In 2020, Ombuds were challenged by the health care crises triggered by the coronavirus pandemic and the growing awareness of systemic racism and inequities. While these two problems were most profound in the U.S., they were certainly felt in other countries as well. On top of these issues, three Ombuds programs were dragged into the spotlight during conflicts within their organizations.
December 31, 2020
December 29, 2020
2020 Year in Review: Signs of Hope
For every Ombuds I know, 2020 was challenging and chaotic year, both personally and professionally. No doubt, people will be telling their stories of loss and survival in the years to come. Nonetheless, there were several positive trends in the field that portend good things for the future of the field.
December 28, 2020
2020 Year in Review: Transitions
This annual summary of the most important stories about Organizational Ombuds news comes in three parts. It starts with a review of people who retired and passed away, and a recap of new and closed programs. Tomorrow, the first part of the top stories.
December 27, 2020
New BIPOC Writers Collective Will Start With an Ombuds
PERIPLUS is a mentorship collective for American Black, Indigenous, and People of Color writers that launches in January 2021. As part of its startup activities, PERIPLUS appointed Pia Owens to serve as an "outside ombudsperson who isn’t a member of the collective, who can receive feedback, including confidential complaints, and weigh in on issues where an outside perspective is needed." Owens is a volunteer and the Ombuds work is expected to be part-time.
December 26, 2020
Job Posting: Brigham Health
The Boston-based health care provider's Office of Mediation, Coaching, Ombuds and Support Services is hiring a full-time Ombuds. Reporting to the Director of OMCOSS, Donald Proby, the position provides Ombuds services to students, staff, trainees, administrators, nurses, and academic faculty members following IOA standards. (The office is also hiring a mediator.)
University of the Andes Reappoints Ombuds
The Rector at Universidad de los Andes, the private university Bogotá, Colombia, has reappointed Margarita Gómez Ordoñez, to another two-year term as the Ombudsperson. Gómez Ordoñez established the office in 2012 and works with all members of the university community with academic, administrative or disciplinary concerns. Her new term starts January 14, 2021. (Uniande Noticias.)
Charles Ellinger: University of Kentucky's First Ombuds
On December 12, 2020, Charles Ellinger, UK's first Ombuds passed at the age of 86. Ellinger was well-known in the community as a county councilman, restaurateur, and professor. He was a member of the faculty in the UK College of Dentistry when he was tapped to become the university’s first Academic Ombudsman in 1983. Janet Ellinger told the Lexington Herald Leader that the two years her husband spent as Ombudsman were important to him. “My husband never forgot what it was like to be a student,” she said. “He was a champion for the students.” (Lexington Herald Leader.)
Don Daudelin: Western Illinois University's Only Student Ombuds
Western Illinois University's former longtime student advocate, the Rev. Don Daudelin, passed away on December 3, 2020, at the age of 83. Daudelin became WIU's campus minister 1965. After five years, marked by student rest, he was appointed the Campus Ombudsman, the only administrative position established by resolution of the Faculty Senate. His career path was similar to other Student Ombuds at the time. However, the position at WIU never evolved. In 1980, his title changed to University Student Advocate and Assistant to the Provost. The university has never had another Ombuds. Daudelin retired from WIU in August 2000. (WIU News.)
December 23, 2020
Job Posting: World Bank Group
The international financial institution is hiring two Organizational Ombudsmen for five-year appointments. Locations for the two positions have yet to be determined, but one will be in Africa and the other in Asia. The search will expand WBG Ombuds Services office, which currently has three Ombuds: David Wilburn Talbot; Doris Cecilia Campos-Infantino; and Axel R. Peuker.
IOA Denounces University of Mississippi's Treatment of Ombuds
The International Ombudsman Association has issued another, much stronger statement on situation involving the UM University Ombuds. Chuck Howard, IOA's Executive Director, and Melanie Jagneaux, IOA's Board President, said the university's appointment of an interim Ombuds was flawed in multiple ways and said that it appeared the permanent Ombuds, Paul Caffera, was facing retaliation for protecting the confidentiality of his work. Chuck Howard promised to continue monitoring the case.
