IOA Training Info.)

Iowa LTC Ombuds Attributes Rise in Cases to Outreach

Iowa State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Jeanne Yordi said new cases jumped 163% this year (2,336 new complaints in 2008 compared to 889 cases in 2007). She attributed the increase to heightened awareness rather than more problems at facilities serving elderly Iowans. "I think it's consumer education. I think people are more aware that there is help out there, that they don't have to accept the status quo and that they can call for assistance," she said. Although Iowa has fewer long term care Ombuds than the recommended standard, its resolution rate was well above the national average. (Cedar Rapids Gazette.)

Related posts: California Decimates Long Term Care Ombuds Program; Proactive Ombudsing at NIU; Report to the President on Federal ADR Programs

Although this news item is about a Classical Ombuds program, it is more evidence of the pent-up demand for alternative dispute resolution. If you build it, they will come.

January 20, 2009

Newark Public Schools Hiring First Ombuds

Fulfilling his promise to reform the New Jersey's largest school system, Newark Superintendent Clifford Janey is hiring an Ombudsman. The position will report directly to the Superintendent, and serves as a general information center about all situations pertaining to NPS policies and procedures and advise the complaint where to turn and what procedures to follow in order to pursue whatever business, complaint, or concern. Applicants should should have a bachelor's degree, at least three years experience in education administration, and significant experience in conflict resolution. The salary for the one-year position is not disclosed. Applications are due February 9. (NPS Human Resources; TopSchoolJobs; Newark Live; Great City School Report.)

January 19, 2009

Eaton Unveils Ombuds Info in Chinese

The Office of the Ombuds for the Eaton Corp. has updated its website to include pages in traditional and simplified Chinese. The Eaton Ombuds now offers information in the five primary languages of its employees, including Spanish and Portuguese, which were added in 2007. The site also features an outstanding video about the Ombuds program introduced by Eaton's chairman and CEO, and starring Eaton's former Ombuds director, Karla Hager. (Eaton Ombuds sites: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese.)

Related posts:
Eaton Names Ombuds Director; Eaton Ombuds Issues Annual Report.

Eaton has made a substantial commitment to make its Ombuds program known and available to all of its stakeholders. No other Organizational Ombuds has translated its services into so many languages. Eventually, it should be standard practice for Ombuds to have information in the primary languages of their organization.

Job Posting: Fanshawe College

The 25,000-student community college in London, Ontario, is hiring an Ombuds. The 30 hour per week position reports directly to the College President and handles concerns from the campus community, especially those related to students. The Fanshawe Ombuds Office was founded in 1993 and is funded in part by the Student Union. Applicants should have a post-secondary four-year degree and five years of conflict resolution experience. No salary indicated. Applications are due by January 30. (Fanshawe Job Posting.)

Texas Ombuds Plans Winter Meeting on February 11

The Ombuds of Texas has posted the agenda for its next meeting in Austin. Joel Schwartz, Manager of the Attorney General Child Support Inquiries Ombuds program will describe his office, and Belinda Newman, Ombuds for the University of North Texas, will facilitate a conversation about the future of the Ombuds of Texas. (OOT Agenda and Calendar.)

January 15, 2009

Virginia Commonwealth University Introduces New Ombuds

VCU has hired Frank Baskind, Ph.D., as its new Ombuds for faculty, staff and postdocs. Most recently, Baskind served as dean of the VCU School of Social Work. He was awarded a Bronze Star for service in Vietnam and completed a 21-year career in the Army Reserves as a lieutenant colonel in Civil Affairs. Baskin earned his Masters in Social Work and Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut, West Hartford. The VCU Ombuds program was established in 2006, and Baskind is the second person to occupy the post. Provost Stephen D. Gottfredson said the campus was fortunate someone with Baskind's skill and integrity. "Not only is he a scholar with expertise in the field of Social Work, he is kind, confident and thoroughly professional." (VCU News Center; Faculty Profile.)

