October 30, 2009

University of Texas Austin Ombuds Reports Increase in Faculty Cases

Mary Steinhardt, the Faculty Ombudsperson for UTA, reported that 46 tenure-track faculty, lecturers, and graduate teaching assistants sought her assistance during the 2008-09 academic year. This was a 31% increase from the prior year, when she saw 35 visitors. (UTA Faculty Ombuds 2008-09 Report.)

Prior posts: University of Texas Austin Appoints Faculty Ombuds; UT Austin Faculty Ombuds Gives Annual Report.

October 29, 2009

US Patent Office Seeks Input on Ombuds Program

The US Patent and Trademark Office has invited public comment on a proposed Ombudsman Pilot Program. The external Ombuds program is intended to create a direct-line of communication for applicants who believe that their applications are being improperly examined. Peggy Focarino, Acting Commissioner for Patents at the USPTO envisions Ombuds to be independent of an examiner’s chain of command with a mandate to be neutral. Written comments must be received by November 27, 2009. No public hearing will be held. (USPTO Request for Comments via Patently-O.)

Prior post: US Patent Office Considering External Ombuds Program.

October 28, 2009

2009 Report From McMaster University Ombuds Focuses on Unique Role

The latest annual report from McMaster University Ombuds Shelley Lancaster and Carolyn Brendon includes the usual visitor statistics -- 371 cases in the academic year ended April 30, 2009 -- but relegates the data to the end of the report. The focus instead is on addressing the question: What Does a McMaster University Ombuds Do? There is an extensive discussion of the Ombuds' unique characteristics of neutrality, independence, confidentiality and a commitment to fairness. Several case studies are provided that highlight the many kinds of information and service the Ombuds provide. The report is also illustrated throughout by pictures of the beautiful campus. (McMaster Ombuds 2009 Report.)

Prior posts: McMaster University Ombuds Profiled; McMaster University Ombuds Releases (2008) Annual Report.

UN Ombuds Offers 2010 Summer Intership

The Office of the United Nations Ombudsman in New York is accepting applications for a summer internship. The position is aimed at students who have an interest in informal dispute resolution in an international environment. Interns will assist Ombuds staff drafting and preparing reports, researching material on dispute resolution and preparing communications about the office for United Nations employees. Applicants must be graduate students with a background in informal dispute resolution and bilingual. (NetForum; UN Internship Program.)

Related posts: Internship With UN Ombuds Office (2009); UN Ombuds Program Relocates.

October 27, 2009

Update: Cal Caucus Sets Conference Call

In lieu of its traditional retreat at Asilomar, The California Caucus of Colleges and University Ombuds organizers are hosting telephone meeting on November 17, 2009 at 8:30 PST. Anyone interested in attending should contact Lewis Redding (lewis [dot] a [dot] redding [at-sign] jpl [dot] nasa [dot] gov). (CCCUO Wiki.)

Prior post: Cal Caucus Will Not Convene in 2009.

DePaul Ombuds Talks About Diversity and Workplace Conflict

The Workplace Conflict Resolution Blog has posted a short video of Rev. Craig Mousin, the DePaul University Ombuds. Mousin explains that diversity in the workplace is often the source of conflict as people of different cultures and languages interact and misunderstanding occurs. However, diversity is also an asset as it can expand the range of options for conflict resolution. This video offers a thoughtful insight into the perspective of an Ombuds. (Workplace Conflict Resolution Blog; DePaul University Ombuds.)

October 23, 2009

Auburn University Ombuds Releases First Annual Report

Jim Wohl reported that he was consulted by 125 visitors on 891 issues during his first year as the University Ombuds for Auburn. The vast majority of matters, 86.8%, had not yet proceeded to a formal process. Wohl noted that the overall usage rate was within the range of usage rates at other colleges and universities with Ombuds programs. The relatively new website for the Auburn Ombuds Office also includes several excellent video clips of Wohl explaining the services and history of the program. (Auburn Ombuds Report 2008-09; Auburn Ombuds Office.)

