May 31, 2009

Organization of News Ombudsmen Appoints First Executive Director

ONO President Stephen Pritchard announced that Jeffrey Dvorkin will be the organization's first ever executive director. The move came after Pritchard spend 10 months urging funding bodies to support ONO's aim to appoint an executive director. With funding from the Open Society Institute and the endorsement of ONO members, Dvorkin will work as an advocate for newsroom Ombuds around the world and coordinate other projects. Dvorkin previously served as the Ombuds for National Public radio and as Executive Director of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, in addition to an extensive career as a journalist. He also writes a blog on media ethics. (The Guardian UK; Now the Details.)

Among Ombuds organizations, only ONO and FCO have dedicated administrators.

Related posts: More Thoughts on the Decline of News Ombuds; FCO Names New Administrator.

Stanley V. Anderson: Author and Researcher

The University of California Santa Barbara Emeritus Professor passed away unexpectedly on May 26, 2009. Anderson was well known for his research on the Ombuds profession. Comprehensive bibliographies on the Ombuds field always include several of his works, most especially:
  • "Comparing Classical and Executive Ombudsmen," Executive Ombudsmen in the United States (1973), edited by Alan J. Wyner Berkeley, CA, University of California, Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies
  • “Ombud Research: A Bibliographical Essay,” 2 The Ombudsman Journal (1982), pp. 32-84
  • “Ombudsmen Readings,” International Ombudsman Institute (1982)
Anderson was the former Chair of the American Bar Association Ombudsman Committee and was a plenary speaker at the USOA conference in 2006. Long-time colleague John Moore said, "Stan's work on the ombudsman was his major contribution to both scholarship and community service. With respect to ombudsmen studies, no one enjoys greater prominence than Stan Anderson." His research interests continued after retirement, and this year he published a new book, Reform in a Prison Hospital: A Doctor and an Ombudsman Blow the Whistle. (UCSB Dept. of Political Science.)

Welcome Another Ombuds Blogger

Pamela Martin, who is a freelance Organizational Ombuds, Mediator, and Human Resource Specialist, has joined the blogosphere. Her first post explores how a neutral can alleviate individuals' concerns about fairness when working through a dispute. (Critical Communicator Blog.)

Related posts: ICANN Ombuds Launches Blog; New Organizational Ombuds Blog.

May 29, 2009

House Bill Would Create SEC Ombuds Office

This week the House of Representatives introduced proposed legislation titled Compliance, Examinations, and Inspections Restructuring Act of 2009. Among other provisions, HR 2622 would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to appoint an Ombudsman to “advise and guide such persons through the process of self-reporting, ensuring appropriate and due credit is given to the registrant upon self-reporting.” The bill also specifies a significant exception to the duty of confidentiality: If the SEC Ombuds were to make a formal, written recommendation that the SEC take action against a registered broker, dealer or investment company, the Ombuds would be required to disclose any confidential communications prompting the recommendation. The bill, written by Rep. Kevin McCarthy [R-CA22] with no co-sponsors, has been referred to the House Financial Services Committee. (SEC Actions Blog; GovTrack.)

Related posts: SEC Affirms Role of NASD Ombuds.

University of Windsor Closing Ombuds Office

UWindsor President Alan Wildeman has announced strategic restructuring prompted by a projected shortfall of $7.8 million CDN for the 2010-11 academic year. As part of these changes, the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner and Ombuds will be phased out in favor of an Office of Human Rights and Equity, which will incorporate employment equity initiatives in Human Resources and equity functions in the Office of Faculty Recruitment and Retention. Cheryl Henshaw, who has served as Human Rights Commissioner and Ombuds, declined an offer to continue on during the transition and will be leaving the University at the end of June. (UWindsor Daily News; President's Update #3.)

UN Ombuds Addresses University of Granada

Johnston Barkat, Deputy Secretary General and Ombudsman for the United Nations, addressed the School of Political Science and Faculty at the Spanish university this week. Barkat explained that mediation can provide significant savings, but only if participants are willing to be actively involved in the process. In addition, the mediator must keep the parties' confidence through neutrality, actively listening, and responsiveness. (EP Social, Google translation.)

Related post: UN Ombuds Reports on Reorganization Efforts.

