Reflections of a Last Year Ombudsman
University of Colorado, Boulder
I started as Associate Ombudsman at the University of Colorado Boulder in September 1990. That November, I attended the California Caucus of College and University Ombudsmen (CCCUO) conference at Asilomar for the first time. The following spring, the late Ron Wilson, Ombudsman from the University of California Irvine and Editor of the Journal, asked me to write an article about my first year as an ombudsman. In this article, I will describe some of my most significant experiences in my now 25 year career. I will also describe the impacts – positive and/or negative – of these experiences and, when possible, consider their implications for the future.
Mentors, Colleagues, and Community
As a new ombudsman with no previous ombuds experience mentors were important in my professional life. My first mentor was Constance Williams. She had been with the university since 1979 (Silver & Gold Record, 1992) and was a calm, wise, sensitive, and compassionate woman. She welcomed me and did all she could to help me learn about the culture of the University and my new role within it. Both, of course, were absolutely necessary. And both took a lot of time. In addition to her understanding of the role and the culture of the University, as an African-American woman who was a little older – and a lot wiser – than I, she also had much to teach me about diversity issues; particularly those at the intersection of privilege, oppression, race, and gender.
One specific form of encouragement I received from Constance was the opportunity to attend the 1990 CCCUO conference at Asilomar. This was my first professional gathering as an ombudsman. I was very curious about what these new colleagues would be like and how they would act toward me. I wasn’t really one of them – yet. But I liked and felt at home with them from the start. They welcomed me – especially after I played the guitar and sang at the “Creative Expressions” event. The informal atmosphere of Asilomar probably helped me feel comfortable as well. It was quickly apparent to me this was a very special group of people. But did I have “the right stuff” to legitimately become “one of them?” This initial experience in a community of ombuds, has stayed with me for 25 years. And, as I near retirement, connections to this community are something I am sure I will miss.
My community of ombuds colleagues expanded when I attended the University and College Ombudsman Association (UCOA) conference in Lexington, KY in the spring of 1991. And, my pool of possible mentors did, as well. Through UCOA meetings, I met Bob Shelton from the University of Kansas, Mary Rowe from MIT, and Howard Gadlin from the University of Massachusetts, as well. And, luckily for me they often attended CCCUO meetings, as well. I frequently called one of them with what, to me, were difficult questions. I was always impressed with how well they listened to my dilemmas and how well they were able to help me see options to move forward. And, through it all, I received at least two consistent messages from each of them: “Of course, the questions with which you are wrestling are difficult ones” and “You can do this!”
In 1992, Constance Williams was appointed Special Assistant to the Chancellor (Silver & Gold Record, 1992), I was appointed Director of the Ombudsman Office, and Elease Robbins, a former Educational Opportunity Program counselor, was appointed Associate Ombudsman. For me, being appointed as “Director” was scary because I only had two years’ experience as an ombudsman and it was clear to me that I was still in some unknown part of what looked like a pretty steep learning curve. And, I had very little idea of how or when I would learn enough to function confidently in this still new role, let alone serve as a mentor for others.
Fortunately, Elease’s extensive knowledge of the University of Colorado Boulder culture turned out to be valuable immediately. And, her personal and professional understanding of privilege and oppression allowed me to continue learning about this critically important topic, as well. In this way, although I was called her “supervisor,” Elease absolutely mentored me. We functioned as colleagues much more than we ever did as supervisor-employee. Over the next seven years we did dozens of co-mediations, and we developed and presented scores of workshop presentations together. In the office we discussed our cases - and our ombuds role - almost daily.
A “Simple” Question from Two Scholars
In the spring of 1993 two sociologists working with funding from the Hewlett Foundation on the CU Boulder campus, Guy and Heidi Burgess, invited me to participate on a panel at a conference. The question they asked me to address in my part of the presentation turned out to be a real gift: “What have you seen people do in mediation that seems to elicit either the cooperation – or the resistance – of the other party?” This seemingly simple question led me to develop two lists, which I eventually gave to disputants prior to mediation. I also wrote an article for the 1994 CCCUO Journal (Sebok, 1994), and another variation called “Preparing for Your Mediation,” in the online journal, Mediate.com (Sebok, 2002). That one led to emails from scholars, attorneys, and ombudspersons from around the world. The CEO of “mediate.com,” told me last year that, of the approximately 10,000 articles on mediate.com, in any given week, “Preparing for Your Mediation” is often among the top 50 most viewed (J. Melamed, personal communication, 2014). And, the article has been posted with my permission to other ombuds websites (e.g., the National Institutes of Health Office of the Ombudsman).
