June 27, 2017

FCO Elects 2017-19 Board

At a general meeting held during its biennial conference last month, the Forum of Canadian Ombudsman elected new board members for two-year terms.  Johanne Savard, the Ombudsman for the City of Montreal, will serve as the Board Chair.

June 23, 2017

CBA Magazine: Does Your Law Office Need an Ombuds?

The latest issue of official periodical of the Canadian Bar Association, National, features an article explaining why law firms need an Ombuds. The bottom line: "Having an ombudsperson is a signal to lawyers and staff that conflict resolution is a priority." This is particularly important in hierarchical organizations where individuals are not conflict averse.

June 22, 2017

Yeworkwha Belachew: Former Oberlin College Ombuds

Oberlin's founding Ombuds and Director of the campus dispute resolution and restorative justice center, Yeworkwha ("YB") Belachew passed away this week after a long illness.  

June 21, 2017

Holder Report Suggests Ombuds for Uber

In his report to the Uber Board of Directors last week, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recommended the creation of an Ombuds program to improve internal control mechanisms.  The board subsequently adopted all of the recommendations contained in the report.  There are few details about the proposed Ombuds program and there have been no further announcements from the company.  

June 20, 2017

ACGME Launches Ombuds Program

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education -- the not-for-profit that sets educational accreditation standards for US graduate medical education (residency and fellowship) programs and the institutions that sponsors them -- has established an Office of the Ombudsperson. The office offers residents and fellows, "an opportunity to report issues about residency programs and institutions without impacting their accreditation or Recognition status."

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Appoints Ombuds

The FDIC has named M. Anthony Lowe has been appointed the FDIC Ombudsman and Director of the Office of the Ombudsman, effective July 2, 2017. Lowe will be based in Chicago and replaces Cottrell Webster, who retired last year.  

June 19, 2017

International Ombudsman Association Releases 2015 Compensation Report

IOA has published the results of a survey of Ombuds compensation, including salary, bonus, and budget information.  The report is meant to supplement a survey of Ombuds practices released earlier this year.  Members of the professional association were queried in 2016 about compensation rates in 2015.  

Princeton Ombuds Launches Project to Help Women Share Their Stories

In 2014, Wokie Nwabueze, the Ombuds Officer at Princeton University, started interviewing women to collect their wisdom and share their stories.  The effort matured into the Seen & Heard Project which launched earlier this year.  In an interview with author Jennifer Brown, Nwabueze talks about the project and what she sees as the biggest challenges and obstacles for women when it comes to sharing their voice.  Nwabueze also reveals how her own experiences have shaped her ability to become more sensitive, empathetic, and observant.

June 15, 2017

Longtime Ombuds at University of Cincinnati Retires

Lillian Santa Maria, who has served as the Director of the UC Ombuds Office for 23 years, has retired.  She became the University Ombuds in 1994, shortly after the university changed the name from Ombudsman.  During her tenure, the office created several new programs, including student mediation training, and she was honored by the campus for creating a more just climate.  

Ombuds Office at Michigan State University Celebrates Half Century

MSU's Office of the University Ombudsperson is marking fifty years of continuous service. “Being the first office to reach the 50-year milestone really speaks volumes to Michigan State’s commitment to student well-being, student safety and student rights and responsibilities,” said Robert Caldwell, who serves as MSU’s fifth ombudsperson. 