Bologna Ministerial Conference Endorses Ombuds for European Universities
The European Network of Ombuds in Higher Education shared the recent news that the Bologna Ministerial Conference recommended the creation of Ombuds programs by members of the European Higher Education Area. ENOHE is positioned to directly benefit from any growth in the number of university Ombuds in Europe. Here is the full summary by Bo Gad Køhlert, Student Ambassador at the University of Copenhagen and Secretary to the ENOHE Board:
JIOA Article: "Sexual Harassment, Consensual Relationships, and the Ombuds Profession"
The latest article in the peer-reviewed Journal of the International Ombudsman Association considers the risks of sexual harassment and problematic consensual relationships for Ombuds, visitors, and the profession. The authors, Caroline Adams and David Rausch, are colleagues at the University of California-Santa Barbara Office of the Ombuds. They argue that IOA should revise its ethical guidelines to include policies and procedures for ethical and conflict of interest issues, and a sexual harassment policy.
December 22, 2020
Job Posting: Atlanta Public Schools
The public school system in Georgia with 55,000 students is hiring an Ombuds Program Manager. The position serves as, "an independent, confidential resource [for] students, families, employees and community members by providing formal and informal support in seeking to resolve concerns, problems, complaints, and other student and employee related issues." The Ombuds supervises a Policy Specialist and Community Specialist and reports to the Chief Equity and Social Justice Officer.
University of Gjakova Appoints First Ombuds
Bajram Nuraj has been elected by the faculty as the first Ombudsperson for Universiteti i Gjakovës "Fehmi Agani" in Gjakovë, Republic of Kosovo. (The university was founded in 2012 and is named for Fehmi Agani, a leading Kosovar sociologist and politician.) As the Ombuds, Nuraj will serve all members of the university community and practice to IOA standards. He will serve a four-year term. Nuraj has been a Professor in the Department of Clinical Anatomy at the University of Prishtina, Kosova. (UGJFA Ombuds.)
December 21, 2020
Pinterest Board Agrees to Create Ombuds Program for Employees
For the past five months, a Special Committee of the Pinterest Board reviewed the workplace culture at the social media company. The internal review was prompted by lawsuit filed by Pinterest's former COO, who alleged "rampant discrimination, hostile work environment, and misogyny." In December the parties agreed to a $20 million settlement, which required the company to publicly acknowledging that it must do more to improve its workplace culture. The committee made several recommendations which have already been adopted unanimously by the Board, including the creation of an Ombuds office.
December 20, 2020
University of Mississippi Appoints Interim Ombuds; IOA and Petitioners Support Sidelined Ombuds
On Friday, UM Chancellor named William W. Berry III, the new acting University Ombuds. The permanent Ombuds, Paul Caffera, remains on administrative leave for reasons that have not been disclosed publicly or to Caffera. Berry has been a member of the faculty with the UM School of Law since 2008 and is currently chair of the University Academic Discipline Committee. Some colleagues immediately questioned whether faculty, especially from the law school, would be comfortable confiding in Berry. The Mississippi Free Press continues to be the primary source of information about the situation.
December 18, 2020
New Book by Howard Gadlin on the History of Conflict Resolution
Howard Gadlin and Nancy A. Welsh are the editors of a new book, Evolution of a Field: Personal Histories in Conflict Resolution. "This book draws on the thought-provoking, diverse, delightful, sometimes painful, and ultimately beautiful personal histories of some of the thinkers, inventors, influencers, reformers, disrupters, and transformers who have created—and continue to create—the field of conflict resolution." Gadlin was the Ombuds for the National Institutes of Health and retired in 2015. Welsh is the former Chair of the the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution and who was instrumental in the adoption of the ABA's resolution in support of Ombuds programs in 2017.
December 17, 2020
Job Posting: European Patent Office
The international organization that grants patents in Europe is hiring its first Ombudsperson and Director. The new EPO Ombuds Office "will provide independent, impartial and confidential assistance in the informal resolution of work-related, interpersonal and administrative disputes and in the handling and de escalation of issues or complaints from external users in cases where the normal channels have been exhausted." The contract is for five years and will be based in Munich.
December 16, 2020
Update: University of Mississippi Sidelines Embattled Ombuds
The Mississippi Free Press reports that the campus Ombuds, Paul Caffera, has been placed on administrative leave pending the appointment of an interim replacement. Caffera, who was appointed in 2017, has been embroiled in an exploding conflict between faculty and administrators after giving upward feedback about racism and gender discrimination. MFP reporter Ashton Pittman has been covering the situation extensively.