Persistent Legal Challenges
Between 1996 and 2013 four attempts were made by attorneys to compel my testimony and/or documents in cases involving employees or former employees. In each case, those attempts were, unsuccessful. But, taken together, they illustrate the vulnerability of organizational ombuds to legal challenges, requiring an enormous output of time and energy to resist violating confidentiality on a case-by-case basis.
In 1996 I was deposed in a lawsuit filed in Federal Court by Jennifer Miller, a former staff member in the Chancellor’s office. In my deposition, I provided an Ombuds Office brochure describing my role as “confidential” and stated (under oath) that I followed The Ombudsman Association (TOA) Standards of Practice. The Judge concluded, “. . . the complaints are protected from discovery by the ‘ombudsman privilege.’ The ombudsman privilege treats as confidential communications received during the course of an investigation in order to ensure that those communications will take place and to encourage informal dispute resolution.” Thus, I was not required to testify.
In the spring of 1999, another attempt was made to compel my testimony in a formal hearing. This case involved a matter before an administrative law judge involving a classified staff member. And, this time, because the Office of University Counsel remained neutral about whether I should have to testimony, I approached the Chancellor about securing outside counsel to assist in attempting to quash the subpoena. Boulder attorney, Allen Taggart, of Caplan and Earnest, LLC met with me and consulted with two legal experts (Sharon Levine and Chuck Howard). He presented an affidavit to the judge describing my confidential role and the rationale for it and he also explained the impartial, informal, and independent nature of the role, the voluntary nature of ombuds services for constituents, and provided an explanation of the mediation and conflict coaching functions. In the judge’s decision to quash the subpoena, she wrote:
“The arguments of the Ombudsman prevail here. Complainant sought the assistance of the Ombudsman after receiving a letter of counseling, and clearly sought to resolve a dispute regarding that letter in the course of contacting him. . . . Public policy considerations strongly favor according the activities of the ombudsman testimonial privilege. The University Ombudsman plays a crucial role in settling disputes between classified employees and appointing authorities. The University is one of this State’s largest public employers. Minimizing litigation between University employees will save public resources. Communications made to the University Ombudsman are therefore entitled to the testimonial privilege” (State of Colorado Personnel Board, May 1999).
Unfortunately, this “ombuds victory” was short-lived. While in May of 1999, Taggart was able to cite the judge’s (1996) ruling in the Miller case, when that case was heard on appeal, in an unpublished opinion the Appeals Court judge (as cited in Howard, 2010) remarked, “It is clear that neither Colorado law nor federal law, including the decisions of this circuit, recognize an ombudsman privilege.” Thus, what the administrative law judge described as “persuasive authority” could not be cited in future cases.
In addition to the challenges described above, on two occasions, attorneys from our own Office of University Counsel requested information I considered confidential. In one case, then Chancellor Richard Byyny agreed that allowing the Office of University Counsel to have confidential information when it assumed this information would help its case undermined the Ombuds Office promises of confidentiality and independence and he asked the attorney not to ask me for such information again.
In approximately 2005, attorney (and now author) Chuck Howard met on the Boulder campus with attorneys and ombuds from three campuses of the University of Colorado to discuss the ombuds role and arguments that he had used to successfully defend ombuds privilege in a number of cases. Steve Zweck-Bronner, one of the attorneys present commented to me after the meeting that he found this meeting very helpful. In 2013, I contacted Zweck-Bronner who offered to explain to one of his Boulder colleagues how and why he might avoid providing documentation from the Ombuds Office in a matter involving an employee who was suing the University. And, to his credit, the Boulder campus attorney followed Zweck-Bronner’s advice and contacted the opposing counsel to say he would not be providing any documentation from the Ombuds Office about the matter being litigated.
From my point of view, helping people navigate, manage, and learn how to resolve conflicts is a difficult enough proposition – without the additional constant threat that an attorney will seek to compel testimony or documents. Clearly, organizational ombuds would benefit from having shield laws legally guaranteeing us a privilege. In Colorado we made a number of attempts to do this over the last 25 years. The last attempt was stopped by University of Colorado President Hank Brown. Brown had been appointed President following several highly publicized scandals in which the lack of transparency on the part of leaders had been seen as a real problem. It seems likely he opposed our efforts to gain a shield law because he thought it would contradict his publically-stated promise to operate “transparently.” In any case, my conversation with the university “government relations” (lobbyist) staff member who had been trying to help us was one of the most disappointing ones I ever had as an organizational ombuds.
