January 29, 2021

International Ombudsman Association to Drop '-man' From Name

In an email to members yesterday, the IOA Board of Directors announced that the organization would be renamed "The International Ombuds Association." The move will bring IOA into line with most practitioners and other Ombuds organizations that use gender neutral language, including the California Caucus of College and University Ombuds, the Association of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons, and the European Network of Ombuds in Higher Education. IOA's decision also follows a rule change in the U.S. House of Representatives that will end its use of "Ombudsman." Many international and classical Ombuds organizations, on the other hand, continue to use "Ombudsman."

January 28, 2021

Developments in the University of Mississippi Ombuds Controversy

This blog has been following the situation at Ole Miss, which has put its Ombuds, Paul Caffera, on administrative leave and appointed an Acting Ombuds, William W. Berry III. IOA and the Mississippi Free Press are also following the case closely. Recent developments include:

January 27, 2021

University of California's Office of the President Unveils Ombuds Office

The headquarters of the sprawling UC system has finally created an Ombuds Office and named Interim Ombudsperson Bodi Regan to a six month contract. Rachel Nicholson is providing additional support during this initial period as Assistant Ombudsperson on loan from the Staff Ombuds Office at UC Berkeley. Regan will establish an Ombuds program for about 3,000 UC Office of the President staff members in Oakland and other locations across California. UC President Michael V. Drake, M.D., sees this office as a high priority and an important part of the ongoing anti-racism initiatives, which were announced last summer as part of UCOP’s strategic framework. 

Experienced Schools Ombuds Talks About Impact of Pandemic

Harry Katz, Director of the Scheinman Institute at Cornell's School of Industrial & Labor Relations recently interviewed Sarah Miller Espinosa, an experienced Ombuds and founding Ombuds for the Prince William County School. The conversation focused on how Espinosa's work has changed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. She explained that the pandemic has triggered new types of issues and also how her practice became entirely virtual. 

January 26, 2021

Annual Report from Austrian Student Ombuds Reflects Significant COVID-Related Cases

The Austrian Student Ombudsman (Ombudsstelle für Studierende), Josef Leidenfrost, has just published his eighth annual report, which has been tendered to the Ministry for Education, Science and Research and Parliament. Leidenfrost says that he handled 805 cases in the 2019-20 academic year, a 68% increase from the prior year. Almost 30% of the cases were related to the Covid pandemic — most significantly online teaching and online testing, followed by issues of student housing and international mobility. The report also showed that the office was able to resolve or give the necessary information in 79% of the cases. 

January 25, 2021

Job Posting: Concordia University

The public university in Montreal will expand its Ombuds Office with the hiring of a full-time Associate Ombudsperson. The position will report to
Amy Fish, and serve as a resource for students, faculty, and staff. In recent years, the office has handled about 500 cases per year. 

Job Posting: Minneapolis Public Schools

The large Minnesota school district has seeking its next Director and Staff Ombudsperson. Mitchell Roldán has held the position since establishing the MPS Office of the Ombudsperson in 2019. The full-time position reports to the MPS Chief of Staff and serves about 6,500 employees. 

Ombuds at University of Oregon Reports Continued Case Growth in 2020

UO Ombudsperson Brett Harris said that her office assisted 622 visitors in the 2019-20 academic year, continuing a five-year trend of growth. The most significant change in visitors occurred in graduate student cases, which increased from 7.8% of total cases in 2018-19 to 14.9% last year. Harris believes the increase was possibly due to dedicated outreach efforts. Unsurprisingly, she also reported, "Cases related to job security, telework, safety of work environment, and climate related to civil rights concerns all increased compared with previous years."

January 22, 2021

SAP Adds an Ombuds for the Americas

On January 1st, 2021, Danillo Alves was appointed as first Corporate Ombudsofficer for SAP Americas, where he will build a strong regional presence and network for the SAP Global Ombudsoffice. Although the SAP Global Ombudsoffice was established more than 10 years ago, this is the first local representation in the region. Alves reports to Carsten Pöschl in his role as Global Ombudsperson leading the SAP Global Ombudsoffice with a representation in Europe, Asia and now also in the Americas.

Chuck Howard Dissects Controversy Over Ombuds Confidentiality at University of Mississippi

The Mississippi Free Press has published an op-ed on the recent controversy at Ole Miss, "A Matter Of Trust: UM Controversy Shows How Ombuds Programs Should, Shouldn’t Function, Expert Argues." Chuck Howard, Executive Director of the International Ombudsman Association, focuses on how Ombuds protects the promise of confidential communications with their visitors. Howard explains that the Ombuds and their organization must protect this confidentiality even if the Ombuds is removed:

January 21, 2021

Ohio State Appoints First Ombuds for Grad Students

Rebeka Campos-Astorkiza will become the first Ombudsperson for nearly 14,000 graduate and professional students at The Ohio State University on February 1, 2021. Currently, the university has Ombuds programs only for faculty and medical students. According to an announcement from the provost, "Campos-Astorkiza will address issues related to fairness and challenges that graduate and professional students may face with their faculty advisors or within their programs. This position was created in collaboration with university faculty and graduate and professional students in response to the need for extended support."

