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Results of the Independent Review

Special Member Meeting for Bylaws Revisions Announced

In our roles as ombuds professionals and association members, it has never been more important to continue our advancement of standards and practices that strengthen IOA’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB).

As the world continues to grapple with some of its most complex and painful challenges, our pursuit of justice continues. This includes ensuring that we maintain fair and equitable processes for qualification, nomination, and election to the IOA Board of Directors.

In March of 2021, IOA's DEIB Task Force reported concerns regarding IOA elections. IOA leadership took immediate action and approved an outside review of the nomination and selection process as it pertains to Board service. That independent review, conducted by the law firm of Ahmad Zaffarese LLC, recently concluded. The firm's report offers valuable, actionable insight and makes several recommendations the Board has been considering as proposed changes to IOA's Bylaws. These newly proposed changes are to be submitted to a vote of IOA members at a special meeting to be held this July. Among the review’s findings are the following: 

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June 2021 Title IX Updates

IOA Submits Comment to the U.S. Department of Education

In March 2021, President Biden issued an executive order directing the U.S. Secretary of Education, Miquel Cardona, to review the changes made to Title IX under the Trump administration.

For multiple days during the week of 7 June, the U.S. Department of Education held a virtual Title IX Public Hearing to gather information from survivors, students, parents, faculty, school staff, administrators, and other community members about the steps the Department can take to ensure that schools are providing students with safe learning environments free from discrimination and sexual harassment while implementing fair processes. The public comments will inform the Department’s review of its regulations, guidance, and other agency actions under Title IX. In addition to oral statements at the public hearing, the Department welcomed the submission of written comments.

IOA's Government & Policy Committee  with the support of IOA leadership submitted a written comment highlighting the important and unique role organizational ombuds play on many campuses by providing confidential, informal, impartial, and independent assistance to all college and university community members including complainants, respondents, and the administration, writing:

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International COVID Message

by Melanie Jagneaux, JD, MBA, CO-OP®, 2020-2021 IOA President

In North America, where vaccinations continue and an end to the pandemic appears to be in sight, many of us are beginning to feel a sense of relief as we perceive that the worst may be behind us.

However, as an international organization, IOA is well aware that our colleagues around the world are experiencing grave difficulties and have families, coworkers, organizations, and communities that continue to struggle with COVID-19.

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A Message from the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Task Force

By Heidi Stensby & Melissa Watson
DEIB Task Force Communications Liaisons

In July of 2020, the IOA Board unanimously approved the establishment of a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Task Force. The group was tasked with helping IOA internally evaluate itself on anti-racism practices and racial justice—and with defining parameters for a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment that supports membership belonging and connection within the organization. 

Under the leadership of co-chairs Brett Harris and Jai Calloway—selected by task force members – the DEIB group dedicated early discussion to the meanings of the words “diversity,” “equity,” “inclusion,” and “belonging”—recognizing that individual perspectives and experiences inform each person’s understanding and practice. To ensure fidelity to the project and IOA’s broad purpose, the task force drafted the following mission and values statements:

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Standing With Our Asian Colleagues & Communities

The IOA Board of Directors composed the following statement in collaboration with the Communications Committee and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Task Force.

The International Ombuds Association (IOA) is deeply saddened by the news from Atlanta on 16 March 2021 – when eight people were murdered by a gunman who attacked three Asian-owned businesses. Six of the eight deceased were Asian. Though details are still forthcoming about the gunman’s motives, it is impossible to disentangle this incident from the nearly 3,800 reported hate crimes directed at Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) since March 2020 (source: Stop AAPI Hate).  

IOA recognizes the historical pattern of anti-Asian discrimination in the United States. COVID-19 has re-ignited the longstanding social injustice against the AAPI community which traces its roots to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Japanese Internment Camps of World War II. IOA stands in steadfast support of the AAPI community. As experts in facilitating difficult conversations, ombuds can – and should – take an active role in promoting inclusivity and addressing identity-based oppression and racial bias. Supporting AAPI communities aligns to IOA’s mission and is integral to the organization’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging values. While ensuring that xenophobia is absent from IOA practices and policies, at moments like this, ombuds must take active steps to support individuals and communities that are targeted and hurting. As an organization committed to the respectful treatment of all individuals, in the wake of the Atlanta murders, IOA believes that a dedication to advocacy, allyship, and social justice are core elements to our collective healing and progress.

Get Involved in Planning Ombuds Day!

By Ken Skodacek, ABA Ombuds Day Subcommittee Chair

Ombuds Day is the 2nd Thursday of October, with this year's day of recognition falling on 14 October 2021.  I’m honored to again be leading and coordinating this year’s activities as the chair of ABA’s Ombuds Day Subcommittee.  I’m writing to request your support. I would like to have someone to work with me as the IOA Liaison: this individual would work closely with me and also interact with representatives from other professional organizations (COFO, USOA, NASOP, ACR). I would also like to have other volunteers to support specific projects (short-term commitments of 4-6 hours total). If you’re familiar with Ombuds Day, you can skip the next few paragraphs and focus on the “How can you help?” section below.