This disappointment was amplified in the fall of 2014, when our Faculty Ombuds and I met with Managing Associate University Counsel for the Boulder campus, Charlie Sweet. Sweet, who had returned to this position after nearly a decade away, inquired about the status of efforts in Colorado to obtain a shield law for ombuds. I explained that our efforts had “failed to get off the ground.” Sweet raised concerns about the promise of Ombuds Office confidentiality – especially in light of recent controversy about Title IX. His concern was that, while professionals in other offices on campus where victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment might receive help held licenses legally guaranteeing them a confidentiality privilege, Ombuds Office staff did not. He understood that our office had long promised – and provided - confidential help for students, staff, and faculty. And, while he did not wish to undermine that, he was concerned that the lack of an ombuds privilege might mean, if compelled by a judge, Ombuds Office staff would be required to testify. Sweet recommended that Ombuds Office staff let the community know about this limitation. And, indeed, we began to convey this to visitors and workshop participants almost immediately. In addition, I conferred with several dozen colleagues at other universities and shared my findings with Sweet. Sweet recommended to the administration that the University continue to consider the Ombuds Office a confidential resource and not require that its staff members report allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment under either Title IX or the Clery Act.
At the bottom of every page of the University of Colorado Boulder Ombuds website, the following statement appears:
The Ombuds Office is not authorized to accept notice of claims against the university. Further, as a confidential campus resource, the Ombuds Office is neither a “responsible employee” in relation to sexual harassment/misconduct nor authorized to serve as a “campus security authority” for purposes of reporting crimes on campus.
Sweet did not promise that the University would always pay for outside counsel to help ombuds avoid testimony, but he did indicate he understood this had been done successfully in the past, recognized the Ombuds Office concerns about this, and promised to consider such requests on a case-by-case basis. The Ombuds Office (and Faculty Ombuds services within the Ombuds Office) are listed on the University of Colorado Boulder Title IX webpage as “confidential resources” – with the following footnote:
*The Ombuds offices are confidential and not “responsible employees” for mandatory reporting purposes pursuant to University of Colorado-Boulder applicable policies but do not currently have a statutory privilege in Colorado. For any questions regarding the statutory privilege, please contact the Ombuds offices directly.
Faculty Ombuds Join the Ombuds Office
In the spring of 1997, a Boulder Faculty Assembly (BFA) proposal to create a faculty ombuds position was submitted to outgoing Chancellor Roderick Park, who supported the proposal. Park passed it along to incoming Chancellor Richard Byyny, who also supported it. The number of faculty who requested our assistance remained relatively small – until we hired Bob Fink, recently retired Dean of the College of Music and Jack Kelso, a retired anthropology professor who had served as department chair and Director of the University Honor’s program. After they began, an article was written in the faculty and staff newspaper, about the new program (Ortega, 1997).
Jack Kelso served in the role for nine years and Bob Fink served for 11 years. Both made many lasting contributions and so firmly established the role that it has become unthinkable that the office would ever function without emeritus faculty members providing this function. Each brought his own distinctive style to the role. After 15 years as a dean, Fink was fairly unflappable. On one occasion he met with a faculty member he had seen previously who, despite Fink’s encouragement to use a conciliatory approach, had sent an inflammatory letter to his chair. As Fink imagined, this approach escalated the conflict. The faculty member returned and said, essentially, “Now what should I do?” Fink resisted the urge to say, “I told you so” and, instead, calmly helped this faculty member to develop a more effective option to deal with what had become an even more challenging problem. Jack Kelso sometimes used his inimitable wry wit with his visitors. After meeting numerous times with a faculty member who had seemingly endless complaints about her colleagues and about her chair, Kelso quietly smiled at her and said, “Did you ever notice who’s always in the room when these things happen?” Fortunately, the faculty member burst out laughing.
