February 28, 2009

Ohio State University Approves Faculty Ombuds Office

The OSU Faculty Council has unanimously supported the creation of an Ombuds program for faculty. Previously, OSU had an Ombuds office for the general campus from 1970 1996.

A handout describes the position:

The Ombudsman would serve both as an advisor to faculty to assist them in determining the viability of the complaints and issues they may have, to direct them to appropriate offices, committees, and university rules and policies, and, when appropriate, to mediate informal early-stage complaints. He/she would not have authority to make a recommendation that is binding on either party in a complaint. Recourse to the Ombudsman would be voluntary and not a prerequisite for consideration of the dispute by CAFR, the Faculty Hearing Committee (Hearing), the Office of Academic Affairs (OAA), or the Office of Human Resources (HR). Unlike the previous position of Ombudsman at OSU, this individual would engage only in complaints involving faculty (defined by rules as regular tenure-track, regular clinical, regular research, auxiliary, and emeritus). The Ombudsman would not deal with complaints lodged by any student or staff member of either the classified civil service or A & P category. This person would function as an impartial arbiter rather than as an advocate for faculty involved in complaints.

The plan creates a confidential, neutral and informal resource, but does not reference any other Organizational Ombuds programs or standards. The only troubling aspect of the proposal is that the OSU Human Resources Department is expected to train the new Ombuds. (OSU Faculty Council Meeting Minutes 12/11/08; Ombudsman Handout.)

Related post: Oral History of OSU's Founding Ombuds.

New Securities Industry Ombuds to Address Annual Policy Conference

On April 28, Joseph P. Borg, the Ombuds for the North American Securities Administrators Association, will host an open meeting at the Annual Public Policy Conference in Washington, DC. Borg was appointed to the position in December 2008, and is also Director of the Alabama Securities Commission. The NASAA Ombuds program serves as a neutral forum for the securities industry representatives and works to open channels of communication and to foster relationships with securities industry representatives. Ombuds programs are becoming a fixture in the financial services industry, and NASAA's Ombuds will surely have many issues to discuss. (NASAA Annual Public Policy Conf. Info.; NASAA Ombuds Page.)

Related posts: SEC Affirms Role of NASD Ombuds; NASDAQ and Banking Lobby Endorse Ombuds for Accounting Oversight; FDIC Ombuds Issues Biannual Report; Mortgage Crisis Draws in Ombuds; Office of Thrift Supervision Ombuds Hiring Scores of Special Assistants; Canadian Banking Ombuds Releases Year-End Review; S&P Launches Ombuds Office; Details Still Scarce.

February 27, 2009

Updated Joint Conference Schedule

ACCUO and FCO have posted an updated agenda for the joint Ombuds conference in April 2009. IOA has posted a program summary too, but the revised agenda reflects last minute changes and significantly more detail about sessions and presenters.

Newly added sessions include:
  • Externs in the Ombuds Office: Why They Should be Welcomed and How They Should be Managed with Tom Kosakowski and Indu Sen;
  • Issues Concerning IOA Standards of Practice with Legal Implications co-sponsored by IOA committees on Professional Ethics, Standards & Best Practices, and Legal & Legislative Affairs;
  • Compassion Fatigue, Vicarious Trauma and the Ombudsman with Ian Darling;
  • Whistleblowers: Thank You and Good-bye with Gareth Jones and Barbara Finlay;
  • An Introduction to Results Based Management for Ombudsman Offices with Luc Martin, Lisette Thibault, and Serge Jetté;
  • Conversations with the IOA Board;
  • The Ombudsman and New Institutional Governance, Towards a Development of Participative Practices and Mediation with Louise Lalonde and Catherine Régis; and
  • IOA’s “Certification Planning” Discussion with Marsha L. Wagner, Carolyn Noorbakhsh, and Jennifer Wolf.
Don't plan your conference without considering these sessions. (ACCUO Conference Program; FCO Conference Abstracts; IOA Agenda-at-a-Glance.)

Related posts: 2009 Conference Agenda Announced; 2009 Pre-Conference Courses Announced.