John Carroll University Considering Ombuds Office

According to faculty council minutes, the private, co-educational Jesuit university near Cleveland is looking at developing an Ombuds program. University President, Robert L. Niehoff, "is interested in putting together a committee to discuss the development of the position of ombudsperson on campus and would like a member of the Faculty Council to serve on the committee." The Ombudsperson Committee was approved and constituted on December 8, 2008. (JCU Faculty Council Draft Minutes.)

January 13, 2009

Former Ombuds for African Development Bank Passes

James Nabina and his wife Christiana Nabina died in Ghana last week. Nabina served as Ombuds for the African Development Bank and had been active with the International Ombudsman Association and the Mediators and Ombudsmen of the United Nations System (UNARIO). Nabina worked as a career diplomat for Ghana and joined ADB in 1985 as a translator. He was appointed the third Ombudsperson of the Bank in March 2004. He was a presenter at the 2008 IOA conference and hosted the IOA training in Tunisia in 2007.

He is remembered for maintaining professional high standards for the profession, caring always for the needs of those who consulted him, and being ever diplomatic in his resolutions. UN Ombuds John Barkat said that Nabina, "possessed the skills of an ombudsman and mediator, but, more importantly, those intangible qualities that helped bind people when they were feeling broken, and encouraged when they felt hopeless."

Nabina left ADB in June 2008 and had been re-establishing his home in Ghana, where he continued to promote mediation and connect with other ADR professionals. Services will be held on January 17, 2009, in Navrongo Northern Ghana, preceded by a wake service on the 16th. James and Christiana Nabina left four children.

1/26/09 Update: Police are investigating the possibility of food poisoning. (Daily Guide Ghana.)

Profile of Ombuds at Texas Woman’s University

Derrell Bulls is a marketing professor at Texas Woman’s University and recently stepped down as the volunteer chairman of the board of Denton Regional Medical Center. “Dr. Bulls is both a valued colleague among his peers and a favorite professor to his students,” said TWU Chancellor and President Ann Stuart. “His agreement in 2006 to serve as the university’s first ombudsperson is but one of many contributions that mark his more than 30 years of dedicated service to TWU and its students.” Bulls attended Navarro College in Corsicana for two years, working his way through school on an oil rig derrick. He received an undergraduate and a graduate degree from what is now the University of North Texas and a doctorate from Texas Tech University. (Denton Record-Chronicle.)

"Best Careers" Include Mediators

US News and World Report says that being a mediator is one of the best jobs for 2009:
A mediator can often help resolve a dispute less expensively and with less conflict, whether it's a divorce, a discrimination claim, or the parent of a special-education student seeking more services from a school. Mediators don't decide who's right. They guide a discussion so the disputants can more wisely reach agreement and move on with their lives. Most mediators love their work, helping people beat their swords into plowshares.

The median salary, with eight years in the field is $59,700, with most experienced mediators making 42,700-$116,000. (US News.)

The future prospects for organizational ombuds are similar. Ombuds use a similar skill set and serve as an alternative dispute resolution resource for the stakeholders of an entity. Like mediators, ombuds are confidential, neutral, independent and informal. Unlike mediators, however, ombuds can work with individuals even before a dispute arises and provide feedback to the organization about systemic problems. Hundreds of entities have created ombuds programs, including universities, large corporations, government agencies and NGO's. For those with the aptitude, this is an important and growing profession.

January 12, 2009

Traits of an Ombuds

As Organizational Ombuds continue to define themselves, the following character traits seem an apt description:
  • Alertness -- An Ombuds must evaluate information and simultaneously be alert to how it is presented.
  • Patience and Tact -- An Ombuds must create and maintain rapport with the visitor to enhance the success of the process.
  • Credibility -- An Ombuds must present himself in a believable and consistent manner, and be able to clearly articulate complex situations and concepts.
  • Objectivity and Self-control -- An Ombuds must be totally objective and dispassionate in responding to information presented.
  • Adaptability -- An Ombuds must adapt to the many and varied personalities which he will encounter.
  • Perseverance -- Tenacity of purpose can be the difference between an Ombuds who is merely good and one who is superior.
  • Appearance and Demeanor -- An Ombuds' organized and professional appearance will favorably influence individuals.
  • Initiative -- Consistent and appropriate initiative is essential to a successful session.
Actually, this list was suggested by Sam Imperati as invaluable "Traits of a Mediator." Most surprisingly, he cribbed the list from an US Army manual for interrogators questioning suspected terrorists. (Mediate.com; Army Field Manual 2-22.3, Human Intelligence Collector Operations.)