The addition of Faculty Ombuds to our office was beneficial in a number of ways. Their credibility added to our credibility with the Chancellor and other administrators. Also, they complemented us and we complemented them. In a 2013 interview, Howard Gadlin, reflecting on his own initial experience transitioning from faculty member to ombudsman observed, “. . . as a faculty member he had been really isolated from what was happening in the rest of the university. In hindsight, he said he can see what a ‘narrow perspective’ he had on things and how unaware he had been of the ways in which others view faculty (both positively and negatively)” (Sebok, 2013). But the same could be said of the staff members in the Ombuds Office when we began working with our Faculty Ombuds. It was as if someone “pulled the curtain back” and allowed us to see into the private world of faculty in a way we never had access to previously. On rare occasions we even wound up working with a student or staff member in the same case in which one of our Faculty Ombuds was assisting a faculty member. This proved mutually beneficial and was very likely a benefit to all of our visitors, as well.
Involvement in Ombuds Professional Associations: UCOA and IOA
In 1995 I was elected to the UCOA Board and served as Secretary. In this role I felt as if I had a “green light” to pursue developing two things I believed we needed at the time: a listserv for all UCOA members and a UCOA webpage. Both of these tools improved our members’ communication with one another. The webpage was primitive by today’s standards. But it was a good start. I was actually very pleased to have the opportunity to make these contributions to our professional organization.
By 1997 the informal “Colorado Ombuds Network” volunteered to host UCOA’s annual meeting. That meant the Colorado group had to do everything to make this happen. We secured the hotel, planned the menu, advertised the conference, collected registration fees, and most importantly, planned the program. Elease Robbins and I were intensely involved in meeting with our colleagues, including, among others, Mary Lou Fenili (University of Colorado Denver), William King (Colorado State University), and Judy Jones (University of Northern Colorado) for nine months of planning before this conference. This UCOA conference theme focused directly on the topic of “diversity” and how it affected university ombuds personally and professionally. Music highlighting aspects of diversity was frequently heard throughout the conference (e.g., “It Ain’t Easy Being Green,” “What’s Goin’ On?”). Peggy McIntosh’s groundbreaking article, “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” was given to all conference participants. The film “The Color of Fear” was shown and guest speakers included University of Colorado Boulder historian, Patricia Nelson Limerick, Minority Arts & Sciences Program Coordinator, Alphonse Keasley, NPR commentator, journalism professor, and author of My First White Friend, Pat Raybon, and founding partner of CDR Associates, Christopher Moore. Numerous UCOA attendees told various Colorado Ombuds Network colleagues, “This was the best UCOA conference I ever attended.” We, of course, were thrilled.
One of my lasting memories of the 1998 UCOA conference involved an adaptation we made of the famous training film of Carl Rogers, Fritz Perls, and Albert Ellis, who all met separately with a woman named “Gloria.” The late John Wanjala arranged space and equipment for us to use to videotape five different ombuds - each meeting with the same visitor talking about the same problem. Elease Robbins’ “played” herself as an undergraduate student at Colorado State University. The situation involved an ethical dilemma for her and almost certain illegal discrimination on the part of a professor. Elease was videotaped speaking separately to: Howard Gadlin (UCLA), Bob Shelton (University of Kansas), Frances Bauer (University of Western Ontario), Ella Wheaton (University of California Berkeley), and Tim Griffin (Northern Illinois University). These colleagues were both courageous and gracious for allowing us to video record these sessions. We were simply trying to identify similarities and differences in how experienced practitioners conducted an initial interview with the same visitor. We had no intention of conducting further research or writing an article about these observations. It was fascinating to watch our five colleagues deal with Elease and her dilemma. While the technical quality of the video was limited, this collaborative effort was one of those opportunities a community of colleagues like ours can easily create for themselves. And, two years ago I was thrilled to be able to pass a DVD copy of this recording along to a colleague, Lisa Witzler from the NIH Office of the Ombudsman, who was investigating differences in approaches among organizational ombudsmen for her dissertation research.
In 2003, the Colorado group again hosted the Denver UCOA conference in Denver, Colorado. Again, an intense amount of planning and preparation was required. And again, the group’s creativity was in evidence. We welcomed participants with an opening “rap” featuring the hosts, complete with “do-rags.” One featured speaker was Deborah Flick, author of From Debate to Dialogue, describing her experiences working with Israeli and Palestinian girls. Bob Shelton was honored by Tim Griffin. And, for the first time, we offered a “Post-Conference” activity, a two-day Transformative Mediation workshop.