June 13, 2017

Tech Strategist Suggests Ombuds as a Fix for 'Broken' HR System

Writing for Backchannel, the online magazine about the tech industry, Karen Wickre explains why 'HR is broken.' Notable failures include the treatment of Anita Hill and Ellen Pao. She writes, "The stories that have emerged show HR departments that ignore or penalize employees when they complain about harassment." The problem is worse in the tech industry because an HR department is often established long after a start up has established its culture, habits, and rituals. (Wickre was Twitter's Editorial Director and also worked for Google and Sapient.)  Her first suggestion is to create an Ombuds for employees:
This person might have a term-limited role and report directly to to the top of the chain (a C-level executive or the board) in order to inquire, investigate, and recommend fixes related to HR and executive shortcomings. If you’re wondering if this role exists in business, it does—but it’s rare enough that I had to Google it. There’s a professional group called The International Ombudsman Association, and some companies (and many universities and major news organizations) do have ombuds-people. From what I see, such roles are largely driven by either labor management or customer service needs, not internal cross-checks on cultural issues and ethical imbroglios.
But I haven’t found any instances of tech startups (or most name-brand companies) with an ombud role that’s designed to be an intermediary advocate. Instead, we’re often reliant on HR people who are stuck on the “official rules” and get (very) literal. That can be a mistake when we factor in employee disgruntlement and skepticism.
Here’s a story: I worked for a company that let an influential person go at the 11-month mark — four weeks shy of a stock option vesting date. This person, a public figure, unsurprisingly spent the next few years publicly badmouthing the company. It would have been trivial to grant him the extra month of vesting, and if he’d left with his options intact, the company’s reputation wouldn’t have taken repeated public hits. Instead, management went by The Rules, ignoring real-world repercussions. Perhaps an ombudsperson could untangle the administrivia that makes troubled departures worse than necessary. An ombudsperson could also hold execs accountable on diversity and inclusion goals. (These are often tasked to HR, which can’t realize them alone.)

June 12, 2017

Faculty Seek Ombuds Programs Across University System of Maryland

The Council of University System Faculty for the University of Maryland will resubmit its recommendation for Ombuds offices for all faculty, staff, and students. Currently, the University System of Maryland has Ombuds programs on just three of its eleven campuses: UM College Park, UM Baltimore (including the schools of nursing and dentistry), and Frostburg State University. 

June 09, 2017

Senator Wants U.S. Parks Ombuds to be More of a Resource for Sexual Harassment Matters

In response to growing complaints of sexual harassment and a lack of leadership on employee misconduct, the National Park Service implemented a range of reforms in 2016, including the creation of an Ombuds Office.  This week, Acting NPS Director gave an update to the Senate and received some credit for the new Ombuds program.  One senator, however, thought that the Ombuds' website was not explicit enough in offering services for employees with sexual harassment concerns. 

Caribbean Ombudsman Association Convenes 9th Annual Conference

The Caribbean Ombudsman Association will hold its 2017 conference in Bonaire next week.  CAROA has 15 members who are mostly Classical Ombuds.  

Here are details from a press release:

June 08, 2017

U.S. Secretary of Energy Endorses Ombuds

In a statement to Department of Energy employees last week, Secretary Rick Perry gave his full support for workplace ADR programs and the DOE Office of the Ombudsman.  Perry said that he, "expect[s] all employees, including managers, to incorporate alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques in daily interactions so that workplace conflicts do not escalate and become destructive." Rita Franklin been the DOE Ombuds since the role was established in 2012.

MIT Adds an Experienced Ombuds

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has named Nick Diehl to fill the position held by Toni Robinson since 1998. Robinson will retire later this summer and makes up half of the MIT Ombuds with Judi Segall

June 07, 2017

Job Posting: Asian Development Bank

The regional development bank headquartered in Manila is hiring its next Ombudsperson. The position reports to the ADB President and functions as an informal grievance resource for all staff members with work place concerns.  The appointment is for a three-year term and may be renewed once. Nick Diehl has served in the position since late 2013 and Angelica ("Gigi") Alejandro is the Programs Officer. 

A Virtual Tour of the Ombuds Office at University of Calgary

UCalgary Ombuds, Kevin Wiens, has raised the bar with a 360° tour of his office.  The short is intended to introduce the Board of Governors to the office.  It was shot in one take.  (YouTube.)

June 02, 2017

Job Posting: African Development Bank Group

The multilateral development finance institution based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire has opened a search for its next Ombuds. The AfDB Office of Ombudsman and Mediator is a designated neutral responsible for impartial, confidential, independent and informal assistance in all staff grievances and complaints related to work place issues.  Amabel Orraca-Ndiaye served in the position from 2009 through 2015.

June 01, 2017

Harvard Students Provide Consulting Services to Two Different Ombuds Programs

Gradaute students with the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program completed clinical projects in the Fall 2016 term that involved Ombuds offices.  

Authors Summarize ACUS Report on Ombuds

In December 2016, the Administrative Conference of the U.S. concluded a year-long review and adopted updated recommendations for Federal Ombuds.  Two of the authors of the report, "The Use of Ombuds in Federal Agencies," Carole Houk and Lauren Marx, have written their own summary.