Is the comparison disturbing or are the traits simply common to anyone who must deal with individuals successfully?

Related posts: Rules to Understand People and Avoid Conflict; Improve Listening Skills by Mirroring Gestures; How Important Are Appearances for Ombuds; Top Conversation Hacks; Ombuds Occupy Place on Bridge Between Psychology and Conflict Resolution; Thoughts on Impartiality.

January 09, 2009

Simon Fraser University Names New Ombuds

The top tier public university in British Columbia has appointed Jay Solman as its new Ombuds. For the first time, the position is being jointly funded by the Simon Fraser Students Society and the Graduate Student Society. Solomon said that, “The new model demonstrates that all members of the SFU community are committed to the principles of fairness and natural justice and that sends a very positive message to our students, faculty and staff.” Solman has worked at SFU for seven years, most recently as the manager of student and community life. He is currently training for an ultra marathon next October in the Sahara. (SFU News; SFU Profile.)

Related posts:
Job Posting; Ombuds as Role Models for Bloggers; First Canadian Ombuds to be Honored With Stamp.

University of Colorado at Boulder Ombuds Publishes Bi-Annual Report

Tom Sebok, the University Ombuds at Colorado, said that 899 people contacted his office for assistance in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 academic years. The greatest number of requests were related to evaluative relationships. The 22-page report also summarizes the several transitions in the office over the past two years, including the retirement of Jack Kelso and Bob Fink, the departure of Carolyn Noorbakhsh, and the addition of Lee Potts, Donna Louden and Larry Singell. (CU Ombuds Office Bi-Annual Report.)

Related posts: Colorado U Honors Ombuds Office Administrative Assistant; Conflict Resolution Day at University of Colorado Features Ombuds.

January 07, 2009

Update: Standard & Poor's Appoints Ombuds

Despite the crisis devastating many financial services companies, Standard & Poor's has made good on its promise to create an Ombuds program. In a press release today, The McGraw-Hill Companies has announced that Ray Groves, the former chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young, will become S&P's first Ombuds, effective February 16, 2009. Groves will report outside of the S&P business units to Harold McGraw III, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The McGraw-Hill Companies, S&P's parent company, and will have accountability to the Audit Committee of McGraw-Hill's Board of Directors to provide an independent review of issues and concerns. (McGraw-Hill Press Release; CFO.com; Bloomberg.)

When prominent organizations decide to hire an Ombuds in response to public pressure, there are two models. The organizations choose either a seasoned Ombuds from outside the industry or a respected industry insider with little or no Ombuds experience. The first category is exemplified by the United Nations' choice of John Barkat and Alliance Bernstein's hiring of Jan Schoenauer. These Ombuds must learn the culture of the organization and industry, but can fall back on their existing Ombuds skills.

The alternative model was followed by the Red Cross, which hired
Beverly Ortega Babers, and the Washington, DC Public Schools, which chose Tonya Vidal Kinlow. These new Ombuds are familiar with the setting, but must learn new skills and reestablish their new identity. Either way, these high profile Ombuds face a learning curve and the microscope.

Related posts: S&P to Hire Ombuds; Standard & Poor's Reiterates Commitment to Opening Ombuds Office.

University of North Texas Ombuds Releases Annual Summary

Belinda Newman, the University Ombuds for UNT reported that her office handled 68 matters in its first year. In the coming year, Newman intends to create a voluntary visitor survey and work to revise the UNT policy regarding Ombuds. (UNT Ombuds 2007-08 Annual Report.)

Related posts: U. North Texas Appoints Ombuds and Expands Office; Chronicle of Higher Ed Highlights UNT as Example of Ombuds Growth.

January 05, 2009

Internship With UN Ombuds Office

The United Nations Office of the Ombudsman is offering a summer internship to a graduate student who has informal dispute resolution experience and can speak more than one language. The intern will assist us in all aspects of daily operations, i.e. drafting and preparing reports, researching material on dispute resolution and preparing communications about the office for United Nations employees. The full-time, unpaid internship lasts 3-6 months. The deadline for applications is January 18, 2008. (UN Announcement.)