Related posts: Peek at the Long Playing Effort to Create an Ombuds Office at Auburn University; Auburn Names First Ombuds; Red Cross Ombuds Unveils Video; New Gallaudet Website Features Video Welcome.

Northern Illinois University Ombuds Office Turns 40

According to a press release, the NIU Ombuds Office was founded in 1969 following civil unrest and student protest. Since that time, tens of thousands of students, parents, faculty, and staff members have visited the office. Is is one of the oldest university Ombuds programs in North America. Tim Griffin has served as the NIU Ombuds since 1991. (NIU Press Release.)

Related posts: Michigan State University Ombuds Office Marks 40 Years of Service; UC Riverside Enacts Ombuds Charter [on Eve of 40th Anniversary; University of Texas Ombuds Office Celebrates 40 Years; Concordia University Marks 40-Year Anniversary of Riots that Lead to Ombuds Office.

Ombuds Responsible for Campus Hand Sanitizers

Jack Fahey, who has served as the Youngstown State University Ombuds since August 2006, is being credited with prompting the installation of 24 hand sanitizing stations around the campus. "I don't know that [hand sanitizers] are needed, but they're certainly a convenience for people," Fahey said, adding that it was a "no brainer" to have them installed because it would help students, faculty and staff become more aware of flu prevention during this time of the year. (The Jambar.)

October 22, 2009

Ohio University Ombuds Reports on Eventful Year

According to a just-published annual report, OU Ombuds Merle Graybill was consulted on more than 188 situations in the 2008-09 academic year. Most of these cases involved a faculty member or a university service. In her first year running the 39-year-old Ombuds program, Graybill also relocated the office, redesigned the website, converted to an IOA Uniform Reporting Categories database, and lost her assistant Ombuds and support staff due to budget cuts. Graybill's report also provides a brief history of the Ombuds profession and endorses IOA's current certification efforts. (OU Ombuds Report 2008-09.)

Prior posts: Ohio U. Ombuds Issues Annual Report and Considers Adopting IOA Reporting Categories; Ohio U. Selects Interim Ombuds.

University of Central Florida Ombuds Updates Webpage

The UCF Ombuds Office debuted a revised website this week. Significant portions of the usual information about the program is provided in Spanish, including two anonymous student testimonials. Vicky Brown has been the UCF Ombuds since 1994. Daniel Thompson has been the Ombuds Assistant for the past couple of year. (UCF Ombuds.)

October 21, 2009

Stanford Ombuds Reveals Visitor Numbers

In an interview with Stanford University's student body president, David Rasch provided some details regarding the number of cases he handles as the Ombuds: "He sees approximately 375-400 cases a year of which 30% are students, 20% are faculty, and 50% are staff. The students are split about 50/50 grad/undergrad." (ASSU Executive Blog.)

New Website for Consolidated Ombuds at Georgia Tech

The Ombuds Program at Georgia Tech unveiled its new website yesterday, culminating a year-long initiative to bring align faculty, staff and graduate student Ombuds under the Office of the Provost. One unusual feature of the website is that the Ombuds provide personal, home or cell numbers. (GT Ombuds Program.)

Prior post: Georgia Tech Consolidates Ombuds Offices.

October 20, 2009

Job Posting: Georgia State University

GSU is hiring an Ombuds for students and staff that practices to IOA standards. Applicants should have a bachelor's degree and seven years of related experience or a combination of education and experience. Perhaps prematurely, the posting states that, "Certification as a mediator and/or Ombudsperson is required." (IOA certification is still many months away.) The position pays $45,886-$70,479 per year. The application period is just five days long and closes Friday, October 23, 2009. (GSU Jobs, vacancy no. 0601150; via HigherEdJobs.)

The search will fill the vacancy left by Donna Douglass Williams, who moved to Switzerland this summer to become the World Health Organization Ombuds. Williams served as the Student/Staff Ombuds position since January 1999 and also was the Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinator for GSU. She was active professionally with UCOA and IOA, and co-organized the 2005 UCOA conference in Atlanta. Her position is being filled on an interim basis by Kelley Alexander. (
GSU Ombuds Office; UCOA 2005 Conf.; GSU HR Advisory Cmte. Minutes 7/16/09; LinkedIn.)