Independent Voice Calls for Articles

The IOA newsletter is seeking a wide range of written content, from first-person reflections to trends in the field, for the upcoming edition of the Independent Voice. This a great opportunity to reach out to the IOA community with ideas, interests, qualms, reflections, or other burning thoughts. Submissions must be sent to Samantha Levine-Finley (levinesa[at-sign]od[dot]nih[dot]gov) by June 26.

UNESCO Conflict Resolution Library

Bill Warters has discovered a rich trove of conflict resolution materials available from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Full-text documents include Alternative dispute resolution approaches and their application; Participation, consensus building, and conflict management training course; and Advanced mediation skills, course book. (Campus-ADR Tech Blog.)

Ombuds in Paradise

The Office of the Ombudsman for Trinidad and Tobago will relocate its branch office in Tobago to "provide clients with more spacious surroundings and a superior ambiance." (TT Breaking News.)

May 26, 2009

Court Dismisses Lawsuit Against Chevron, Ombuds and Others

Last week, a U.S. Federal District Court judge in San Francisco dismissed a case filed against Chevron Corp., subsidiary companies and several employees, including the corporate Ombuds. In his complaint, Samuel Johnson alleged that discrimination and retaliation lead to his suspension and firing in 2006. Before filing the lawsuit, Johnson had consulted with Chevron's Ombuds and attempted an informal resolution with his supervisors, who were eventually named as individual defendants. The court dismissed the case on a procedural motion after determining that the plaintiff's case was factually insufficient. The case is an unpublished decision available only from subscription services. (Johnson v. Chevron Corp., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42422 (N.D. Cal. May 19, 2009).)

University of Pennsylvania Appoints Ombuds

President Amy Gutmann has announced that Joan F. Goodman, PhD, will become the University Ombudsman on July 1, 2009, succeeding John Keene. “I am confident that the expertise, judgment, and compassion that Joan Goodman will bring to this role will be employed to very good effect on behalf of the Penn community,” said Gutmann. Dr. Goodman has been a tenured professor in the Graduate School of Education since in 1994. Her prior experience includes service as a school psychologist as well as practicing and teaching applied psychology at hospitals for children in Washington, D.C., Oakland, California, and in Philadelphia. Her current primary research interest is moral education, both theoretical and applied. She is has written more than 40 articles and chapters and is the author or co-author of several books, most recently Moral Education: A Teacher-Centered Approach. (UPenn Almanac.)

Related post: University of Pennsylvania Ombuds Issues Annual Report.

Texas A&M Faculty Ombuds Promoted

Dr. Antonio Cepeda-Benito, who has served as Texas A&M University’s faculty Ombuds since 2006, will become dean of faculties and associate provost. The University is restructuring the faculty Ombuds position and an appointment is expected soon. (TAMU News.)

Related post: Texas A&M Restructuring Ombuds Office.

Update: Jackson Hole Hospital Reviewing Ombuds Applications

Trustees at the St. John’s Medical Center in Idaho are moving forward with plans to hire the hospital’s first Ombuds by June. A committee has already collected applications from about 30 candidates since the board advertised for the position. (Jackson Hole News.)

Prior post: Jackson Hole Hospital Creating Ombuds Office.

May 21, 2009

University of Wisconsin-Parkinson Appoints First Ombuds

Following an investigation into deficiencies in its Teacher Education Program, UW-Parkside has implemented several corrective actions including the creation of an Ombuds program for students. Emeritus professor Dr. Dwayne G. Olsen was named to the position, effective June 3, 2009. Olsen will also work with the Teacher Education Program to ensure all requirements for teacher licensure and program accreditation are met. Meanwhile, the UW-Parkside faculty continue to debate the merits of a faculty Ombuds for the entire university. (UW-Parkside News and Committee Minutes, 3/24/09; Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Online.) Unveils Certification Program