December 15, 2020
Job Posting: United Nations, Democratic Republic of Congo
The United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services ("UNOMS") is hiring a Regional Ombudsman based in Goma. The current ranking member of UNOMS is Salif Boïté, a Conflict Resolution Officer. The previous Regional Ombudsman was Youssoupha Niang, who moved up to become the Regional Coordinator in Nairobi, Kenya. The position will provide informal conflict resolution services to UN staff attached to the Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Mission de l'Organisation des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en République démocratique du Congo or "MONUSCO") and other peacekeeping missions in the region.
National Capital Commission Names Next Ombuds
Oriana Trombetti has been selected the next Ombuds for the Canadian Crown corporation that administers the federally properties in the National Capital Region. Her role, for the next three-years, "provides members of the public, in the official language of their choice, with an independent, confidential, neutral, fair and equitable mechanism for resolving complaints, when all other redress avenues have been exhausted." She succeeds Kevin Saville.
December 14, 2020
Job Posting: Canadian Nuclear Laboratories
Canada's nuclear science and technology research lab (Laboratoires Nucléaires Canadiens) is hiring its first Ombudsman. The position will serve, "as an independent, confidential, neutral, and informal resource to help the CNL workforce identify, address, and resolve individual, group, and systemic concerns, without fear of reprisal." The position will be based at Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario, a former reactor facility that is being repurposed into a science facility over the next decade.
IOA Increases Scholarship Opportunities for 2021 Conference
The International Ombudsman Association will offering 14 educational trainings scholarships in 2021. These scholarships will cover the cost of virtual events including the Virtual Foundations of Ombuds Practice Course and the annual conference, "Bridging the Distance: Paving the Way for Equity and Justice" (#IOA2021). The deadline to apply for these scholarships is January 20, 2021.
December 11, 2020
Job Posting: Department of the Interior
The Department of the Interior's Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution ("CADR") is hiring two Organizational Ombuds to be based in Arlington, Virginia, and Denver, Colorado. Travel of up to 25% will be required once the lockdown ends and the positions are eligible for telework.
Volvo Ethics Chief Endorses Ombuds as Safeguard for European Whistleblowers
The latest issue of Compliance Week includes an editorial by Cédric Dubar, the Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer for Volvo Corp: "Making the case for companies to create ‘Ombuds’ function to meet EU whistleblower rules." Dubar asserts that an Ombuds can help organizations comply with the European Union's Whistleblower Protection Directive enacted last fall. He specifically references the IOA standards:
Job Posting: WSIB Fair Practices Commission
The Fair Practices Commission of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board in Ontario, Canada is hiring a Deputy Commissioner. The position will manage the office that serves as the Organizational Ombudsman injured workers, employers and service providers with complaints the WSIB and report to the newly appointed WSIB Commissioner, Tom Barber. At least initially, the work will be performed remotely.
Vancouver, WA Public Schools Appoint First Ombuds
The public school district in southeast Washington has named Rachel Cason as its first Education Ombuds. She explained that she, "will provide confidential and unbiased guidance, resources, information and support when parents and students are navigating the discipline process and dealing with discipline matters within schools. The district enrolls over 23,000 students. Previously, Cason was the VPS Student Success Coordinator in the office of student welfare and attendance.
December 09, 2020
University of Mississippi Ombuds Seeks Injunction Against Internal Investigation
Last night, the Mississippi Free Press broke a story about a conflict that has been roiling the University of Mississippi for the past two years. The article's lede is: “Members of the University of Mississippi faculty fear the school’s effort to root out whistleblowers who exposed issues of racism in the administration could also expose private information about employees and graduate students who have confided concerns to the university ombudsman.” The Ombuds, Paul Caffera, has filed a lawsuit seeking court protection from his own university.
December 08, 2020
Ombuds at EDP Group Assists Staff with Ethical Issues
In January 2019, Manuela Silva was appointed the Ethics Ombudsperson for the Portuguese electric utilities company headquartered in Lisbon. The position was created in 2009 and serves as "an independent, impartial listener, who respects confidentiality and anonymity, and who is available to all ... to clarify situations of an eventually ethical nature, and that does so within the framework of the Company's ethical principles."
