October 09, 2019

Cases Tick Up for University of Pennsylvania Ombuds in 2018-19

In their latest annual report, UPenn Ombuds Lynn Hollen Lees and Associate Ombuds Marcia Martínez-Helfman, said their Office of Ombuds handled 5.5% more cases in 2018-19 compared to the prior year. University staff accounted for the largest proportion of visitors (43%), followed by faculty (24%) and graduate and professional students (19%)—proportions have remained roughly stable for the last several years.

In addition to visitor data, Lees and Martínez-Helfman surface some unique trends:
A few patterns deserve special attention. Many visitors complained about a toxic or hostile work environment, which they did not know how to handle. Employees reported what they felt to be unjust or unequal assignments and a lack of respectful treatment when they raised concerns. Channels of communication within an office or a department sometimes break down and make resolution difficult. Greater attention should be paid to maintaining consistency and clarity of messages and transparency of procedures in both academic and work settings. Inappropriate or unsympathetic methods of delivering a negative message can make challenging situations worse. Times of transition, such as when employees are leaving Penn for various reasons (resignation, retirement, etc.), can be particularly hard to navigate.
The report was published in the university's newsletter. (UPenn Almanac.)

Related posts: Profile of University of Pennsylvania Ombuds; Ombuds at University of Pennsylvania Now a Confidential Resource for Title IX; Ombuds at University of Pennsylvania Reports Caseload Increase in 2015; University of Pennsylvania Ombuds Notes Rise of Disrespectful Treatment in 2017 Annual Report.

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