The Internet's largest mediation website has announced a mediator certification program. The scheme has been in development for more than a year and will rival the certification program being developed by the International Mediation Institute. says that ceritification is primarily for the benefit of consumers and their advisers. The adopted training and experience standards are consistent with those recommended by the ACR Task Force. Some of the highlights of the program include:
  • Training and Experience -- Mediators must have at least 100 hours of mediation training and 500 hours of mediation experience.
  • Test -- There is no examination of any kind.
  • Cost -- The application fee and first year membership is $150; thereafter the annual cost is $50.
  • Audit of Applications -- will review information provided by the applicant, including web site information, to ensure compliance with program standards.
  • References -- Applicants must supply references to attest to the mediator's work.
  • Continuing Education -- Certified mediators are required to complete at least 12 hours of annual continuing education.
  • Ethical Standards -- Members must subscribe to the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators promulgated by the American Arbitration Association, the American Bar Association’s Section of Dispute Resolution, and the Association for Conflict Resolution.
  • Not Available for Offices -- Certification is available to individuals only.
  • International -- The program is intended to be global.
  • Enforcement -- There is no apparent protocol for decertifying mediators.
At the Organizational Ombudsman Blog, Clayton Gilman takes a critical look at's certification program and finds some good and bad elements. Overall he concludes that, “this is yet another organization telling me ‘you don’t qualify for our club’.” ( Blog, Certification Program; Organizational Ombudsman Blog.)

Related post: International Mediation Institute Reveals Certification Plans.

May 20, 2009

Update: Pomona College Concludes Search for Ombuds Despite Dissent

According to a student newspaper, a Pomona College search committee has made a recommendation to President David Oxtoby to hire a candidate for the position of Campus Ombuds. The editorial went on to complain that the committee mischaracterized and ignored feedback from students and service staff regarding the ten-month search and the finalist. According to the author, many students and staff were offended by some of the candidate's statements, and there was a general feeling of distrust for both the individual candidate and for the position of the ombudsperson. In addition, several committee members questioned the ethics of filling the position despite budget cuts and a general hiring freeze. (The Student Life.)

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

Job Posting: VA Puget Sound Health Care System

The Veterans Health Administration is seeking a Patient Relations Specialist for its facility in Seattle. According to the job description, the incumbent is responsible as an “ombudsman” primarily responsible for assisting patients with complaints and/or problems; serving as the liaison between patients and the medical center; and providing a specific channel through which patients can seek solutions to problems, concerns and unresolved needs. Unfortunately, the position is open only to current permanent VA PSHCS employees, permanent Veterans Canteen Service employees, and those covered under the OPM Interchange Agreement. The position pays $40,527-64,445 per year. Applications are due May 22, 2009. (FederalGovernmentJobs.)

May 19, 2009

US Patent Office Considering External Ombuds Program

Peggy Focarino, Acting Commissioner for Patents at the US Patent and Trademark Office is considering an external Ombuds program as part of an overall effort to improve the application process. She proposes placing an Ombuds in each of the agency's Technology Centers, the working groups that evaluate patent applications units. Focarino says that the Technology Center Ombuds would be an available resource to applicants on application-specific issues to facilitate the resolution of issues when problems arise. She envisions Ombuds to be independent of an examiner’s chain of command with a mandate to be neutral. Several intellectual property experts have called on the USPTO to implement an Ombuds program. (IP Watchdog; Anticipate This!; Toledo Intellectual Property Law Association.)

Related post: Federal Ombuds Publish Unified Model for Developing an Office.

British Classical Ombudsman Reports Spike in University Complaints

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education reported that complaints from students rose 23% in 2008. Disputes over postgraduate courses and allegations of plagiarism pushed up the total. The agency said the rise reflected a "cultural change" with fee-paying students wanting more value for money. The increase reflected a mere 900 complaints for the year from a total student population of 1.9 million. (BBC News.)

Related posts: University Ombuds Still Rare in UK Due to New Judicial Process; Britain's University Watchdog Calls for American-Style Ombuds; Survey Finds Students Do Not Trust Australian University Ombuds; Students Call for Global Ombuds.

House Bill Would Establish Ombuds for Federal Air Marshals

The US House Committee on Homeland Security has approved a bill that would make several improvements to the national transportation infrastructure. Tucked into H.R. 2200, the "Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act," is a provision that would establish an Ombuds program for the the Federal Air Marshal Service. The head of the FAMs would be appointed by the TSA Assistant Secretary to "carry out programs and activities to improve morale, training, and quality of life issues in the Service, including through implementation of the recommendations of the Comptroller General." Approval by the House committee means that the bill will now be placed on House's general calendar for further consideration. (GovTrack.)

Related post: Inspector General Recommends Realignment of TSA Ombuds Program.