In 2004, I received an invitation from John Barkat who was then the TOA President. He asked me if I would chair a new Joint UCOA-TOA task force comprised of ombuds from four sectors: academic, corporate, governmental, and non-profit agencies. He said the task was to develop a system to classify the kinds of issues with which organizational ombuds assist constituents – across sectors. I was partly interested in this because, in my own office we had tried both extremes of classifying issues: 1) naming categories in such precise terms that the largest category every year was “Other” or “Miscellaneous” and 2) using very broad categories (e.g., “workplace conflict”) that made it easy to classify practically everything brought to us by staff or faculty members but, at the end of the year, told us virtually nothing about our visitors’ specific problems. Surely there had to be more precise and descriptive categories we could use.
I would have paid money to participate in the ongoing monthly conversations of the Uniform Reporting Categories Task Force. They were among the richest experiences of my career. And they were fun. Our ultimate goal was to develop categories but we had to first identify the wide range of issues, problems, and concerns with which we assisted constituents. Then, we had to decide how to organize them. We examined questions such as: “How can we name concerns neutrally?” or “From whose perspective will we categorize these problems?” If a supervisor believed the problem was “poor performance” and an employee believed it was “harassment,” which would an ombuds choose? And by what criteria would one decide? We wrote about this richly rewarding experience in the Inaugural Edition of the Journal of the International Ombudsman Association (Dale, et al, 2008).
When Alan Lincoln was seeking other IOA members who might be interested in helping him start a journal, I jumped at the chance. He had a vision that we needed, “. . . something that would focus on what we do and how we do it, what our issues are…and to start to study the profession the way other professions have been studied” (Lincoln, 2008).
In the first year he agreed to serve as editor and asked Mary Rowe and me to serve as associate editors. We discussed ideas about “what’s important enough to write about?” and “who might we invite to write about it?” And, producing something as potentially lasting and valuable as a journal for all of us was the kind of opportunity I would wish for every colleague.
One experience that really stands out for me is serving as guest co-editor - along with Laurie Patterson - to produce a “Creative Edition” of JIOA in 2013 (Sebok, T, and Patterson, L., 2013) For several months I couldn’t wait to open my email every morning because of all the great submissions made by IOA members. My inbox was full of art, music, short stories, photography, poetry, video clips, and more. Helping make all of this available for the world to see was both fun and gratifying.
For about five years from approximately 2007 to 2012 I was asked to help teach IOA’s professional development course, “Foundations of Organizational Ombudsman Practice” (formerly “Ombuds 101”) for new and aspiring ombuds. The old cliché about the best way to really learn is to teach certainly applied in my case. While I was involved in this work we made a video of an ombuds working with a sample case for use in the course. I played a professor whose ex-wife (played by Judi Segal) had consulted with the ombuds (played by Nick Diehl) about a problem requiring that Nick contact me. In April 2014, although I was no longer teaching the course, I agreed to serve on a panel at the end of the final day of the course. I knew the class had already viewed the training video because when I walked into the room, I was loudly booed by the participants!
At the request of my University of Colorado Denver colleague and friend, Lisa Neale, in April of 2014 I gave a keynote address at the IOA conference in Denver, CO. My address was called, “An Ombuds’ Journey: from “Should I Stay or Should I Go” to “My Hometown.” I talked about why I continued in the ombuds role despite my serious doubts about whether it as a good fit for me. I also used “clickers” to engage the audience in answering questions some may have hesitated to answer publically. Judging by outstanding evaluation scores provided by participants, the keynote address seems to have been successful. For me, giving it was the thrill of a lifetime.
Exploring the Edges
One of the most enjoyable parts of my on-the-job training as an organizational ombuds has been dabbling in activities that, while related, are not necessarily mainstream practices for all organizational ombuds. Among these are Restorative Justice and conflict communication protocols.
In May of 1998, University of Colorado Boulder Police Chief Jim Fadenrecht encouraged a group of us at CU Boulder, including Andrea Goldblum, Director of the Office of Student Judicial Affairs, Amy Robertson, Director of the Office of Victim Assistance, and several members of the University of Colorado Police Department to attend a presentation about a topic about which few if any of us had ever heard: “Restorative Justice” (RJ). We learned that the focus of this “response to wrongdoing” is on identifying and repairing harm, not punishment. Attending this half-day event led us to establish what we later learned was the first Restorative Justice program at a major US college or university. Our intent was to provide a restorative alternative to sanctioning through the Office of Student Judicial Affairs. The University of Colorado Restorative Justice Program began with volunteer staff, students, and faculty members. The first facilitated “community group conference” was scheduled to occur the day of the tragic killings at nearby Columbine High School (April 20, 1999). As a result, it was postponed for a week but when it finally occurred, it was very successful. In fact, this first “conference” was reenacted in a video made to promote the program. The following year, Andrea Goldblum and I published an article about the new program in the 1999 CCCUO Journal (Sebok, T, & Goldblum, A, 1999).