Wilfrid Laurier University Hires Ombuds

The private university in Waterloo, Ontario, has named Jennifer Laurie as its new Ombuds, effective February 17. Until recently, Laurie served as a Special Constable for Community Safety and Security with WLU. The prior Ombuds was John Metcalfe. (Cord Weekly; WLU Press Release.)

Update 3/4/09: A follow-up article provides more details and comments from Laurie. (Cord Weekly.)

February 26, 2009

Job Posting: University of British Columbia

UBC Vancouver is accepting applications for an Ombuds Officer to work with students. Applicants should have a university degree in a relevant discipline plus minimum two years related experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience. The full-time position pays $42,950 to $51,561 annually. Applications are due February 27, so don't delay. (UBC HR.)

Related post: University of British Columbia Names First Ombuds for Students.

The Value of Certification

Consider this update on the status of efforts to create a certification program:
Almost everywhere virtually anyone can practice as a Ombuds – just as, sadly, anyone can call themselves a banker. There is typically no initial educational requirement, no license to practice, no vetting of skills or continuing professional development and little real practice regulation. How, then, are users able properly to determine competency?

The Ombuds profession is, in relative terms, a small market. Competition is intense. How do the players in the market effectively address the common issue of getting the field recognized as a true profession?

The certification program is designed to enable. It is not a “peak” or superior body. Its role is simply to enable workable, transparent and high competency standards to be developed, to aid best practice sharing and to promote the understanding and use of Ombuds services.

This was written not about the Ombuds certification proposal, but for an international mediator certification scheme. Irena Vanenkova, Operations Director of the International Mediation Institute, explains that certification brings significant benefits to individuals and the profession. The comparisons are compelling and worth considering. (Mediate.com.)

Related posts: International Mediation Institute Reveals Certification Plans; Seizing the Opportunity of Professionalization.

ICANN to Consider Update of Ombuds Program

At its next regular board of directors meeting, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers will consider “approving an Ombudsman Framework.” (ICANN Meetings.) One industry watcher, an otherwise apparently rational travel writer, suspects a conspiracy involving the “(illegal) ‘incumbent’ ” and urges nominations for the position of ICANN Ombuds. (ICANN Watch.)

Update 2/27/09: Frank Fowlie, the ICANN Ombuds, explains that the organization is the simply ratifying operational policy and procedures for his office. (ICANN Ombuds Blog.)

Related posts: ICANN Ombuds Launches Blog; ICANN Ombuds Responds to Criticism; ICANN Ombuds Earns Doctorate.

Update: Judge Wants Review of Case Against Yolo County Ombuds

U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. has urged top officials in the Obama administration to decide whether to continue to pursue the nearly 2-year-old case against Harrison Jack, the first-ever Ombuds for Yolo County. Jack and eight Hmong community leaders are charged with plotting a violent overthrow of Laos' communist government. (Woodland Daily Democrat.) The county has not refilled the Ombuds position.

Prior post: Yolo County Ombuds Arrested for Plotting Overthrow of Laotian Government.

February 24, 2009

Review Board Knocks GWU Med School for Deficient Ombuds Program

When the Liaison Committee on Medical Education put George Washington University's School of Medicine on probation last fall, the university downplayed concerns, citing superficial and easily remedied problems. Now the Washington Post has obtained confidential documents that reveal the deficiencies were considerably more serious. According to the accrediting agency, the problems “seriously compromised the quality of the medical education program” at GWU. Among other problems, “Accreditors noted a potential conflict at GWU because the ombudsman who handled student complaints also led the committee that evaluated students.” Although further details were not available, the Ombuds program has yet to be revised. (Washington Post; GW Hatchet; GWU 2004 Resident Manual.)

While the Washington Post does not reveal other details about the GWU Ombuds program, the conflict of interest is a critical defect. Organizational and Classical Ombuds both share the common characteristics of independence, impartiality and confidentiality. The American Bar Association observed that:
The ombuds’ structural independence is the foundation upon which the ombuds’ impartiality is built. If the ombuds is independent from line management and does not have administrative or other obligations or functions, the ombuds can act in an impartial manner. [¶] Acting in an impartial manner, as a threshold matter, means that the ombuds is free from initial bias and conflicts of interest in conducting inquiries and investigations. (ABA Revised Standards for the Establishment and Operation of Ombuds Offices.)