The Journey to Empathy

British mediator Martin Golder explains the difference between empathy and sympathy in an article at He says that empathy can be learned in five stages:
The first stage is to think of yourself in a kind and loving way, this is then extended to a person that you like in the second stage. The third stage is to think of a neutral person and the fourth and perhaps most difficult stage is to project loving kindness (peace and good will) to an enemy or difficult person. The final stage is to expand the projection of good will to all.


May 18, 2009

Summer Ombuds Training in Denver

IOA is offering several courses July 13 through 17, 2009, at the Marriott Denver West.
  • Ombudsman 101 (July 13-15) An introductory program for new Ombuds or those seeking information about the Organizational Ombuds role.
  • Ombudsman 101 Plus (July 15) A special half-day program for organizations and entrepreneurs who want to get started.
  • Intermediate Workshop: Skills for the Experienced Ombudsman (July 14-15) A workshop designed to help the Ombuds respond skillfully and masterfully to the challenges and opportunities presented to the Organizational Ombuds.
  • Specialized Course: Contemporary Legal Issues for Organizational Ombudsman Programs (July 16) This course is designed for new and experienced Ombuds who are seeking additional understanding about legal issues affecting their program.
  • Specialized Course: Conflict Coaching for Organizational Ombudsman (July 17) The session will provide a theoretical framework for conflict coaching as well as strategies and skills for helping visitors manage interpersonal conflict. This highly interactive session will be taught by Ross Brinkert and Trish Jones, authors of Conflict Coaching: Conflict Management Strategies and Skills for the Individual.
The priority deadline for these courses is May 29, 2009. (IOA Denver Training Info.)

University of West Georgia Issues First Annual Report

Bruce W. Lyon, Faculty Ombuds, and Patricia Pinkard, Staff Ombuds, have published a report on the establishment of the UWG Ombuds Office. Between August 15, 2008, and April 15, 2009, the UWG Ombuds created marketing materials and a website, promoted the office, attending professional trainings, and handled 43 cases from faculty, staff and students. (UWG Ombuds Annual Report 2009.)

Related posts: University of West Georgia Introduces First-Ever Ombuds for Faculty and Staff; University of West Georgia Debuts Ombuds Website and Charter.

Update: Former UMass Ombuds and JIOA Editor Transitioning to Private Practice

Alan Lincoln, who served as the first Ombuds for the University of Massachusetts, Lowell for eight years and who was the founding editor of the Journal of the International Ombudsman Association, has reconsidered his decision to retire. Lincoln has decided to continue working as an "Interim Ombuds," available for short term assignments to maintain continuity of existing offices in transition, experiencing a temporary absence, short-term leave, or an overload of cases. He can be reached via email (alan[dot]lincoln[at-sign]comcast[dot]net).

Prior post: First Ombuds at U. Mass. Lowell Set to Retire.

May 16, 2009

New Websites Offer Resources for Ombuds

Two Ombuds programs debuted impressive website updates this week. The Office of Ombuds at the University of Hawai'i Manoa's new website features links to annual reports, campus resources, annual reports and a visitor survey. The site also collects an extensive set of tips and strategies for visitors from other experts, including other Ombuds. (UH Ombuds.) Similarly, the Ombuds Office at the MD Anderson Cancer Center significantly upgraded its website with information about its services and links to other resources. Many downloadable materials are graphical or tabular, such as an overview of "Resolution Pathways." (MDAnderson Ombuds.)

Although designed for their respective organizations, both of these websites offer important materials and inspiration for other Ombuds.

Update: University of Arkasas Ombuds Sheds Advocacy Program

In February 2008, the Ombuds Office at the University of Arkansas established the Safe Zone Allies Program to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students. This week, the University announced that the program had been transferred to the Multicultural Center, "a department where embracing and respecting different cultures is not only a central focus, but also a strongly desired outcome for students who come in contact with the center." (UArk Daily Headlines.)

This move puts a worthy program in a more appropriate place and helps preserve the Ombuds' appearance of independence and neutrality.

Prior post: U Arkansas Ombuds Creates "Safe Zones" for LGBTQ Community.

