October 21, 2015

Ombuds at University of Pennsylvania Publishes 2015 Report

University Ombudsman Lynn Hollen Lees reports that her office served 137 visitors during the 2014-15 academic year--nearly half of whom were staff. In addition to the usual analysis of visitor demographics and issues, Lees also provides an interesting review of the cases that have come to the UPenn Ombuds over the past 20 years.
She writes:
When the concerns brought to our office during the last three years are compared to those of the early 1990s, several changes can be identified. Most striking is the large increase in complaints about the inappropriate behavior of others. Protests about bullying or other forms of abusive treatment in the workplace have been brought by employees who feel aggrieved, and who either are unwilling to raise these issues with a supervisor or feel that their complaints have not been heard. Angry comments can tear apart the web of human relationships that supports the functioning of academic departments, business units, classes and research projects. Although conflict is inevitable in human relationships, it is escalated when the expectation of civility is violated. In contrast, the proportion of cases relating to University procedures, as well as their absolute number, has decreased, as have cases concerning promotion and pay. The existence of appeals procedures in the various schools and the Human Resources Division should help to explain the decline in this set of complaints. We hope that these changes reflect improved administrative practices.
Very few cases of alleged discrimination or sexual harassment have been brought to our office in the last several years. This can be explained in several ways, and one possible hypothesis is that the University over the years has created or expanded alternative services that promise a greater degree of confidentiality to those who feel victimized. Our office continues to explore ways to expand the blanket of confidentiality we can offer those involved in these episodes, including the alleged victim, the accused, bystanders, friends and anyone else who may be affected, either directly or indirectly, by the events.
Other university Ombuds are certain to find these observations interesting.  (UPenn Ombuds 2015 Report.)

Related posts: University of Pennsylvania Ombuds Issues Annual ReportUniversity of Pennsylvania Ombuds Recommends Program Update; University of Pennsylvania Ombuds Posts Annual Report, Reiterates Need for Changes to ProgramUPenn Ombuds Publishes 2013 Annual Report; UPenn Announces New Ombuds.

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