University of Memphis to Name Faculty Ombuds

The Faculty Senate for the public research university in Tennessee rejected calls for external candidates and opted instead to conduct an internal search. Applications for the next Faculty Ombuds are currently being reviewed. (Memphis Commercial Appeal; UM Position Announcement; UM Faculty Affairs Cmte. Min. 12/3/07.)

"Multipartiality" a Key Principle for Oberlin Ombuds

In an updated website, the Oberlin College Ombuds Office states it follows the principles of confidentiality, independence, and “multipartiality” in all its dealings. Multipartiality thus replaces the IOA principles of neutrality and independence adopted by Organizational Ombuds. The Oberlin website explains:
The ombudsperson does not act as an advocate for any side in a dispute, but strives to consider and fairly present all sides of a situation. The goal of multipartiality is to give all participants the means and opportunity to tell their stories. (Oberlin Ombuds Principles.)

The decision to be multipartial is consistent with IOA standards, but implies a more proactive role for an Ombuds than neutrality and independence. For some, multipartiality may be a more apt description for the Ombuds role. What do you think?

October 19, 2009

Ombuds of Texas to Install Officers

At their next meeting on November 18, the Ombuds of Texas will appoint volunteer officers pursuant to the recently enacted Memorandum of Operations. The group will also hear from diversity consultant Jeremy Solomons on the many aspects of culture that divide our society and Ombuds Ralph Williams from the Lower Colorado River Authority. Beverly Reeves will also provide an update on the USOA conference. (OOT Meeting Agenda & Calendar.)

Prior post: Texas Ombuds to Consider Governance Issues.

University of Guanajuato Ombuds to Speak at University of West Virginia

Professor Patricia Begné, head of the Ombudsman Office at the University of Guanajuato since 2007, will participate in a panel discussion on social and gender issues in Mexico at the West Virginia University College of Law on Thursday, October 22. (WVU Today.)

October 18, 2009

Job Posting: Kaiser Permanente Oakland

Kaiser is accepting applications for a full-time HealthCare Ombudsman/Mediator in its administrative office in Oakland, California. Extensive clinical health care experience (10+ years) and Ombuds training or experience is desired. No closing date or salary indicated, which is typical for Kaiser postings. (KP Careers, Job ID: OA.0900643.)

October 16, 2009

Update: UCAR Trustees Implement Ombuds Program

On October 12, 2009, the Board of Trustees for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research approved the establishment of an Ombuds Office for employees and visitors. Just days later, a fully realized Ombuds program was unveiled. The UCAR Ombuds Office will operate pursuant to a charter that specifies compliance with the IOA Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. Wendy Schreiber-Abshire and Richard Valent were appointed to serve as UCAR’s first Ombuds. Abshire has worked at UCAR for over 25 years, including stints in radar meteorology research and field projects. Valent has worked for nearly 40 years in math software support with the UCAR-affiliated National Center for Atmospheric Research. (UCAR Ombuds Office.)

Prior post: University Corporation for Atmospheric Research to Consider Ombuds Program.

October 15, 2009

Job Posting: University of Florida

The large public university in Gainesville is conducting a search for an Ombuds to be appointed by January 1, 2010. The position reports directly to the Provost and serves the student body of 50,000. A master's degree in an appropriate field or a bachelor's degree and two years of appropriate experience are required. A graduate or professional degree with five years of university experience is preferred. The position will pay $50,000 to $75,000 based on qualifications and experience. Applications are being considered on a rolling basis. For optimal consideration please submit materials by October 26, 2009. (UFL Jobs, req. no. 0803121, via HigherEdJobs; UFL Search Committee.)

Tommie C. Howard has served as the UFL Ombuds since he was promoted from Assistant Ombuds in 2000. Howard has been active in IOA and most recently served on 2007-08 Conference Oversight Committee. (Internet Archive for UFL Ombuds Office; IOA Annual Report 2008.)