May 13, 2009

International Organization for Migration Opens Ombuds Office

IOM, the principal intergovernmental organization in the field of migration which frequently serves as a classical Ombuds, has created an Organizational Ombuds program. The IOM Ombudsperson serves staff members with workplace and interpersonal issues, and also advises the Director General and the Staff Association Committee about issues and trends affecting staff. Daniel Rainey and the Internet Bar Organization have been consultants as IOM considers adding an online portal for the Ombuds to serve staff around the world. (IOM Ombudsperson; IOM 2009 Budget; Daniel Rainey's Blog.)

Related post: Interview: Ombuds & Director of ADR Services for National Mediation Board.

May 12, 2009

News Ombuds Also Vulnerable to Budget Cuts

Andrew Alexander, the recently appointed Ombuds for the Washington Post, concludes that news Ombudsmen are endangered by shrinking newsroom budgets. Alexander came away from the Organization of News Ombudsmen conference last week with survival tips that will resonate with all varieties of Ombuds. “One was to keep a ‘respectful distance’ from the people we cover in the newsroom, even though some of them may be friends. Another piece of advice that brought a collective nod of approval: ‘Keep a sense of humor.’” (Washington Post Omblog.)

Related post: News Ombuds to Meet in Washington.

Study Finds Principals are Worst School Bullies

An Australian survey of more than 800 teachers found that 99.6 per cent said they had experienced bullying in the workplace. The biggest bullies are likely to be the principal, other school executives, or teachers. Deidre Duncan, of the ACU, said state school principals received the worst rating for bullying. "A total of 42 per cent of respondents in government schools said the bully was the principal." The behavior most commonly identified by teachers as bullying was the withholding of information that affected performance, followed by the questioning of decisions, procedures and judgment. (Queensland Courier Mail.)

Related posts: Study Finds Workplace Bullying Widespread; Maryland Considering School Bullying Ombuds; Washington State Schools Ombuds Describes First Year.

An Ombuds Guide to Internet Tools

Clayton Gilman, an Organizational Ombuds consultant, offers his perspective on the use wide range of Internet technologies available to Ombuds. He runs down the benefits and risks of:
  • e-Payment;
  • VoIP Communications;
  • Audio Recording;
  • Wireless G & Wireless N;
  • WEB 2.0;
  • P2P Networks;
  • Blogs;
  • Chat & IM; and
  • Video Broadcasting.
He concludes with a warning. “Always, please, keep in mind the privacy and ethics we must comply with when using technology and be sure to select and use technologies that enable ‘secure’ and private interactions.” (Organizational Ombudsman Blog.)

Related post: Trendspotting: Ombuds Not Exempt From Influence of Internet.

May 11, 2009

Smith College Closing Ombuds Office

In the face of budget cuts, the President of Smith College has announced that College's 11-year-old Ombuds Office will close by July 1, 2009. Adrianne Andrews, who served as Smith College's first full-time Ombuds since July 2001 (and who also served as Mt. Holyoke's Ombuds on a shared part-time for 1½ years), will become an advisor for equity complaints in the Office of Institutional Diversity. (Smith College Close-of-Semester Update.)

Kansas State University Ombuds Posts Annual Reports

The KSU Ombuds have posted reports for the past two academic years. According to the annual summaries provided to the Faculty Senate, the Ombuds handled 25 cases in 2007-08 and 41 cases in 2006-07. (KSU Ombuds Annual Reports.)

May 09, 2009

Job Posting: United Nations

The UN is hiring a Director for its Office of the United Nations Ombudsman. Reporting to the UN Ombudsman, the Director will be responsible for formulating and implementing the substantive work of the office (preparing reports and studies, overseeing programs and projects, hiring and managing staff, assisting in resolving issues, and other duties). An advanced university degree and at least fifteen years of experience are required, with a minimum of five years experience with the UN or similar organization. Fluency in English and proficiency in another UN language are also required. Application deadline is July 6, 2009. (UN Job Posting, vacancy announcement no. 09-OMB-OMBUDSMAN-421299-R-NEW YORK (G).)

Related posts:
UN Secretary-General Meets New Ombuds; UN Ombuds Reports on Reorganization Efforts; UN Struggles to Revise Justice System; Internship With UN Ombuds Office.