For those who can afford a summer without pay in NYC, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Prior post: UN Ombuds Reports on Activities Amid Concerns Over Progress on Reformed Justice System.

January 04, 2009

Kaye Scholer Implements Ombuds Program

The Diversity Committee for the large international law firm has established an Ombuds Program for its attorneys. According to the firm's website,
The Ombuds Representatives are neutral confidants who advocate not for a specific individual, but for equity, fair process and compliance with firm policy and procedure. The program was established with a special emphasis on issues concerning women, minorities, sexual orientation and religion. The Ombuds Representatives are available, however, to assist all attorneys in resolving work-related concerns in an informal, confidential and impartial manner. The primary goal of the program is to improve the overall working environment at Kaye Scholer.

Although he is not a member of the Diversity Committee, Kaye Scholer partner Jay W. Waks chairs The International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution Employment Committee and has promoted the use of ADR and Ombuds programs for employment disputes. (Kaye Scholer Diversity; CPR Public Policy Projects.)

It's a good sign when attorneys practice what they preach.

Related posts: Job Posting at DLA Piper; MoFo Partner Backs Ombuds as Remedy for Micro-Inequties.

First Canadian Ombuds to be Honored With Stamp

In February, Canada Post will issue a stamp honoring Rosemary Brown, the first black woman elected to public office in Canada and the first woman to run for the leadership of a Canadian federal political party. Early in her career, Brown worked at Simon Fraser University where she set up the first Canadian Ombuds program. Brown was 72 when she died in 2003. (Canada Post Stamp Program; Montreal Gazette; Radical Campus; CBC Obituary.)

Ombuds attending the Joint Conference in Montreal in April should be sure to buy this stamp.

January 02, 2009

DC Schools Ombuds Lasts Just 14 Months

The first Ombuds for the Washington DC Public Schools, Tonya Vidal Kinlow, has apparently resigned after a little more than a year in the position. The Washington Post reports that Kinlow's office voicemail message says her resignation was effective on December 22. There was no further information available on the reason for her departure or when a successor might be appointed. Meanwhile, the DCPS Office of the Ombuds also released its November 2008 Report and Four-Month Analysis, showing that it had handled 325 cases in the first four months of the school year. (Washington Post; DCPS Ombuds November 2008 Report.)

Related posts: DC Schools Appoint First Ombuds; DC Schools Ombuds Reports Growing Case Load; DC Schools Ombuds Criticized for Slow Reporting, Praised for Hard Work.

Red Cross Ombuds Publishes Inaugural Report and Announces Cut-Backs

In her first annual report since opening the American Red Cross Ombudsman Office, Beverly Ortega Babers said that her office was utilized by 354 visitors in the 2007-08 fiscal year. Nearly 60% of contacts came from outside the organization and the total number of visitors has grown consistently. Unfortunately, Babers also noted that, like the rest of the Red Cross, her office has had to downsize and has lost colleagues who were essential to the start-up of the program. (Red Cross Ombudsman Annual Report 2008.)

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

Eaton Ombuds Issues Annual Report

The Office of the Ombuds for the Eaton Corporation reported that it received over 1,500 inquiries in 2007. Director Ilene Butensky said that 92.5% of visitors developed a plan of action with assistance from her office. The annual report also introduced Gennette Trípari as the Latin American and Caribbean Field Ombuds, who joins Associate Ombuds Crystal Bahr, and Field Ombuds John Simonetti and Evan Arrowsmith. (Eaton Ombuds Annual Report 2007.)

Related posts: Eaton Names Ombuds Director.

Pomona College Still Searching for First Ombuds

Six months after opening search for its first Ombuds, the prestigious private liberal arts institution has re-posted the job announcement. The part-time position requires fluency in Spanish, at least five years experience and an advanced degree. (SocialService.com.)

Prior posts: Pomona College Committees Endorse Ombuds Position; Pomona Students Press Demand for Staff Ombuds; Job Posting.