October 14, 2009

Provincial Ombuds Offer Insights as Guest Bloggers

Slaw, a Canadian legal blog, will feature five provincial Ombuds as guest bloggers to mark Good Governance Week. Kim Carter, Ombuds for the Province of British Columbia, posted first on “Administrative Justice in British Columbia – The Road Less Travelled.” Carter explains that, “In the arena of administrative justice, the ombudsman’s office is a sort of ‘soft-power’ alternative to the ‘hard-power’ of the legal system.” Posts from the Ombuds for Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland & Labrador, and Saskatchewan will follow. (Slaw.)

Related posts: University of Victoria Ombuds Office Marks 30 Years; Statute Changes BC "Ombudsman" Into "Ombudsperson".

Utah Valley University Ombuds Works to Resolve Student Housing Issues

Ashley Robertson, the UVU Ombuds is often called upon to assist students with an assortment of issues arising out of unresponsive housing management. “It is important for students to know their rights and to read through their contract thoroughly, and if they think the apartment complex isn’t holding up their end of the bargain they need to be assertive,” she said. (UVU Review.)

Related post: Utah Valley University Introduces Student Ombuds.

October 12, 2009

Activists Seek Ombuds for Cleveland Neighborhood Redevelopment Authority

Two community leaders have proposed amendments that would require the Tremont West Development Corp. to implement an Organizational Ombuds program. TWDC is a nonprofit citizens' group that aims to revitalize Tremont, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. The organization has found itself at the center of tensions between developers and residents. Several community activists (including a member of the TWDC Bylaws Committee) have called on the nonprofit to create an elected Ombudsman who would report to the board of directors and practice to IOA standards. A vote on the proposal has not be scheduled. (Claude Cornett's Blog; Cleveland Scene; TWDC Bylaws Committee.)

Ombuds Offices to Celebrate Fourth Annual Conflict Resolution Day

At least two Ombuds offices will be marking the 2009 event intended to promote the use of conflict resolution. The Office of the Ombuds at Gallaudet University will host a student panel on critical conflicts and effective resolution strategies. The Office of the Graduate Student Ombudsperson at Virginia Tech notes the annual event as part of the campus-wide Conflict Resolution Program. (Conflict Resolution Day Website; Gallaudet Headlines; VT Conflict Resolution Workshops.)

Let me know if there are others.

October 11, 2009

Externship: Financial Industry Regulatory Authority

FINRA is seeking externs for its Washington, DC office. Ombuds externs will assist staff in investigating issues and writing reports, and will have the opportunity to observe interviews, and settlement negotiations. Applicants must be in a graduate program. Knowledge of the securities industry is preferred, but not required. The position is unpaid and requires at least 15 hrs per week for Spring or Fall term. Applicants for Summer should be able to work up to 35 hours per week. (FINRA Careers.)

Related posts: SEC Affirms Role of NASD Ombuds; Job Posting: FINRA; DC Area Ombuds Internships.

George Mason University Ombuds Reports Second Year of Increased Visitor Demand

During the 2008‐2009 academic year, GMU Ombuds Dolores Gomez-Moran handled 160 cases, which reflected a 21% increase from the previous year, and a 54% increase from two years ago. The GMU Ombuds Office continued to see a wide range of issues. For example, student concerns about professors was a top concern, but just 12% of the total cases. The report also showed strong demand for Ombuds assistance with non-academic issues--a service Gomez-Moran added in 2007. (GMU Ombuds 2008-09 Report.)

Related post: Profile of George Mason University Ombuds.

University of Iowa Ombuds Says Professors are Being Overloaded

The UI campus newspaper says that the current financial crisis is forcing faculty to increase their teaching load and cut back on research. UI Ombuds Lois Cox told The Daily Iowan that she has seen this balance threatened as classes grow and the number of teachers shrink — meaning professors must teach more classes with more students. Cox said ideally, faculty should devote 40 percent of their time to teaching, 40 percent to service on UI and national committees, and 20 percent to research in their field. Susan Johnson, the UI associate provost for faculty, said the administration is watching the issue closely. (Daily Iowan.)