Although the CURJ program was never housed administratively within the Ombuds Office, I devoted a great deal of time to the effort, was an active participant for the first several years, requested funding from numerous administrators, facilitated several community group conferences, and even provided informal supervision for the coordinator of the program. I made or helped make numerous conference presentations at both ombuds and student judicial affairs conferences and later wrote a book chapter (Sebok, T., 2005), as well. But, in a 2002 Journal article, two Canadian ombuds colleagues, Martine Conway and Gary Insley, suggested (persuasively, I thought) that an ombuds “should exercise discretion to ensure that principles of independence, impartiality, and other guides outlined in UCOA Principles (were) not violated.” (Conway, M, & Insley, G, 2002). Fairly soon after that I reduced and eventually ceased my involvement with the program. But I am very pleased to have been a part of helping to start this program.
Conflict Communication Protocols
For the past several years I have assisted departments in developing their own conflict communication protocols (norms). This is based on the work of Larry Hoover, a now retired mediator from the University of California Davis (Hoover, 2003). Groups answer a series of questions about how they want to handle conflicts that arise in their group. In the one department of 40 where a follow-up survey was done with the assistance of the Office of Planning, Budget, and Analysis, the majority of those surveyed said they were using the new protocol and they found it helpful to do so. And, anecdotally, several individuals from departments with protocols have offered unsolicited but similarly positive comments about the lasting positive effects of these efforts within their departments.
Allegations of Workplace Bullying: A Persistent Problem
Allegations of “workplace bullying” have been a persistent and challenging problem in my practice since 1990. In 2012, one colleague, Kirsi Aulin, Director of the Ombuds Office at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), took a specialized training offered by Laura Crawshaw. Crawshaw is a psychologist who calls herself “The Boss Whisperer” and author of Taming the Abrasive Manager: How to End Unnecessary Roughness in the Workplace. Crawshaw has reported significant success in working with – and teaching others to work with – what she labelled “abrasive” managers (i.e., otherwise talented managers accused of engaging in aggressive, bullying behaviors). During a break in the training, Aulin mentioned to Crawshaw that she really admired her work but was not sure if her approach would work in higher education because, in her opinion, higher education presented a number of difficult challenges that were not present and/or nearly as impactful in most other workplaces. She explained that while there were certainly “abrasive” professors (and others) on many campuses, aspects of academic culture, including tenure and academic freedom (among others) often limited a university’s options for dealing with this (and many other) problems. Further discussion led Crawshaw and Aulin to decide to collaborate on trying to address this problem.
The initial result was a meeting that was held in 2013 on the UCSB campus including over 30 university ombuds, administrators, Human Relations staff members, and researchers. Towards the end of the two-day meeting, the group decided to call itself the Consortium on Abrasive Conduct in Higher Education (CACHE) and to continue meeting annually. It met in 2014 at the University of Denver and in 2015 at the Harvard Law School. At the 2015 meeting, I presented the group’s newly released website http://www.cacheconsortium.org/) which anyone could view and join (for free). Joining, however, allowed “members” to submit “promising practices” they believe show promise for helping colleges and universities to deal with this problem.
In 2012, I was invited to make a presentation to the University of Colorado Boulder Staff Council about the work of the office. During the presentation I made reference to the topic of “workplace bullying” and the number cases the previous year involving staff members alleging they had this specific concern. After the meeting, I invited Staff Council members to the Ombuds Office to view an IOA webinar featuring Wayne State University Associate Professor, Loraleigh Keashly, one of the world’s leading researchers on the topic. At the conclusion, we agreed that I would invite her to the campus to speak on this topic and to conduct a workshop on a related topic – Bystander Training. In fact, she came twice; in 2013 and again in 2014.
In the summer of 2014 the Ombuds Office hired Pacifica Human Communications to undertake a separate program review. Pacifica had undertaken some of the largest “return on investment” investigations ever conducted on organizational ombuds offices. Given the small budget available for this program review, as well as data limitations of both the Ombuds Office and other University offices, Pacifica concluded it is, “. . . an extremely conservative estimate (that) the Ombuds Office returns more than $350,000 of value to the University of Colorado Boulder.” (Pacifica Human Communications, LLC. © 2014).
