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Provost's office begins search to fill new ombuds position


Seeking an administrator to facilitate the resolution of faculty problems and complaints with respect to policy administration and conflict resolution, Provost Paul N. Courant has launched a search to fill the newly created position of central faculty ombuds.

Working with the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA), the provost's office recently completed the job description and posted the position on the University's Web site. Courant agreed to fund the position after accepting a recommendation made by SACUA during the summer.

"I hope the new office will make it easier for faculty to resolve potential disagreements with the University and improve the quality of work life generally," Courant says, adding that he also will solicit input from school and college executive committees. "I hope that SACUA will talk to people who might be good for the position and encourage them to apply."

The provost's office will begin screening applicants and conduct first-round interviews to develop a short list with help from SACUA. Jens Zorn, professor of physics and first-year SACUA member, will serve as a liaison with the provost's office. Courant says he will share his top candidate with SACUA and solicit the committee's feedback.

"[The committee] felt the position could potentially help resolve issues that faculty may have with their supervisor or the University in general," says Dr. Charles Koopmann, chair of SACUA and associate chair of the Otorhinolaryngology Department. "The provost is committed to working with us. Hopefully, it will result in fewer grievances and litigation."

Qualifications for the faculty ombuds position include:

• Current or emeriti appointment as a regular member of the instructional faculty is necessary;

• Considerable experience in policy administration, counseling or advising is desirable, preferably beyond a single unit;

• Demonstrated sensitivity to faculty-related issues and concerns, and ability to serve in a conciliatory role with faculty and administration.

SACUA began investigating a central faculty ombuds position last winter. Committee members Silvia Pedraza, associate professor of sociology; Bill Ensminger, professor of pharmacology; and Jack Gobetti, former SACUA vice-chair and professor of dentistry, formed a subcommittee that investigated and researched the idea.

Their efforts resulted in a formal proposal to Courant that he accepted in June.

"There are a number of characteristics that need to be considered," Stan Berent, professor of psychology, psychiatry, neurology and environmental health sciences, said at a Sept. 22 SACUA meeting with Courant. "Personality characteristics of this person are going to be critical."

John Lehman, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, said candidates could be recent retirees with some experience in faculty governance. Pedraza suggested that applicants should have experience on a Grievance Review Board.

Faculty ombuds duties and responsibilities will include:

• Meet with faculty members to assist in determining the nature of complaints or problems, to advise on policy and to explore appropriate avenues for redress, based on the nature of involved issues;

• Where appropriate, work with faculty members and administrators to mediate and facilitate the resolution of issues;

• Make recommendations regarding equitable problem resolutions and monitor their implementation;

• Prepare statistical reports for University administration and SACUA, Senate Assembly committees, or the assembly as a whole regarding numbers and types of complaints, interventions, outcomes and other issues.

Currently, the University has 26 appointed or elected faculty members who serve as ombuds in various colleges and schools.

Koopmann says he expects the central faculty ombuds will work in cooperation with the individual campus ombuds.

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