New Ombuds at North Florida Community College

The public college in Madison has appointed David Paulk as its Student Ombuds, a position previously held by Stevie Fenton. Paulk has been a history instructor at the college since January 2007. He earned his BA and Masters in History and Masters of Public Administration from Valdosta State University. He also has a Masters of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. (NFCC Ombuds; Spotlight on NFCC.)

May 08, 2009

Journal of IOA Appoints New Editor

David Miller has been named to lead the Editorial Board of the Journal of the International Ombudsman Association as it enters its third year. Miller takes over from the founding editor Alan Lincoln, who stepped down after retiring last year from his position as Ombuds at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Miller served as Ombuds for the World Health Organization in Geneva from 2004-2008 and has been a member of the JIOA Editorial Board. Before entering the Ombuds field, Miller was a Clinical Psychologist and Public Health Specialist from the field of HIV/AIDS and sexual health medicine, and has published numerous books and articles. Mary Rowe, Ombuds at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Tom Sebok Ombuds, at the University of Colorado at Boulder, will continue as Associate Editors and will be joined by a new Associate Editor, Brian Bloch of ISKCON Resolve.

Related posts:
Journal of IOA Releases First Issue; First Ombuds at U. Mass. Lowell Set to Retire; Ombuds Offer Insights on Dispute Systems Design; Journal of IOA Publishes Second Volume.

Call for Submissions: Conflict Resolution in Education Settings

The Fourth R, the semi-annual newsletter of the Education Section of the Association for Conflict Resolution, has announced a call for submissions for its Summer/Fall 2009 issue. The publication seeks articles of approximately 800-1500 words related to research and work in the field of conflict resolution education. The submissions should include: a conflict story; an analysis of the conflict or its impact on school culture; and a theoretical or research grounded resolution process. The deadline is June 15, 2009. (ACR Update.)

May 07, 2009

New Ombuds Office at Wright State University

The public university in Ohio has appointed Joan Bernstein to head its new Office of Ombuds for Students. Adhering to principles of confidentiality, informality and impartiality, the office serves students with university related conflicts, issues or concerns. Bernstein explained that the office was launched without significant publicity and that most of the visitors are referred by administrators. Bernstein also serves as the university's Communications Manager for the Enrollment Management Division. (Wright State Ombuds.)

University of Idaho Ombuds Publishes Annual Report

University of Idaho Ombuds James R. Fazio and Roxanne E. Schreiber reported that their caseload rose slightly in the 2007-08 academic year, reversing a two-year decline. There were substantially more referrals that previously. A slight majority of visitors were women. The report also provides unsolicited feedback from visitors and the results of a self-appraisal survey. (UIdaho Ombuds Annual Reports.)

Related post: University of Idaho to Expand Ombuds Services to Students.

May 06, 2009

Job Posting: Boston University

Following through on a recent faculty recommendation, BU has opened a search for its first Ombuds. The position will report directly to the University President and serve faculty, students and staff on the Charles River Campus, Medical Campus and satellite facilities, foreign or domestic (a population of nearly 40,000). An advanced degree in a related field is required; doctorate preferred. Prior experience in an academic environment is a must, with previous experience as an Ombuds strongly preferred. No closing date indicated. Salary range (grade 78): $60,960 to $101,180 per annum. (New England HERC; BU Jobs; BU Salary Structure.)

Related post: Study Concludes Boston University Should Establish Ombuds Office.

International Labour Organization Issues Annual Report

The ILO Office of the Mediator (which functions as an organizational Ombuds), has published its report for 2008. Director Asha Singh Williams reports that her office handled 201 cases in the past year, an increase of 32 from 2007. However, she emphasized that she perceives the increase as a positive indicator: more staff are using the informal conflict resolution mechanism. The ILO Office of the Mediator also provided information and assistance to other NGO at the annual meeting of the UN System Network of Ombudsmen and Mediators held in Washington in July 2008. (ILO Office of the Mediator Annual Reports.)

May 05, 2009

FDIC Ombuds Creates Unit for Bank Customers

In the wake of an increasing number of bank failures, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has established a new unit within its Office of the Ombudsman to assist customers with loans at failed banks. The new unit will complement the work that the FDIC already provides to the public and is another effort to improve communications with borrowers of failed banks. The FDIC emphasized that the Office of the Ombudsman will continue to serve as an independent and neutral resource. (FDIC Press Release; South Florida Business Journal.)

