February 28, 2013

Sexual Assault Report from University of Michigan Reaffirms Ombuds' Confidentiality

The 2011-12 annual report from the UM Office of Student Conflict Resolution outlines how the university helps students manage and resolve conflict. The report notes that one of the most significant recent events has been a shift in the procedure for responding to reports of student sexual misconduct as prompted by the the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights “Dear Colleague Letter.” In spite of the procedural changes, the University reiterated that confidential assistance is available from the Office of the Ombuds and University Faculty Ombuds.

South East European University Opens Ombuds Office

The first private-public not for profit university in Macedonia has created an Ombuds program for students. According to a new webpage for the office, "The Ombudsman/woman is independent, impartial, confidential and fair." However, the site does not identify who fills the position.

February 27, 2013

FCO and ACCUO Post Agenda for 2013 Conference in Halifax

The joint conference of the Forum of Canadian Ombudsman and the Association of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons is entitled "The Ombuds Office in Canada Today: Learning and Working Together" and will take place June 9-12, 2013 at the Westin Nova Scotian in Halifax, NS.  The event will include annual general meetings for FCO and ACCUO and pre-conference training programs.  Organizers have posted a draft agenda:

Harvard Symposium Honors Legacy of Roger Fisher

This year’s Harvard Negotiation Law Review’s Annual Symposium, “Ideas and Impact: Roger Fisher’s Legacy,” will take place on Saturday, March 2, 2013.  Fisher’s work is fundamental to the field of alternative dispute resolution, including the work of Organizational Ombuds.

February 26, 2013

Coalition of Federal Ombuds Completes Minutes for 2012

CoFO has posted minutes from its meetings in September, November, and December 2012.  (The annual conference planned for October was cancelled due to Hurricaine Sandy.)  These minutes summarize discussions on many practice issues and provide insights into the operation of several Federal Ombuds programs.

ACR Call for Submissions: Organizational Dispute Resolution

The Conflict Resolution Quarterly is seeking articles before June 1, 2013 for a colloquy edition on organizational dispute resolution, including the work of Ombuds.  Articles may focus on any aspect of the conflict resolution process or context, but a primary focus is the behavior, role and impact of third parties in effectively handling conflict at all levels, from the interpersonal to the international. All theoretical and methodological orientations are welcome. 

February 25, 2013

Internship Opportunity: American Red Cross

The Red Cross Office of the Corporate Ombudsman in Washington, DC is accepting applications for a full-time summer internship. The opportunity is open to graduate students working towards a degree in Conflict Resolution or related field (law students are also eligible). 

Minnesota Department of Transportation Posts Ombuds Report

According to an annual report published in November 2012, the the MnDOT Ombudsman’s Office has handled more than 350 issues in its first three years of operation. Created in 2008, the office serves both the public and department, "helping to ensure both sides are heard and creative problem-solving takes place when traditional methods are unsuccessful." The report sets out six performance measures that other Ombuds programs may also find relevant:

University of North Carolina at Charlotte Opens Search for Faculty Ombuds

UNCC is seeking internal nominations for the combined Position of Faculty Ombuds and University Mediation Coordinator. The part-time, three-year renewable appointment is open only to senior and tenured members of the UNCC faculty. Bruce Auerbach has served as the first Faculty Ombuds the position was established in the Spring of 2012. (UNCC Provost News.)

February 22, 2013

Baker Hughes Unveils Ombuds Website

Like most corporate Ombuds programs, the new Baker Hughes "o3" website is firewalled and accessible only to employees.  However, the office has published some information as part of the company's demonstration of corporate social responsibility.  The new webpage describes the office as follows:

Federal FOIA Ombuds Find Parallels With Organizational Ombuds

The U.S. Office of Government Information Services serves as an Ombudsman for the public and the government with concerns related to the Freedom of Information Act. OGIS staff recently attended a presentation by the Interagency Alternative Dispute Resolution Working Group on “How an Ombuds Office Serving Employees, Customers, and Citizens Can Bring Greater Success to Your Agency.”