Pacifica was able to offer a number of potentially valuable recommendations. Some of these recommendations are “in process” and all of them deserve serious consideration by my successor.
Transition at the End
As previously noted, I will be retiring at the end of this year. As a result we are in the process of attempting to hire my successor. The Provost will make this decision. The three remaining members of the Ombuds Office (Natasha Scholze, Jerry Hauser, and I) will be interviewing candidates who are brought to campus and we expect Provost Russ Moore will seriously consider our input. But, unfortunately, we are facing two additional challenges, as well.
We are also in need of a new Faculty Ombuds, as well. Our reliance on CU Boulder Emeritus Professors for this role has worked well in the past but it does limit the likely candidates.
In September of 2015 Jessica Kuchta-Miller left her Associate Ombuds position to assume a new position as Ombuds for Staff at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. This terrific opportunity for Jessica left the office needing to recruit a new Associate Ombuds, a new Faculty Ombuds, and a new director. Without a doubt the office will look significantly different next year at this time.
Following a devastating program review of the CU Boulder Ombudsman Office in 1984, when Susan Hobson-Panico, formerly ombudsman at Colorado State University, was hired as Director, she did two things which literally changed the course of my career and my life: 1) she “righted the ship” so there would continue to be an ombuds office on campus and 2) in 1990, she invited me to apply for the Associate Ombudsman position. Without her, I might never have enjoyed such a rewarding career, met so many wise and supportive colleagues, or had the opportunity to contribute to this fascinating emerging profession.
Constance Williams. (October 15, 1992). Silver & Gold Record.
Conway, M, & Insley, G, (2002). The Ombuds Role of Exploring the Place of Restorative Justice in College and University Campuses, Journal of the University and College Ombuds. pp 1-8.
Dale, B., Ganci, J., Miller, D., and Sebok, T. (2008). Comparing Apples-to-Apples: Development of the IOA Uniform Reporting Categories, Journal of the International Ombudsman Association, Volume 1, Number 1, 2008, pp. 8-16.
Hoover, L. (2003). Developing Departmental Communication Protocols, Conflict Management in Higher Education Report, 4(1). Reference URL: http://www.campus-adr.org/cmher/ReportArticles/Edition4_1/hoover4_1a.html.
Howard, C. (2010). The Organizational Ombudsman: Origins, Roles, and Operations: A Legal Guide, ABA Publishing, p. 240.
Lincoln, A. (2008). Journal Development, Journal of the International Ombudsman Association, volume 1, number 1, 2008, pp. 6-7.
Ortega, T. (1997, October 2). Two Faculty Ombudspersons Start New Program at UCB. Silver & Gold Record, p. 3.
Sebok, T. (1991, November). Reflections of a First-Year Ombudsman. Journal of the California Caucus of College and University Ombudsmen, pp. 1-8. (Note: Each article in this publication begins with page 1.)
Sebok, T. (1994). Lessons from Mediation. Journal of the California Caucus of College and University Ombudsmen, pp. 1-7. (Note: Each article in this publication begins with page 1.)
Sebok, T, & Goldblum, A, (1999). Establishing a Campus Restorative Justice Program. Journal of the California Caucus of College and University Ombuds, 13-22.)
Sebok, T. (2002, October 28). Preparing for Your Mediation. Mediate.com. Reference URL: http://www.mediate.com//articles/SebokT.cfm.
Sebok, T. in Lancaster, J. M. (2005). Exercising Power with Wisdom: Bridging Legal and Ethical Practice with Intention. College Administration Publications.
Sebok, T. (2002, October 28). Preparing for Your Mediation. Mediate.com. Reference URL: http://www.mediate.com//articles/SebokT.cfm.
Sebok, T., and Chavez, M., (2010). Cases Involving Allegations of Workplace Bullying: Threats to Ombuds Neutrality and Other Challenges, Journal of the International Ombudsman Association, 3(2) pp. 24-33.
Sebok, T. and Patterson, L., (Ed.). (2013). (The Creative Issue), Journal of the International Ombudsman Association 6(1).
Sebok, T. (2013). Interviews with Pioneers of Higher Education Ombudsmen. Journal of the International Ombudsman Association, 6(2).
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