January 20, 2021

Southern Oregon University Selects Next Ombuds

Cody Christopherson, an Associate Professor of Psychology, has been appointed the next Faculty Ombuds for the public, liberal arts university in Ashland. He follows Dominick Robertson, who served as the Ombuds for two years.

Frances Gates Rhodes: Former Ombuds at Texas A&M International University

Last week, TAMIU announced the passing of longtime professor and former Faculty Ombuds, Frances Gates Rhodes, from complications of COVID-19. Rhodes was a member of the faculty for 38 years as an Associate Professor of English, former chair, and senior lecturer. She established the Faculty Ombuds position in 2011 and served until her retirement from the university in May 2020. TAMIU President Pablo Arenaz said, “Dr. Rhodes, or as most of us better knew her, ‘Panchita,’ was a beloved faculty member here. She was a passionate advocate for her discipline, for her students, for her colleagues and for this university.” (TAMIU News.)

Central Connecticut State University Appoints Interim Ombuds

Joseph Paige has stepped in to serve as the Interim Ombudsperson for the a public university in New Britain. He continues to serve as CCSU's Associate Vice President Academic Affairs. Paige succeeds Antonio Garcia Lozada, Professor of Modern Languages, who established the office in 2005. The CCSU Ombuds serves about 15,000 faculty, staff, and students following IOA standards. (CCSU Ombuds.)

January 18, 2021

Long-time Harvard Ombuds Retires

Lydia Cummings, who established the Ombudsman Office for the main campus at Harvard University in 2003, retired on January 31, 2020. Cummings worked at Harvard for four decades, including positions in Financial Administration and Labor and Employee Relations. For now, the campus will be served by what has been the medical campus Ombuds Office (which was created in 1991). (Harvard Ombudsman.)

World Health Organization Ombuds Posts Report from Pandemic Year

At the end of a year dominated by a world pandemic, WHO Ombudsman, José Martínez-Aragón, released his annual report. The report describes the activities of the WHO Ombuds program; outlines the most relevant systemic issues identified last year; and follows up on the administration’s response to the recommendations made in previous reports. The report will be considered by the WHO Executive Board at its regular meeting this week.

January 14, 2021

Joomla Board to Vote on "Massive" Overhaul of Ombuds Program

Open Source Matters, Inc., has called a special members meeting to amend its bylaws, primarily to bring its Ombuds program in line with IOA standards. Open Source Matters is a not-for-profit that administers Joomla, one of the leading open-source content management system for the internet. For the past two years, Joomla has had a poorly defined, Executive Ombuds program. It appears that this is likely to change soon.

Syracuse Ombuds Publishes First Annual Report

Neal Powless, who became the first permanent University Ombuds at Syracuse in January 2019, has released his first annual report. During the 2019-20 academic year, Powless handled 255 cases, made 73 presentations, and facilitated 18 conversations. Meanwhile, he pivoted his work to be entirely virtual. His report include five observations of trends impacting the campus. (Syracuse Ombuds 2020 Report.)

January 13, 2021

University of Kansas Taps Ombuds to Lead Diversity Efforts

University Ombuds DA Graham will serve as Interim Vice Provost for KU's recently restructured Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. The university's Faculty Ombuds, Ada Emmett, will step up to fill Graham's role as Interim Ombuds. It is not clear how long this arrangement will last.

Here's more from the formal announcement to the campus:

Ombuds for Federal Contract Compliance Programs Posts First Report

Marcus Stergio, who was appointed the first Ombudsman for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs in August 2019, has published his first annual report. In addition to summarizing his work setting up the office, Stergio reports that he handled 128 cases in 2019-20. The full report is now available online. (OFCCP Ombuds 2020 Report.)

January 12, 2021

Pomona College Ombuds Retires

Conchita Serri, who established the Ombuds Office at the small, liberal arts college in 2012 has retired. Many employees accepted the college's offer of early retirement prompted by pandemic-related financial stress. Pomona has made no announcements about the future of its Ombuds program. (Pomona College Ombuds.)

Podcast Interview with Ombudsman for UN Funds and Programmes

Podcaster İdil Elveriş recently interviewed Giuseppe De Palo about his work with as Deputy Ombudsman for United Nations Funds and Programmes. His office serves stakeholders worldwide working with UN Development Program, UN Population Fund, UN Childrens Fund, UN Office for Project Services, and UN Women. He traces the history and relationships of the various UN Ombuds programs, and compares different types of Ombuds.

January 08, 2021

Job Posting: Raiffeisen Bank International

Raiffeisen Bankengruppe, the international financial institution and Austria's largest banking cooperative, is hiring its first Corporate Ombudsperson. Based in Vienna, the position will "provide confidential and informal assistance to RBI Group’s staff ... as a neutral, independent, impartial, off the record and confidential resource" and reports directly to the Head of Division People & Organizational Innovation. 