Job Posting: Kaiser Permanente Modesto

KP is hiring a full-time Health Care Ombuds/Mediator for its medical center in Modesto, California. The Kaiser HCOM, "functions as a trained alternative dispute professional offering patients, family members, staff & providers a conflict management program to resolve patient/provider healthcare disputes early thereby improving patient safety & reducing the costs of health care dispute resolution."

February 21, 2013

IOA Posts 2013 Conference Agenda, Opens Registration

Registration is now open for the Eighth Annual Conference of the International Ombudsman Association, April 19-24, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency in Miami, Florida. Special pricing is being offered for attendees who also register for a pre-conference professional development course. Priority registration closes on April 1.  

Here's an overview of the conference sessions:

University of Michigan Opens Search for Faculty Ombuds

UM is seeking its next Faculty Ombuds.  The part-time position provides "ombuds services to University faculty from across the University and facilitate the resolution of faculty problems and complaints with respect to policy administration or conflict resolution." The search is limited to current tenured or emeriti faculty members, and will close March 8.  Michael Welch, a professor in the medical school has served in the role since 2007.  (UM Careers.)

February 20, 2013

Iowa State University Posts Video of Ombuds

ISU Extension has uploaded a video of Ombuds Officer Elaine Newell introducing herself at a new staff orientation. Newell noted that she has completed exactly four years of service in the role.  She summarizes her background (from party chef to litigation attorney) and explains how the Ombuds Office is differs from other resources on the campus.  She starts by stressing the independence of her role. (ISU Extension Vimeo.)

Northern Illinois University Reviews Ombuds Office

The NIU University Affairs Committee has announced its annual review of its Ombudsperson, Sarah Klaper. The review is required by the University's bylaws, which state: "Early in the spring semester of the first and second year of the Ombudsperson's term, the University Affairs Committee of the University Council will evaluate the performance of the Ombudsperson." All NIU students, faculty and staff have been invited to provide information and comments about Klaper’s performance since she was appointed last summer. (NIU Today; NIU Bylaws.)

February 19, 2013

NCAA President Suggests Role for Ombuds

On Monday, the National Collegiate Athletic Association released a report summarizing its mishandling of an investigation involving the University of Miami in 2011. The report found that NCAA enforcement staff acted contrary to internal protocols, legal counsel and the membership’s understanding about the limits of its investigative powers. At a press conference about the report, NCAA President Mark Emmert mentioned the possibility of internal changes at the organization including the possibility of a "third-party ombudsman." Later, Emmert admitted he is not sure how that would work though he acknowledged an Ombuds would need some power. (NCAA News; Sports Illustrated; AP.) 

First American Express Ombuds Named Provost of Spring Arbor University

Kimberly Rupert, who was the first Ombudsperson at American Express in 1993, has been appointed Provost and Chief Academic Officer of the small, Christian university in Michigan. She earned special thanks in publications by Charles Howard (The Ombudsman Confidentiality Priledge: Theory and Mechanics, 1996) and by Mary Rowe (Options Functions and Skills: What an Organizational Ombudsperson Might Want to Know, 1995). SAU has about 3,000 undergraduate students and does not currently have an Ombuds Office. (SAU Pulse.)

February 17, 2013

Texas Legislature Quickly Sets Hearing on Ombuds Shield Law

On Monday, February 18, 2013, the 83rd Texas Legislature will hold a public hearing on a strong Ombuds shield law.  State Bill 399 would ensure, for the first time, that communications with an Organizational Ombuds are confidential.  The bill was read by the Texas Senate for the first time last Wednesday and quickly referred for a first hearing--progress that is markedly faster than the last time a similar bill was considered four years ago.

February 15, 2013

University of South Florida Ombuds Retires and Office Closes

USF Student Ombudsman Samuel Wright, who has worked at the university for 27 years, retired this week. Les Miller, who directed the office, said that Wright, "many, many times above and beyond the call of duty." Miller said, "When they came in his office, he treated those students like they were his own kids." With the departure of Wright, office will close. (Tampa Bay Times.)