Obviously, the GWU Ombuds program was not practicing in conformity with IOA, USOA or any other recognizable standard for Ombuds. Having administrative oversight of the student complaint process was a clear conflict with the Ombuds’ other responsibilities. For the accrediting agency, this failure to follow established programmatic norms was cause for concern. This particular case is significant for the Ombuds profession because it marks the first time a university has been cited for a deficient Ombuds program. The lesson for universities is that their Ombuds programs should reflect existing standards.

Federal Ombuds Publish Unified Model for Developing an Office

The Coalition of Federal Ombudsmen has completed work on a roadmap for structuring and implementing Ombuds programs. The 110-page guide presents strategies for either workplace or external Ombuds programs that “best fit” an organization. This guide will become the standard reference for federal Ombuds in the US and should be consulted by state and local government Ombuds as well. (COFO Unified Model for Developing an Ombudsman Function.)

The COFO has also updated its website with minutes from its most recent meetings. These reveal that the group continues work on a model Ombuds act and job series study. (COFO Meeting Minutes.)

Related post: SBA Ombuds Offers Model for State and Local Goverment Offices.

February 23, 2009

New Mexico Hires Ombuds Despite Freeze

Records obtained by the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper show that Governor Bill Richardson hired 16 people in the last three months despite a state-wide hiring freeze. Among the positions hired was the Ombuds for the Department of Transportation. The New Mexico DOT Ombuds provides confidential, neutral, and informal assistance for department employees and the general public. Although the newspaper article did not identify the Ombuds by name, it is believed to be Patricia Romero. (Santa Fe New Mexican.)

Concordia University Marks 40-Year Anniversary of Riots that Lead to Ombuds Office

In February 1969, the largest student riot in Canadian history unfolded on the campus of Sir George Williams University (which later merged into Concordia). Failing grades given to six militant black students sparked a demonstration that erupted into a riot that causing almost $1.5 million CDN in damages. Following the event, students became part of the university's decision-making process and an Ombuds office was established. (Montreal Gazette.)

Related posts: Michigan State University Ombuds Office Marks 40 Years of Service; University of Texas Ombuds Office Celebrates 40 Years; San Diego State Ombuds Office Marks 40 Years With New Appointment.

February 22, 2009

Facebook Controversy Leads to Calls for Ombuds

Last week, public outcry forced the Facebook to back down from plans to revise its terms of service that would have curtailed the rights of its 175 million users. The kerfuffle lead some industry experts to call for a code of ethics and an Ombuds for the social networking website. Fred Stutzman, who blogs about information, social networks and technology, argued that, “The ombudsman should be hired [by Facebook] for a contractually-tenured period and be given a blog on a third-party server.” (Unit Structures; michaelzimmer.org.)

Eventually, the viable social structures from the actual world will be mapped onto the virtual world. In one form or another there will be a role for Ombuds and others who promote fairness, transparency and conflict resolution. ICANN has already implemented an Ombuds program and many have urged Google to do the same.

Update 2/23/09: Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court called upon Google to create a Chief Privacy Ombudsman, independent of its corporate structure and general counsel, that reports directly to the CEO and board of directors. (PR Newswire.)

Related posts: Ombuds Not Exempt From Influence of Internet; Statement on Respectful Online Communication; ICANN Seeks Input on Ombuds; Online Bullying an Emerging Issue for Ombuds; Calls Continue for Google to Implement Ombuds; Ombuds as Role Models for Bloggers.

February 18, 2009

World Bank Adds Ombuds

Constance Bernard has joined the Ombuds Office at the World Bank Group. She has worked at the Bank for three decades at posts in Latin America, Europe and Central Asia, and Africa. Most recently, Bernard was the Director for Sustainable Development in the South Asia region. She earned degrees from Harvard and George Washington University. (WBG Ombuds; WBG Development Marketplace Bio.)

Related posts: Princeton Ombuds to Head World Bank Mediation Office; World Bank Calls for Climate Change Ombuds.