Related posts: FDIC Ombuds Issues Biannual Report; Ombuds as Spokesperson; FDIC Ombuds Reports Strong Growth in Visitor Traffic.

Rules for Being an Ethical and Effective Leader

Bruce Weinstein, “The Ethics Guy” for Business Week, says that winning at all costs is for losers. He offers ten leadership guidelines those whose decisions can affect the financial well being of other people.
  1. What's good for the gander is good for the goose — As organizations slash labor forces and freeze salaries, leaders should also take pay cuts.
  2. Know your product — Leaders have an ethical obligation, to their organization, clients and themselves, to know understand their organization is doing and to speak up about any concerns.
  3. Winning at all costs is for losers — Hardball leadership is shortsighted, unfair, and ultimately bad for the organization, since the consequences will be more regulation and oversight.
  4. Tell the truth — A leader has an ethical obligation to be honest with stakeholders about issues that directly concern them.
  5. Prevent harm — The good leader recognizes that preventing harm to clients and the organization is both an ethical responsibility and a wise business policy.
  6. Don't exploit — It is easy to take advantage of a crisis for financial gain, but doing so isn't consistent with good leadership. Taking the low road can be harmful professionally and personally.
  7. Don't make promises you can't keep — Good leaders are careful to make only those promises they are likely to keep and keep the promises they do make. When they are unable to keep those promises, they own up to it.
  8. Take responsibility for your mistakes — Transparency and accountability should be the new buzzwords. This means, in part, that business leaders who make mistakes should apologize to those they have let down and do whatever is necessary to make amends.
  9. People, not profits — Money has no intrinsic value; it is good only for what it can get us. For the good leader, this means that the ultimate goal in business—and life—is not hoarding riches but making things better for all, especially the neediest.
  10. Be kind, not king — Good leaders are enthusiastically devoted to accomplishing their mission, but this pursuit cannot be at the expense of the well being of others.
  11. (Bonus rule) You are not your career — Good leaders not only make room for family, friends, and spirituality; they know these are the things that truly make life worth living.
Good advice in difficult times. (MSNBC/Business Week; see also, The Ethics Guy Blog.)

May 04, 2009

New Ombuds Program at Valencia Community College

The multi-campus college in Orlando, FL, has implemented a student Ombuds program staffed by more than a dozen faculty and administrators. Student Ombuds are designated by each of the campus provosts, and are charged with being independent, impartial, and confidential. The program was set up with significant input from VCC’s General Counsel and Vice President for Policy, William J. Mullowney, who once served as the Ombuds for the University of Miami. (VCC Ombuds Homepage; VCC Ombuds Program Guide.)

Update: Washington Post Objects to Politicization of DC Schools Ombuds

The editorial board of the Washington Post decries the DC Council’s attempt to erode mayoral control over the public schools. Among other things, the Post is concerned about changes that seem to imperil the independence of the Public Schools Ombuds: “Having the school ombudsman report to the elected board would politicize an office that is supposed to be a dispassionate solver of problems.” (Washington Post.)

Update 5/13/09: Chancellor Michelle Rhee agrees. (Washington Post.)

Prior post: Local Politics Threaten DC Schools Ombuds.

Conflict Management Course for HR Generalists in Toronto

The Human Resource Professionals Association is offering a one-day workshop to introduce HR generalists to conflict management processes, principles and practices, and their application to the workplace. The course covers a wide variety of dispute resolution techniques such as workplace mediation, neutral evaluation, relationship by objective programs, the Ombuds model, workplace rehabilitation and neutral fact finding. Rick Russell of Agree Dispute Resolution, former Ombuds at McMaster University is the presenter. The workshop takes place on HRPA Education Centre on May 12, 2009. (HPRA Events Info.)

Call for Proposals: Economic Crisis and Conflict Resolution Conference

The Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution at the Boyd School of Law, UNLV, is organizing a conference for February 12-13, 2010, tentatively titled: ”The Economic Crisis and Conflict Resolution.” The focus is how to use conflict resolution tools to deal with aspects of our ongoing economic crisis. Some speakers will be asked to write articles for inclusion in a symposium issue of the Nevada Law Journal. Some speakers will be eligible for travel, accommodation and food reimbursement. Proposals are due May 18, 2009. (ADR Prof Blog.)