Trustees Knock Eastern Michigan University President for Failing to Review Ombuds Function

In a performance review, EMU regents said president Susan Martin failed to meet expectations in several respect, including a request to evaluate the university's Ombuds program.  However, it was not clear why the Ombuds program was called into question.

Palo Alto Schools Consider Implementing Ombuds

Late last year, the Palo Alto Unified School District in California entered into a settlement with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights after an investigation found that the district mishandled complaints about a middle school special needs student being bullied. In response to the report, the PAUSD Community Advisory Committee on Special Education called on the district to consider hiring an "ombudsperson or parent liaison" to deal with harassment issues or consider using voluntary mediation services. 

February 14, 2013

University of Vermont College of Medicine Appoints First Ombuds

The seventh oldest American medical school is the latest to create an Ombuds Office. Sally Bliss reports to the College's Dean and will serve as the Ombudsperson for students, residents and fellows. She is also expected to work closely with the College's Learning Environment and Professionalism Committee.

Editorial Backs Ombuds for Yale

An editorial in today's Yale Daily News takes University President Richard C. Levin to task for refusing to consider an Ombuds. Staff writer Yishai Schwartz says, "The administration should never have ignored the Marshall Committee’s recommendation for the creation of a University-wide ombudsman, and Yale should reconsider its decision immediately." The editorial debunks Levin's stated opposition and offers several reasons why a Yale should follow the lead of other Ivies.

Revisiting the Issue of 'Fairness'

Earlier this month, I updated my definition of "Organizational Ombuds.'  The post generated some feedback, but has now rolled off the front page.  I thought I would repost it to spur additional comments.  Here's a recap:

University of Oregon Commits to Ombuds Program

In an address to the UO Faculty Senate yesterday, President Michael Gottfredson said that he will appoint an Ombuds for the University. last year, an ad hoc committee on respectful workplace policies and practices recommended an Ombuds. Here is the complete text of Gottfredson's remarks.

February 13, 2013

Job Posting: Auburn University

The public university in Alabama is hiring an Organizational Ombudsperson for faculty, staff, and students. Reporting to Auburn's President, the Ombuds provides independent, confidential, impartial and informal assistance to a community of about 28,000. The Auburn Ombuds Office was established by Jim Wohl in 2008.

Alabama A&M University Unveils Student Ombuds Office

The historically black university in Normal, Alabama has appointed Leatha M. Bennett to serve as its first Academic Student Ombudsman and Advocate. Despite the name, the position serves as, "an impartial, independent, confidential, safe and informal dispute" resource for 4,500 undergraduate students and the university community. Bennett, who previously served as the Director of the Office of Retention and Academic Support, has worked at the university for over 11 years.

February 12, 2013

Boise State Opens Internal Search for Faculty Ombuds

The public university in Idaho is recruiting a tenured faculty member to serve a two-year term as Ombuds. The 35%-time position works with individual with complaints and concerns regarding or affecting the university's faculty. The position reports to the provost and practices to IOA standards.  The prior Ombuds was Lynda Ransdell, who recently became a dean at Montana State University’s College of Education. Applications are due by March 8, 2013. (Boise State Careers; News.)

Northeastern Junior College's Ombuds Profiled

Jason Sauls, who became Northeastern Junior College's new part-time Ombudsman last month, is profiled in the local newspaper. Sauls had no prior relationship with the two-year college and works at Sterling Correctional Facility. He explains that he fell into the position after initially applying for a tutoring position. Since he started about a month ago, he has worked with 14 students.

February 11, 2013

Job Posting: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The U.S. lab dedicated to renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development in Golden, Colorado is hiring an Ombudsman. The position provides NREL staff withe conflict management assistance and education, coaching, and other workplace guidance. The search will fill a position that has been vacant since the retirement of Carolyn Noorbakhsh in 2011.

Ombuds of Texas Sets First Meeting of 2013

The next meeting of the Texas Ombuds will is set for February 13, 2013 in Houston. Joel Schwartz, the Chief Ombudsman for the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office, will talk about “unreasonable complainant conduct” — what it is, what it isn’t, how to recognize it, and what to do about it.