December 07, 2020
Internship: United Nations, New York
The Office of the UN Ombudsman and Mediation Services is accepting applications for an unpaid internship in its New York headquarters. The temporary position is full-time and will last at least two to six months. The intern will help UNOMS prepare for and conduct dialog sessions for a new task force established by the Secretary-General for Addressing Racism and Promoting Dignity for All. Due to the pandemic shut down, all work will be conducted remotely for the foreseeable future.
December 04, 2020
Job Posting: Islamic Development Bank
The multilateral development bank based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia is hiring its first Ombuds. The role of the new "Manager Ombudsman" is, "to inquire into, review and seek to resolve (through conciliation) mediation or any other appropriate means, any formal complaint (written or oral) by a staff member alleging mistreatment and/or non-observance of his/her terms and conditions of employment with IsDB." (Most of the Ombuds at international development banks and UN-affiliated organizations practice to IOA standards, so this job description may be revised in time.)
Job Posting: Department of the Interior
The Department of the Interior's Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution is hiring a Lead Conflict Management Specialist based in Arlington, Virginia. The position leads the leads the Department's conflict management and dispute resolution programs, which includes Ombuds services. Some travel is required (1-5 nights per month) and the position is also eligible for telework.
Job Posting (RFP): Society for Personality and Social Psychology
The largest organization of social psychologists and personality psychologists is seeking proposals for its annual convention, which will be held virtually February 9-13, 2021. The Ombuds will be expected to "address attendee concerns, such as issues concerning safety, actions from 'overly-friendliness' to harassment, micro-aggressions, free speech, integrity, privacy, conflicts of interest (including favoritism and nepotism), conference logistics (including accessibility), and conference cliques."
Ombuds for Canada's Auditor General Publishes First Annual Report
In September 2019, Janet Campbell became the first Organizational Ombuds for the Office of the Auditor General of Canada and its 600 employees. This week, she reported on her first year activities. In addition to creating a program and working on outreach, Campbell said that she assisted employees and managers with 64 different situation. She also said that she has been working to expand the federal Ombuds community in Canada.
December 03, 2020
The Global Fund Selects Next Ombuds
Sue Ackerly has been hired as the next Ombudsperson for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Ackerly will serve staff, consultants, and interns of the international non-profits following IOA standards. Ackerly is based in Melbourne, Australia and will provide her services remotely.
December 02, 2020
Job Posting: Johns Hopkins University
The private research university in Baltimore, Maryland is hiring its first Ombudsperson for all PhD students and postdoctoral fellows. (Two years ago, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine created an Ombuds Program for its medical students with faculty volunteering for an Ombuds panel.) The new full-time position will practice to IOA standards and report to the Vice Provost for Graduate and Professional Education.
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics Names First Ombuds
Beate St. Pourcain has been appointed the first Ombudsperson for the research institute at Radboud University Nijmegen in Gelderland, the Netherlands. (The Institute is one of the just three located outside Germany of the 90 institites that comprise Max Planck Society and thus follows the Dutch Code of Conduct for Research Integrity and the German Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice.) St. Pourcain serves as a resource for all staff with conflicts involving scientific practice or work-related problems.
December 01, 2020
Webinar: Adapting to Covid in the New Academic Year
The European Network of Ombuds in Higher Education will host an online roundtable on the continuing effects of COVID on universities and the work of Ombuds. The free webinar on December 10, 2020 is titled, "A new year, a new [ab]normal: Adapting to Covid in the new academic year, and to look at how our institutions are adapting to ‘the new [ab]normal’."
November 30, 2020
KU Leuven Announces Next Ombuds
Pol Ghesquière has been named the next Ombudsperson for staff at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the prominent research university in Flanders, Belgium. He succeeds Omer Van den Bergh, who held the position for nearly five years and saw cases rise from about sixty per year to between 450 and 500 in 2019. Ghesquière explained why he took on the Ombuds role:
November 27, 2020
UN Resolution Endorsing International Ombuds Organizations Notably Excludes IOA
Last week the United Nations adopted a resolution on, "The role of Ombudsman and mediator institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights, good governance and the rule of law." The resolution solidifies the relationship between the UN and the International Ombudsman Institute, and explicitly supports Classical Ombuds schemes in member states. Although the UN's own internal Ombuds and Mediation Service and most UN-affiliated entities with Ombuds programs practice to International Ombudsman Association standards, the IOA is not mentioned in the resolution.