ENOHE Latest Newsletter

The first 2009 update from the European Network for Ombudsmen in Higher Education is now available online. The newsletter is published by Josef Leidenfrost, Austrian Student Ombudsman and and co-founder of ENOHE. Readers will find articles on: the recent meeting of Mexican, Latin Amercian and Spanish university Ombuds; the 2008 ENOHE conference in London; the university Ombuds in the European context; the implications of the next Ministerial Conference of the Bologna Process; the recommendation by a British panel for higher education Ombuds programs; an update on the Austrian law mandating Ombuds offices in Higher Education; the upcoming ENOHE and ACCUO/FCO/IOA conferences; and more. (ENOHE News 2.)

Related post: ENOHE Annual Conference in Germany.

February 16, 2009

Princeton Names University Ombuds

Princeton University has appointed Diedrick (D.A.) Graham to lead its Ombuds Office, effective February 16. Graham has been Princeton's associate Ombuds for the past year and replaces Camilo Azcarate, who became Manager of Mediation Services for the World Bank. Princeton Provost Christopher Eisgruber said that Graham, “has already won many fans around this campus. D is a talented ombuds officer, and I expect that he will do an excellent job in this important role.” (News at Princeton.)

Graham is on vacation and was unavailable for comment. It is unknown whether Princeton will undertake the third search in 16 months to fill the now-vacant Associate Ombuds position.

Update 2/17/09: In the Princeton student newspaper, Azcarte offers Graham several recommendations for enhancing the quality of service provided by the Ombuds Office. (Daily Princetonian.)

Related posts: Profile of New Princeton Ombuds; Job Posting; Slate for 2009 IOA Board Election.

New Ombuds Program at Mount Royal College Goes Online

The public college in Calgary, Canada, established an Ombuds office for the 2007-08 academic year and appointed Judy Collins, R.N., B.Ed., M.Ed., as the first Ombudsperson. The office serves faculty, staff and students (including 12,000 undergraduates). The new website, which went online this week, links to the Forum of Canadian Ombudsman, International Ombudsman Institute, and The Association of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons. Collins serves on the board of Canadian Association for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment in Higher Education and also works as Mount Royal’s Human Rights Officer. (Mount Royal Ombuds; Mount Royal Annual Report 2007-08.)

S&P Launches Ombuds Office; Details Still Scarce

The website for the new Standard & Poor’s Ombudsman went live yesterday. The homepage explains:
At S&P, our Ombudsman will listen to issues and concerns and ensure that all channels within the Company to resolve those issues have been effectively utilized. Although not every issue or concern can be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, the processes to be followed by the Office of the Ombudsman will offer a balanced and independent approach to resolution.

There is no indication that the S&P Ombuds program is designed in compliance with IOA, USOA or any other standards of practice. (S&P Ombuds.)

Prior posts: S&P to Hire Ombuds; Standard & Poor's Appoints Ombuds.

February 14, 2009

General Counsel Limits Scope of Proposed Ombuds Program at Northwestern

In the Spring of 2007, the Northwestern General Faculty Committee approved a plan to create an Ombuds program to serve faculty. An update at the latest faculty meeting indicated that the administration was still supporting the plan. However, the university’s general counsel has recommended setting up rules that would address the exclusion of handling certain situations, such as sexual harassment. The faculty representative is working with with the attorney to draw up a joint approval letter to be presented to the administration. (NU GFC 2007-08 Annual Report; GFC Minutes 1/7/09.)

Most Ombuds programs at peer universities serve all campus stakeholders -- faculty, staff and students -- with any and all issues. If approved, Northwestern’s Ombuds will work only with faculty and only with a limited set of concerns. At most universities, faculty issues of all varieties comprise less than 15% of the Ombuds case load. So Northwestern is getting just a tiny slice of the benefit of a robust Ombuds program. Only time will tell whether this a step in the right direction or simply too little to justify the effort.

Prior post: Ombuds Rising: Three More Universities Considering Ombuds Offices.

New Humboldt State Ombuds Debut Website

In March 2008, the California State University in Humboldt introduced Laura Hahn and Scott Paynton as the new Ombuds for the campus. This week, the website for their office went online. Previously, the program had no online presence. In addition, the program at Humboldt has been updated significantly -- the website states that “Office operations are consistent with the code of ethics and standards of practice of the International Ombudsman Association.” Hahn and Paynton are both faculty members in the Department of Communication. (HSU Appointments; HSU Ombuds.)