October 09, 2009

IOA Unveils Certification Program for Organizational Ombuds

The International Ombudsman Association has launched a new website with details about the Board of Certification and the CO-OP (Certified Organizational Ombudsman Practitioner) designation. The Board of Certification will, “promote, examine and maintain standards for the advancement of organizational ombudsmanry. It does so by identifying--for organizational ombudsman practitioners, their organizations, and the public--those organizational ombudsmen who have voluntarily sought and obtained certification.” The new website outlines the certification process, explains board and certification policies, summarizes the development of the examination, and identifies the board members. The first exam will be administered November 30 through December 5, 2009 at computer test centers. (CO-OP Board of Certification.)

Ombuds a Resource for Students Accused of Plagiarism

An article in Macleans explains that plagiarism is easy to commit, easy to detect, and carries serious consequences for college students. “Usually it’s because they are not aware of correct citation practices so they don’t include quotation marks, they don’t cite their sources correctly,” says University of Western Ontario Ombuds Adrienne Clarke. The article recommends that students accused of plagiarism contact their university Ombuds office for help. (Macleans OnCampus.)

Related posts: British Classical Ombudsman Reports Spike in University Complaints (Including Plagiarism); University of Western Ontario Agrees to Changes Suggested by Ombuds; University of Western Ontario Posts Annual Report.

October 08, 2009

IOA Revises Board Balloting, Calls for Nominations

The International Ombudsman Association has announced two significant revisions to the process for electing directors. The first change concerns the timing of the election. The voting deadline has been advanced from late February to mid-December, thus separating the elections process from membership renewal. IOA members will now be able to vote based on their past year membership status. The second change increases the substantive information about the candidates. In prior years, candidates were limited to a short personal statement and the name of their employer. Now, candidates will have the opportunity to provide a more substantive statement. Other restrictions on eligibility are unchanged. Nominations from the IOA membership are due by October 26, 2009.

Related post: Balloting Begins for IOA Board (2007); Slate for 2009 IOA Board Election.

Coaching Visitors to Handle Deception

The Harvard Program on Negotiation Blog offers some tips that may be useful to visitors attempting to negotiate their own resolution. Maurice Schweitzer, associate professor at the Wharton School, points out that individuals in negotiations must make decisions based on incomplete information. Furthermore, the use of deception is common in negotiation—and, unfortunately, most people are poor lie detectors. Schweitzer offers two tips if you are afraid of being hoodwinked:
  • Square verbal and nonverbal cues. Whenever possible, meet with your negotiating counterpart in person so that you can take in both her verbal and her nonverbal behavior—and any discrepancies between the two.
  • Ask lots of questions. By asking many questions during a negotiation, you can increase the “cognitive load” of a possibly deceptive counterpart and increase your odds of exposing the truth.
These tips are generally consistent with the kind of coaching offered by Ombuds, but it's good to have advice for this specific concern. (Harvard PON Blog.)

October 07, 2009

NHL Ombuds Under Scrutiny for Role in Firing of Director

Reports out of the National Hockey League reveal that players are concerned about the recent ouster of Paul Kelly, the Player's Association Executive Director, and the role of the Ombuds. Kelly was fired August 31, 2009 after the NHLPA Executive Board heard criticism from several sources, including interim Ombuds Buzz Hargrove. Since then, it has been revealed that Hargrove reviewed private emails between Kelly and a player, allegedly a violation of the union's rules. In his defense, Hargrove said that the emails were provided by a union employee as evidence of Kelly's misconduct. Moreover, Hargrove explained that reading the emails were an appropriate part of his investigation as the Ombuds. Nonetheless, media outlets are speculating that Hargrove will be asked to resign soon. (Boston Globe-Bruins Blog; Toronto Globe and Mail; Toronto Star; The Hockey News.)

Prior post: Hockey Players Oust Director With Input From Ombuds.

