Annual university ombuds report shows more contact

Office assisted more than 90 campus units

The University Ombuds Office has released its annual report, showing an increase in the number of visitors coming to the office to resolve conflicts and detailing trends in office visits.

Kellie Harmon, university ombuds, sent a copy of the report to faculty and staff on Nov. 2. A copy of the report is also available online at http://www2.ku.edu/~ombuds/fy09.pdf. It shows that from March 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009, the office made 490 contacts and worked with at least 90 university units and departments.

Students were the most frequent visitors to the office, with 90 contacts coming from undergraduates and 54 from graduate students.

Unclassified Professional Staff was the biggest group of contacts among employees, accounting for 113 of the cases. There were 63 faculty contacts and 47 University Support Staff contacts. Some of the contacts from faculty and staff are consultations related to other cases. The rest were made from administrators; graduate teaching assistants; graduate research assistants or lecturers; parents; former students; and others.

The topic most commonly raised by staff was performance evaluations and/or discipline issues. Notice of nonreappointment and dismissal issues, job duties, conflict with co-workers, consultation regarding student matters and harassment and discrimination issues were also reported.

Faculty most commonly reported conflict with colleagues, chairs or deans. They also reported issues with university policy consultation, consultation regarding student matters, promotion, tenure and merit salary increases; teaching load; and harassment and discrimination.

In the recommendation section, the report notes that the issue of performance reviews has been addressed by an update of the policy on annual reviews. The office also recommends speaking with an ombuds, Human Resources and Equal Opportunity, dean or associate dean or department chair to help resolve conflict among personnel.

Unique to this year’s report is an observation of stress-related problems in the workplace because of ongoing budget cuts, limited resources and organizational changes.

“A systemic approach to addressing these concerns might include a meeting with an ombuds or utilizing the resources at the Human Resources and Equal Opportunity office,” the report states. “Also, an awareness of supervisors and department heads that this is a stressful time for some employees and being open to answering questions and initiating dialogue, will go a long way in easing some of this uncertainty and stress.”

Maria Orive, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and Stephen Grabow, professor of architecture, are faculty ombuds. Anyone interested in contacting the University Ombuds Office about a dispute can call 864-7261 or visit in person at 34 Carruth-O’Leary.

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Bill Steele, program assistant, Office of Professional Military and Graduate Education
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The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression, and genetic information in the university’s programs and activities. Retaliation is also prohibited by university policy. The following persons have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies and are the Title IX coordinators for their respective campuses: Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access, IOA@ku.edu, 1246 West Campus Road, Room 153A, Lawrence, KS 66045, 785-864-6414, 711 TTY (for the Lawrence, Edwards, Parsons, Yoder, and Topeka campuses); Director, Equal Opportunity Office, Mail Stop 7004, 4330 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Fairway, KS 66205, 913-588-8011, 711 TTY (for the Wichita, Salina, and Kansas City, Kansas, medical center campuses).