ITT Corp. Settles Case Prompted by Ombuds

Global conglomerate ITT Corporation settled a civil case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The SEC claimed that an ITT subsidiary paid about $200,000 to Chinese government officials from 2001 through 2005. According to the SEC complaint, ITT discovered the illegal payments when anonymous employees complained to the company Ombuds. The details of the ITT Ombuds program are unavailable to the public. (SEC Complaint via FCPA Blog.)

Update: Former DC Schools Ombuds Becomes Healthcare Lobbyist

Tonya Vidal Kinlow, the former Ombuds for the Distict of Columbia Public Schools, has been named as Vice President of Government Affairs for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. In the newly created position, Kinlow will lead CareFirst's efforts on local, regional and national government affairs and policy matters. Meanwhile, DC wags think that the low number of cases and lack of reaction to Kinlow's departure mean that the Ombuds position will remain vacant until at least the next school year. Mayor Adrian Fenty's office has not commented on the situation. (CareFirst Press Release; DC Examiner.)

Prior post: DC Schools Ombuds Lasts Just 14 Months.

February 12, 2009

African Development Bank Unveils Website for Ombuds Office

The development bank headquartered in Tunisia has revamped its website and created a public page for its Ombuds office. According to the website, the ADB Ombuds’ “major function is to provide independent, confidential and informal assistance to all staff on grievances and complaints related to human resources and work place issues.”

Curiously, the page does not mention, Nwadinafor De Souza, who was introduced as the ADB Ombudswoman in June 2008. De Souza previously worked as the chief interpreter for the bank. Hopefully the website will be updated to include more information about her background soon. (
ADBG Ombuds; Agence Tunis Afrique Presse.)

Related posts: Ombuds Training in Tunisia; Job Posting.

Towson University to Create Ombuds Program

The second largest public university in Maryland has reached an agreement with local residents resolving concerns over the location of the proposed new arena on campus. Under terms of the settlement, TU has agreed to establish an Ombuds position as a resource for any community concerns. The university does not have any Ombuds program at present and no other details were available. (ABC2 Baltimore; Forge Flyer.)

March IOA Training in Texas Still Open

Space is still available for the International Ombudsman Association training in Dallas, Texas, March 2-6, 2009. Courses include Ombudsman 101 and 101 Plus (the primary programs for new Ombuds), and specialized courses in "Apologies and Reconciliation" and "Strategies for Working with Stakeholders." It is rare for seat to be available just a few weeks before these classes. (March IOA Training Info.)

February 10, 2009

Pepperdine University Ombuds Retiring

Chip Moore, who was appointed to be Pepperdine University's first Ombuds just last year, is retiring. As the Ombuds, Moore served faculty and staff only, despite the fact that Pepperdine's Straus Institute trains graduate students in dispute resolution and offers courses on the Ombuds profession. Moore has worked at the campus for 37 years of service. There is no word on his replacement.

Related posts: Pepperdine Opens Ombuds Office; Pepperdine Law School Revives Ombuds Course.

Marquette University Students to Consider Ombuds Service

The student senate at Marquette University has passed a referendum to query students about expanding the role of the campus Ombuds program, which currently serves only faculty and staff. The ballot for the spring election will ask students, "Should Marquette University expand the role of the Office of the Ombuds to include confidential and impartial outlets for students' academic concerns?" (Marquette Tribune.)

Related posts: Federal District Court Respects Role of Marquette University Ombuds; Marquette University Ombuds Reports on Activities.

Canadian Banking Ombuds Releases Year-End Review

Established in 1996 as an alternative to the legal system, the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments is an independent organization providing dispute resolution service for Canadian consumers or small businesses with unresolved complaints involving their financial services firm. In its 2008 annual review, OBSI reports that it opened 670 case files, a 43% increase from 2007 and a more than 100% increase over the last two years. The number of facilitated settlements more than tripled to 91 in 2008. Also, OBSI’s Board of Directors approved Revised Terms of Reference, which will be implemented in Spring 2009. (OBSI Annual Review.)