Job Posting: Los Alamos National Laboratory

The U.S. Department of Energy laboratory near Santa Fe, New Mexico, has opened a search for its next Ombuds Office Director. The position manages the LANL Ombuds Office, which provides services to about 10,000 people following IOA standards. The search will fill a position that has been held by Mary Beth Stevens. The office also includes Senior Associate Ombudsman Elisa Enriquez and Associate Ombudsman Evelyn Martinez.

Job Posting: U.S. Board of Veterans' Appeals

The administrative tribunal within the Department of Veterans Affairs is hiring a Program Specialist Ombudsman. The full-time position serves as the lead principal advisor and designated neutral party for dispute resolution and conflict management within the Board. The job is based in Washington, DC and some travel is required, but it is also eligible for telework. The position has existed since at least 2016 (according to ACUS), but little information is publicly available.

Job Posting: Kaiser Permanente Redwood City

KP Northern California is hiring a full-time HealthCare Ombuds/Mediator for its medical facilities in Redwood City, which is just south of San Francisco.  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."

Job Posting: United Health Services

The regional not-for-profit health care system based in Binghamton, New York, is hiring an Employee Ombudsperson. The full-time position serves as the, "designated neutral dispute resolution practitioner who provides confidential and informal assistance to UHS employees concerned about an issue." It appears that the system has about 7,500 employees.

January 06, 2021

University of Mississippi Moves to Dismiss Suit by Ombuds

The University of Mississippi has filed a motion to dismiss the civil action filed by its own Ombuds, Paul Caffera. This is the latest development in a long-running scandal involving allegations of racism, sexism, homophobia, cronyism, cover-ups, and retaliation by administrators and wealthy alumni that has drawn in the University Ombuds. In November 2020, Caffera retained his own attorney and filed suit in state chancery court, seeking an injunction to protect his confidential communications, discovery of the allegations against him, and declaratory relief upholding the Ombuds' Charter and awarding attorney's fees.

Task Force Recommends Ombuds for Mercyhurst University

A working group at the Catholic liberal arts college in Erie, Pennsylvania says the campus should implement an Ombuds. The working group's report was written in preparation for an accreditation review by by the Middle States Commission for Higher Education. The group endorsed an Ombuds that follows IOA standards and serves faculty, staff, and students. 

University of Colorado Boulder Posts 2020 Ombuds Report

The Ombuds Office at the University of Colorado Boulder reports that it handled 448 visitor consultations in the 2019-2020 academic year. The annual report says that about a third of visitors were staff and the top issue was interpersonal communications. In addition to the numbers of people the office worked with and their demographic characteristics, the report also provides a unique data point: the number of people indirectly impacted by their case work (66,550 for the year).

Ombuds as a Resource for Academic Integrity

Ryan Smith, Michigan State University's Assistant Ombudsperson, is the co-author of a blog post for the International Center for Academic Integrity. Smith and co-author Jake Kasper, Academic Integrity Specialist in the MSU Dean of Students Office, urge closer cooperation between campus Ombuds and academic integrity administrators. The full article, "Partners in Academic Integrity: Have You Thought About your Ombuds?" is available online. (ICAI Blog.)

January 05, 2021

Safer Care Victoria Pilot Ombuds Program Yields Benefits

In March 2019, the Victoria Department of Health and Human Services launched an Independent Facilitator program to provide "independent, neutral and confidential resource for employees [with] workplace issues, concerns or complaints." Lisa Klug and Kim Ledger were appointed the Independent Facilitators for the trial period, which ended in October 2020. A report from Safer Care Victoria shows the program was a success, but there is no information about whether the program will be continued. 

Nominations Due for 2021 IOA Distinguished Emeriti

The International Ombudsman Association is reviewing nominations for the 2021 Distinguished Emeritus Award. Annually, the IOA Nominations & Governance Committee recognizes retired Ombuds for their outstanding and dedicated service to the association and Ombuds profession more broadly. Completed nomination forms are due January 29. 

January 04, 2021

University of Cape Town Names Interim Ombuds Pending Search

The UCT Council, the governing body for the public university, will undertake a review of the Office of the Ombud after months of public controversy. The appointment of UCT's founding Ombud, Zetu Makamandela-Mguqulwa, CO-OP, ended with the calendar year and was not renewed after she publicly reported receiving many accusations of bullying by Vice Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng. (Phakeng is an ex officio member of the UCT Council.) Ihron Rensburg, who has no prior affiliation with UCT and experience as a vice chancellor, will advise the council and serve as the interim Ombud.

Job Posting: United Nations, Mali

The Office of the UN Ombudsman and Mediation Services is hiring a temporary Conflict Resolution Officer in Bamako. The position will provide Ombuds and conflict resolution services to UN staff in the region, especially the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the broader region of West Africa. The position reports to the Regional Ombudsman, Youssoupha Niang. The appointment will end June 30, 2021.