Ombuds at University of Alberta Releases 2019-20 Annual Report
The Office of the Student Ombuds at UAlberta has posted its annual summary of activities for the most recent academic year. The report's focus is qualitative and leads with an explanation of the Ombuds' services and student testimonials. The data reflect a significant increase in casework: the office assisted 1,320 clients in 2019-20, an 11% annual increase. The report concludes with a review of its recommendations from 2018-19 and offers new recommendations.
November 25, 2020
Call for Presenters: IOA's 2021 Conference
The International Ombudsman Association is inviting presentation and speaker proposals for its 16th annual conference, which will take place virtually, March 22-24, 20201. The theme is "Bridging the Distance: Paving the Way for Equity and Justice." Proposals are due by Monday, December 14, 2020 and should help attendees consider: How the ombuds field can expand its reach and impact; How ombuds can be “thought leaders” as well as conflict navigators in an increasingly polarized world; and How ombuds work plays a role in framing equity and justice issues for the constituents we serve.
ENOHE Occasional Paper: “Comparing Concerns: COVID-19 Webinar”
The European Network of Ombuds in Higher Education has published its 13th occasional paper, which summarizes a webinar on June 10, 2020. Ombuds from four different countries–Mexico, Spain, Germany and Poland–shared their experiences from their institutions during the COVID-time and discussed on how the current situation affects their roles and work directly or indirectly.
November 24, 2020
Job Re-Posting: Northwestern University
The private research university based in Evanston, Illinois has reopened the search for its first Ombudsperson. The job was originally posted in February 2020, but the it was shelved when the pandemic shut down the campus. The position will serve faculty, staff, and students, including those at campuses in Chicago and Doha, Qatar—about 30,000 people. The Ombuds will report to the provost and practice to IOA standards.
Asian Development Bank Ombuds Posts 2019 Annual Report
The ADB Ombudsperson, Wayne Blair., has published a report detailing the work of his office last year. He and his staff managed 497 cases in 2019, a 35% increase from the previous year. Blair said, "The issues raised by people who sought our office’s assistance and the trends and patterns of concerns we observed closely mirrored those from 2018," with significant numbers of women and first-year staff struggling with workplace issues.
November 23, 2020
University of Twente's Ombuds Reflects on First Year
Han Warmelink was appointed to a two-year term as the first Ombuds Officer for students and employees at Universiteit Twente October 2019. He recently talked about his experience with the UTwente campus newspaper. Warmelink said that there was clearly a need for the new service. "In less than a year I had to deal with 39 cases. The confidential advisors receive twenty reports a year, the complaints committee a handful. Apparently there was room that had not yet been filled. In addition, the number of cases remains fairly stable, with an average of one new case per week."
IOA's First Conference Ombuds Hired for Pilot Year
Elaine Shaw, CO-OP, who served as the International Ombudsman Association's first Conference Ombuds, has been hired for a one-year pilot period. As the IOA Ombuds, Shaw will provide services to IOA members, conference attendees (virtually or on-site if the conference is held in in-person in Indianapolis, IN, as currently planned), and others in the IOA community. (IOA Ombuds.)
November 20, 2020
Job Posting: U.S. Census Bureau
The Department of Commerce agency is hiring two Associate Ombuds, who will report to the Census Bureau Ombudsman, Bill Maurer, CO-OP. The positions are to be based in Suitland, Maryland and Jeffersonville, Indiana, and occasional travel may be required. Telework may also be possible.
IOA Board Shares Three-Year Strategic Plan
The Board of Directors for the International Ombudsman Association has completed a strategic plan for 2021 through 2024. The Board engaged Solid Ground Consulting and solicited input from a range of IOA leaders, volunteers and members.
The IOA Strategic Direction includes five important elements:
November 19, 2020
Ombuds at Erasmus University Releases First Annual Report
Edith Weijnen has published a report marking her first year as the Ombudsman for students and staff at the large, public university in Rotterdam. Weijnen handled 122 employee cases and 22 student matters. More than half of the cases were about the culture at Erasmus University and a significant number related to stress brought on by the pandemic. She issued several specific insights and recommendations that were positively received by the administration. (Erasmus Magazine.)
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