Tyco Ombuds a Rising Star of Corporate Governance

Today, the Organizational Ombudsman Blog has a post about Laura Lonsdale, who has been the Ombuds at Tyco since 2007. Somehow, it escaped my attention that Lonsdale was the only Ombuds selected by Directorship Magazine as a rising star among corporate governance professionals under the age of 40. Under Lonsdale's leadership, the Tyco Ombuds office office serves about 1,100 employees globally in addition to shareholders and stakeholders -- certainly a big task in the wake of Dennis Kozlowski's fraud and self dealing. (Directorship Magazine via Organizational Ombudsman Blog.)

Related post: Tyco Touts Ombuds Program.

February 08, 2009

Is Red Cross Ombuds Stepping Down?

[Job Posting: American Red Cross]

A new job posting at the American Red Cross seems to indicate that the organization’s first Ombuds is leaving after 16 months in the job. Beverly Ortega Babers became the first Corporate Ombuds for the Red Cross in October 2007 and built an IOA-compliant office with a staff of four. Despite her initial successes, including an online video and annual report, Babers recently warned that the Ombuds program was being hit by cutbacks due to the declining economy.

Although there has been no announcement that Babers is leaving the Red Cross, the posting seems to fit only Babers’ position. According to the job details, the position serves “under the authority of the President/CEO.” Responsibilities include: “Oversee and manage the American Red Cross Corporate Ombudsman Program and office.” Prior job postings for lower-level positions (i.e., Associate Ombuds or Service Representative positions) did not include these details.

Applicants for the Corporate Ombuds position should have a minimum of 10 years progressive experience in conflict resolution, investigations, or dispute resolutions. An advanced degree and IOA training are preferred. No salary or application deadline are indicated. (
Red Cross Job Details; Indeed Posting.)

Remarkably similar post: DC Schools Ombuds Lasts Just 14 Months.

Related Red Cross posts: Red Cross Chief Defends Ombuds Decision; First Red Cross Ombuds Promises to Strengthen "Sacred Trust" With Public; Red Cross Ombuds Unveils Video; Red Cross Ombuds Publishes Inaugural Report and Announces Cut-Backs.

Canisius College Appoints Interim Ombuds

The private Catholic college in Buffalo, New York, has appointed Anthony R. Weston, PhD, associate professor of mathematics and statistics, as its interim Ombuds while the permanent Ombuds, Jack D'Amico, participates in a faculty development program. (Canisius News.)

Journal Article Examines Role of Classical Ombuds Commonwealth Countries

A paper presented at the South African Association of Public Administration and Management Annual Conference looks at the role of Classical Ombuds institutions in the procurement of legal responsibilities and the promotion of good governance in Commonwealth countries with particular emphasis on Canada, South Africa and Uganda. Professors Jerry O. Kuye and Umar Kakumba of the University of Pretoria analyze the literature on the Ombuds institutions’ orientation, matters of regulatory and jurisdictional type, appointment. They argue that, despite the varying legislative and jurisdictional mandates, there are common denominators that underpin Ombuds institutions, punctuated by similar systemic weaknesses. Kuye and Kakumba conclude that Ombuds cannot prevent wrongs from public agencies unless there is an adaptive political culture and administrative system that cherishes goodwill. The paper is published in the Journal of Public Administration. (UPSpace.)

MOAA Presents 2009 Ombudsman Award

The Military Officers Association of America presented the MOAA Ombudsman Award to Karla Hewitt of Nashville, Tenn., on January 29, 2009. Vice Admiral Norb Ryan Jr., USN-Ret., president of MOAA recognized Hewitt’s tremendous efforts as an Ombudsman with the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, where she helps to resolve disputes between service members and their employers which arise under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. As she accepted the award Hewitt said, “Before I got involved with ESGR I had no idea about USERRA laws and how important they are. The work done by ESGR is crucial to the readiness of our Reserve Forces and to be recognized for the work I did is very satisfying.” (MOAA News.)

Related post: Volunteer Ombuds Settle Thousands of National Guard Reemployment Disputes.

February 07, 2009

USA Swimming Suspends Michael Phelps After Consulting USOC Ombuds

This week USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus imposed a three-month suspension on Olympian Michael Phelps apparently using marijuana at a college party last fall. According to the Washington Post, Wielgus made the decision after discussing the matter with the USA Swimming board of directors, the leadership of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the USOC ombudsman. (Washington Post.)