February 08, 2013

Job Posting: Texas Department of Public Safety

The agency responsible for law enforcement and vehicle regulation in Texas is hiring a Deputy Ombudsman.  Based in Austin, the supervisory position performs advanced mediation work for the Office of the Ombudsman, working with individuals and groups in the agency to explore and assist in determining options to help resolved conflicts and bringing systemic concerns to the attention of executive management. 

IOA Conference Session Aims to Attract Ombuds Support Staff

At the International Ombudsman Association's Eighth Annual Conference in Miami, Florida, April 21-24 2013, most session are intended for practicing and aspiring Ombuds.  One concurrent session stands out.  “Who’s Out Front: Skills for the Ombuds Assistant,” scheduled for Tuesday, April 23 at 1:30 p.m. is for those who assist the Ombuds and for Ombuds officers. 

University of Colorado Ombuds Talks About Workplace Bullying

A video recently posted to YouTube captures Tom Sebok's presentation at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth for National Conflict Resolution Day on October 18, 2012.  Sebok is the University Ombudsperson for the University of Colorado at Boulder.  The focus of his talk is "Bullying in the Workplace" and he engages the audience in a discussion about how bullying and mobbing are defined and addressed.

February 07, 2013

Internship Opportunity: Office of the Secretary of the Interior

The Department of the Interior is seeking students to work in the Office of the Secretary, Assistant Secretary for Policy Management and Budget, Office of Collaborative & Alternative Dispute Resolution. The paid positions in Arlington, VA last three months. Duties may include serving as a coach, facilitator or mediator; promoting organization-wide change toward a more conflict-healthy culture; developing evaluation tools and protocols; and preparing training materials.

Metropolitan State University of Denver Names First Ombuds

The public university in downtown Denver has announced that G. Michael Kilpatrick will be the Director of its newly established Ombuds Office.  “Michael Kilpatrick is a seasoned ombuds officer who has built ombuds offices from the ground up as well as led small and large offices throughout his career,” said Myron Anderson, Associate to the President for Diversity, who will oversee the office. Kilpatrick will begin work on March 1. 

February 01, 2013

Expelled Grad Students Sue University of Toronto and Ombuds

An appellate court in Ontario has allowed a lawsuit filed by a married couple expelled from the University of Toronto to proceed. The doctoral students allege that the university failed to accommodate their request for a leave of absence when they left the country to care for an ill relative in Iran. The suit seeks $80 million in damages and names several individual defendants including U of T's Ombudsman, Joan Foley.

UC Santa Barbara Ombuds to Host Colloquium on Bullying in Higher Ed

The Office of the Ombuds at the University of California, Santa Barbara is presenting the "First Annual Colloquium on Abrasive Conduct in the Academy" on July 21-23, 2013. The academic seminar seeks answers to the question: "What prevents us from solving the problem of workplace bullying in higher education?" The program is intended for higher education administrators, human resource professionals, Ombudspersons, labor representatives, legal counsel, and others, including interested faculty and researchers.

Faculty Ombuds Texas A&M Gets Promoted Out

Faculty Ombuds and professor of biology and genetics, Michael J. Benedik has been appointed Dean of Faculties and Associate Provost at Texas A&M University. Benedik has served as the Ombuds since 2009. This is the second time that TAMU's Faculty Ombuds has been promoted to Dean of Faculties and Associate Provost--Benedik 's predecessor, Antonio Cepeda-Benito, followed the same path.  A replacement has not been named. (TAMU Times.)

Editorial Note: Revised Definition of 'Organizational Ombuds'

At the 2013 Cal Caucus, Martine Conway, the Ombudsperson at the University of Victoria, sparked an insightful conversation about the differences between Canadian and U.S. Ombuds.  She highlighted the language that practitioners use to define themselves and referenced the definition on this blog as an example.  I realized that my definition, which was based on the IOA Standards of Practice, was incomplete.  ACCUO's Standards of Practice enunciate additional tenets that I also support.  I have therefore added some additional language to my definition of an Organizational Ombuds to include the concepts of accessibility and fairness.