Related post: Study Shows Ombuds Mitigate Hidden Costs of Downsizing.

May 03, 2009

ADR Blog Directory Hits Milestone

In 2006, Diane Levin, began the to catalog blogs that discuss ADR, negotiation, consensus building, negotiation, conflict resolution, and human-centered innovations in law and justice. Now known as the World Directory of ADRblogs, the recently marked a major milestone by adding its 200th blog. Although Levin has a category for Ombuds Blogs, there are only two entries so far. Nonetheless, this is a remarkable resource for all Ombuds. It is easy to spend a couple hours looking at the collected blogs. (World Directory of ADR Blogs via Mediation Channel.)

May 02, 2009

Local Politics Threaten DC Schools Ombuds

A dispute between District of Columbia politicians is threatening to draw in the recently created public schools Ombuds. Local observers believe that a disagreement between Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and the District Council is affecting the approval of the mayor’s budget. Among other cuts, the Council is considering an 80% reduction in the budget for the office of Deputy Mayor for Education, which would be accomplished by transferring away several areas of responsibility, including moving the public schools Ombudsman to the State Board of Education’s purview. Thursday night, several school officials slated to appear at a community forum hosted by a Council member withdrew at the last minute with no explanation leading some to speculate that Mayor Fenty blocked their attendance. Interim DCPS Ombuds Jeff Ross did appear as promised. (Washington City Paper, City Desk Blog for April 27 and May 1; Washington Post DC Wire.)

This is a terrible situation for the Interim Ombuds. It's hard enough maintaining actual and perceived independence and neutrality within your organization without adding local politics. Surely, the DCPS Ombuds is not being paid enough to worry about becoming a pawn in the fight between the Mayor and District Council. The District already lost its first Ombuds and is looking for the permanent replacement. If the situation does not improve, qualified applicants may be discouraged. There is a real danger here that the office will be irreparably weakened (and the benefit to the school community lost) if cooler heads do not prevail.

Related posts: DC Schools Ombuds Lasts Just 14 Months; DC Schools Appoints Interim Ombuds.

May 01, 2009

New Ombuds Program at University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey

The state-run health sciences institution has appointed Neil Schorr to the newly created position of University Ombudsperson. The position reports directly to the University President and was approved by UMDNJ’s Board of Trustees in September 2008. Until now, UMDNJ had only a Research Ombuds and Ombuds for students and housestaff. Schorr previously served as Interim Vice Presiden and Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer for the University. Before coming to UMDNJ in 2006, Schorr was special advisor to the Chief Postal Inspector of the United States. He earned his BA in Economics from Lehman College and a JD from Brooklyn Law School. He is a member of the New York State Bar Association and a number of professional organizations including IOA, Health Care Compliance Association, and the American Society for Industrial Security. (UMDNJ Trustees Minutes, 9/10/08; UMDNJ President’s Cabinet.)

Study Shows Ombuds Mitigate Hidden Costs of Downsizing

Research by Charlie O. Trevor and Anthony J. Nyberg of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business confirms that when companies layoff employees to boost productivity, voluntary turnover rates also increase significantly. Trevor and Nyberg then examined what sort of companies did not suffer from an unexpected surge in voluntary attrition after a downsizing program. They found that companies with Ombuds were better insulated from these unintended consequences.
There is at least some good news for downsizing companies, however, as the study also identifies human resource practices that can substantially buffer the downsizing effect on subsequent turnover. One way is through practices that foster job embeddedness, such as defined-benefits plans, sabbaticals, on-site childcare, hiring for organizational fit, and flextime. Another is through practices that convey a concern with procedural justice -- practices that provide employees with a means of addressing perceived injustices on the job, such as through an ombudsman or a confidential hotline or a formal grievance process. For example, a company that downsizes 2% of the workforce (the median rate of the downsizers) and has high levels of either type of HR practices would be expected to see turnover rate increases less than one fourth the size of the increases at low levels of the HR practices.

Apparently, employees at such companies were confident that the downsizing efforts had been fair and unavoidable. The research will be published in the next issue of the Academy of Management Journal. (
Wisconsin School of Business News; Freek Vermeulen’s HBR Blog.)

Related posts: Ombuds Can Help Minimize Effects of Layoffs; Ninety Second Defense of an Ombuds Office.