Related posts: USOC Ombuds: Anti-Doping System Snares Innocent Athletes; US Olympic Ombuds Helps Athletes in Conflict; Cyclists Seek Changes for USOC Ombuds.

University of South Florida Ombuds Plans Return to Politics

In April 2007, Lesley "Les" Miller Jr., former Florida state senator and minority leader, returned to his alma mater the University of South Florida, as director of community relations and Ombuds for students. This week, Miller filed paperwork to run for the Hillsborough County Commission seat. Miller said he will take leave time when he is campaigning, and has cleared that with superiors. (St. Petersburg Times.)

Related posts: Former State Senator Named Ombuds at South Florida; Profile of New Ombuds at University of South Florida; USF Ombuds to Dispense Student Relief Funds.

February 06, 2009

University of Hawaii Releases Annual Report

The Office of the Ombuds at UH Manoa saw an 8% increase in visitor traffic in the 2007-08 academic year. Cases involving interpersonal disputes and incivility increased to become the most common issues encountered, while grade disputes were the second most common issue. The UH Ombuds said that three serious issues -- financial aid, grades, and incivility -- warrant further attention on a systemic level. (UH Ombuds Annual Report.)

Related posts: University of Hawaii Touts Ombuds Office as Campus Safety Resource; University of Hawaii Issues First Annual Report.

McGill Still Searching for Qualified Ombuds Applicants

An editor for the McGill University student newspaper, blogging from the student council meeting, reports that the search for an Ombuds is “stalling due to a lack of qualified applicants.” (McGill Daily Blog.) The university does not have a posting for the position currently. (McGill HR.)

Related post:
Appointment of Interim Ombuds at McGill Raises Concerns.

February 05, 2009

Bertelsmann AG Debuts Global Ombuds Program

On October 24, 2008, the transnational media corporation published its Code of Conduct as a binding guideline for legal and ethically responsible conduct. As part of its effort to build corporate responsibility, Bertelsmann has appointed external Ombuds to respond to employees with concerns about observed misconduct. According to the Code of Conduct:
Like certified lawyers or auditors, the ombudspersons appointed by Bertelsmann are bound to professional secrecy. They are legally required to keep the identity of the person reporting misconduct confidential. The identity of a complainant may be revealed only with the complainant’s express consent.

Peter Blobel, a CPA and former auditor, and Dr. Rainer Buchert, a lawyer and former detective, serve as the Ombuds for Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. The Ombuds for North and South America is Dina Jansenson, an experienced mediator. Back-up Ombuds for the Americas are Dean Nicyper and Cynthia Watkins, both of whom are attorneys and mediators. Bertlesmann has established toll-free numbers for its Ombuds in 50 countries. (Bertlesmann Ombuds; Bertelsmann Code of Conduct.)

Many Ombuds will be intrigued by Bertelsmann's assertion that Ombuds are “legally required” to protect confidentiality, especially in many countries with different legal systems. Hopefully the basis of this position will become clear and Bertelsmann will be an important ally in securing additional legal protections for Ombuds.

February 04, 2009

Searchable Mediator Ethics Opinions Now Online

The American Bar Association has created an online database of opinions on mediator ethics. The opinions are categorized by by the nine standards in the Model Standard of Conduct for Mediators, many of which are relevant to Ombuds practice:
  • Self-Determination
  • Impartiality
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Competence
  • Confidentiality
  • Quality of the Process
  • Advertising and Solicitation
  • Fees and Other Charges
  • Advancement of Mediation Practice
In addition, the opinions can be searched by keyword. (National Clearinghouse for Mediator Ethics Opinions.)

I hope that, someday, there will be a similar collection of opinions defining the practices of the Ombuds profession too.

Related posts: ABA Creates Committee on Mediator Ethical Guidance; New ABA Committee Will Appeal to Ombuds; Lessons From Campus Mediation Apply to Ombuds; Advice to Mediators from an External Ombuds.

February 03, 2009

Students Call for Global Ombuds

Last week in Paris, 17 student organizations from around the globe met to prepare for the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education in July 2009. By the conclusion of the meeting, the group called on UNESCO to set up a global Ombuds office that deals with breaches of student rights. (European Students Union.)

Related post: ENOHE Annual Conference in Germany.