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research to Consider Ombuds Program

Trustees for the nonprofit university consortium will take up the creation of an Ombuds program at its next meeting on October 12. According to the agenda for the meeting, UCAR trustees will be asked to approve an Ombuds Charter and nominees to fill the position. The organization began considering an Ombuds program as early as 1999, but there has been little progress until recently. Further details regarding the proposed program have not been made public. UCAR manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research and related programs for the geosciences community and has a total staff of about 1,500. (UCAR Board of Trustees Agenda, Oct. 12-13, 2009; UCAR Staff Announcement, 11/11/99.)

October 06, 2009

UN Ombuds Program Relocates

At yesterday's press briefing, a United Nations spokesperson announced that 45 UN Ombudsman and Mediation Services staff moved from the Secretariat Building to 380 Madison Avenue. The UN occupies 600,000 square feet in the commercial office tower and has been using the location to relocate staff during the seven-year, billion dollar renovation of the iconic Secretariat Building. (UN Noon Briefing Highlights; ISRIA.)

Statute Changes BC "Ombudsman" Into "Ombudsperson"

The provincial Ombudsman for British Columbia will become the Ombudsperson under a new law introduced by the BC legislature. "This name change is about better reflecting the era in which we live," said Attorney General Michael de Jong, who introduced Bill 12 amending the Ombudsman Act. "Societal norms have evolved since this office was first established in 1979. Workplace diversity has come a long way, and this change reflects our sensitivity to the names of public offices." The bill changes only the name and does not otherwise affect the mandate of the BC Ombudsperson to oversee the administrative actions of government authorities. (BC Ombudsman Amendment Act, 2009 (first reading); Victoria Times Colonist; CTV News.)

Related posts: Linguist Finds "Ombuds" Usage Shifting Slowly; Former ESPN Ombuds Explains Why She Was Not an “Ombudswoman”.

Dealing with Unreasonable Complainants

The Forum of Canadian Ombudsmen is sponsoring a workshop on "unreasonable" complainant behavior -- a situation faced by all types of Ombuds. Chris Wheeler, Deputy Ombudsman for New South Wales, Australia will cover topics including:
  • What is (and what isn't) unreasonable complainant conduct? - definitions and categories;
  • What leads complainants to act unreasonably? - motivations and triggers;
  • How to determine whether conduct is unreasonable - what are the criteria?;
  • General strategies (and some particular techniques) you can use to prevent and manage unreasonable conduct;
  • When you should apply those strategies; and
  • What are the responsibilities of agencies and staff to prevent and manage unreasonable conduct.
The one-day workshop will be offered in four cities across Canada, but due to strong demand, there is space remaining only for the session in Victoria. Please note, tthat the language of instruction for this course is English. (FCO Announcement.)

October 02, 2009

Grad Students are Significant Number of Visitors to McGill Ombuds

McGill University Ombuds Spencer Boudreau said that 40% of the visitors to his office last year were graduate students. This is significant because grads comprise roughly one-fifth of McGill's population. Boudreau, who based his report on data collected before his appointment last month, explained the imbalance as an effect of the highly intense nature of graduate students’ worries about supervision. “If something goes wrong during your graduate degree, the stakes are so high,” Boudreau said. He was unable to comment on the trend of concerned grads. The full Ombuds report has not been posted yet. (McGill Daily.)

Related post: McGill Names New Ombuds for Students.

October 01, 2009

Job Posting: Office of Thrift Supervision

The agency that regulates federal thrifts and savings & loan associations is seeking a new Ombudsman. The G-25 position reports to the Acting Director of OTS in Washington, but may also may be one of three regional offices. The base salary range $96,659 to $188,098, plus a geographic salary differential. Applications are due by October 21, 2009. (FederalGovernmentJobs.com, vacancy no. 2009-0037.) This is not a purely Organizational Ombuds position as the OTS Ombuds is also responsible for handling formal appeals from the thrift industry.

Related posts: Office of Thrift Supervision Appoints Ombuds; Office of Thrift Supervision Ombuds Hiring Scores of Special Assistants; Job Posting (Assistant Ombuds).