The primary goal of Ombuds Day is to improve public awareness of ombuds.  Our actions are intended to educate the public about the role of ombuds, explain the wide variety of services that ombuds provide, encourage greater use of ombuds programs and services, and highlight the value ombuds bring to the institutions and constituents they serve.  The secondary goals of Ombuds Day are to connect ombuds in their respective communities and to recognize their important work.

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Update and Request for the Ombuds Effectiveness Project

By Jennifer Mahony
Associate Ombudsman, NIH

Jen MahonyWhat are the mechanisms you use to create meaningful insight for your organizations?  How do you show that your ombuds office is valuable and effective? What frameworks are you using with your organization to define effectiveness?

In a recent blog post, Hector Escalante discussed The Ombuds Effectiveness Project as well as the work of Goal #1. Chuck Howard, IOA’s Executive Director, formed a project team led by Randy Williams and Ronnie Thomson to address these key questions. The Ombuds Effectiveness Project’s mission is “to equip ombuds offices with guidance, research tools, and training to measure and present effectiveness of their programs relevant to the stakeholder’s goals, in alignment with their organization's mission and values”.

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President Message to IOA Members February 2021

by IOA 2020-2021 President, Melanie Jagneaux, JD, MBA, CO-OP®

President, Melanie JagneauxGreetings IOA, and Happy 2021!

2020 was a tumultuous year for all of us…for the world, really. From the global pandemic of COVID to racial injustice to deep divisions in our societies, 2020 brought us chaos, challenge, and pain. With courage and clarity of purpose, IOA adapted to the challenges of the year, made important progress, and continued with its growth strategy.  We now have cause to celebrate a successful year despite those challenges.

Very importantly, our membership increased by 7% during 2020 to almost 1,000 members. We had more than 270 new members join IOA in 2020 and a phenomenal renewal rate of 79%. This increase in our membership and high rate of renewal is a signal that you, our IOA members, are finding real value in our global ombuds community. Our member benefits, trainingleadership, information, and services are meaningful to you. We fully intend to continue providing the same high-quality benefits, information, and services this year!

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IOA Executive Director Spotlight: 2020 Year in Review

by IOA

Chuck by the Numbers Graphic

With September 2020 marking the one-year anniversary of Chuck Howard’s appointment as IOA’s first-ever Executive Director, we thought the start of 2021 would be a good time to reflect on Chuck’s leadership and accomplishments over the past 16 months.

With 30 years of experience as an attorney representing ombuds nationwide, and author of the definitive history of the ombuds profession, IOA had high hopes for the impact Chuck would make on our organization—and he didn’t disappoint!

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IOA Is Set to Become International Ombuds Association

A Name Change Is on the Horizon

Dear IOA Members & Supporters,

Recognizing that words matter, that impacts matter, that diversity, inclusion, and belonging are to be supported and celebrated; the International Ombudsman Association shall therefore change its name to the International Ombuds Association and take the necessary steps to effect this change.

As a part of the implementation of the 2021-2024 Strategic Direction Goal 4, 4.7. Develop a process for consideration of a possible name change for the organization, the IOA Board of Directors voted to approve the name change at its January 2021 meeting.

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Standards Of Practice & Ethical Principles - Updated

by Melanie Jagneaux, JD, MBA, CO-OP® 2020-2021 IOA President

UPDATED JANUARY 2021

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IOA Statement in Response to Caferra/University of Mississippi

By Chuck Howard, IOA Executive Director and Melanie Jagneaux, JD, MBA, CO-OP

The International Ombudsman Association (IOA) continues to monitor the actions of the University of Mississippi regarding Paul J. Caffera in connection with a purported investigation into allegations of a hostile work environment, stemming from the disclosure of anonymous emails from university officials to the press. 

IOA Executive Director Chuck Howard spoke yesterday with Ashton Pittman, the reporter from the Mississippi Free Press who has written many of the articles concerning events at the University of Mississippi and the university's actions against Mr. Caferra. In particular, Chuck noted that the process apparently used by the university in appointing an interim ombuds—while Mr. Caferra is still the ombuds and on administrative leave—was flawed. Not only is it not clear why the appointment of an interim ombuds was necessary while the investigation is pending, the appointment of someone on an interim basis (with no disclosed search process) who is the Chair of the Academic Discipline Committee, regardless of any personal qualities of the person appointed, is not consistent with the core principles of independence and impartiality recognized both in the University of Mississippi Ombuds' Charter and in the IOA Standards of Practice. Chuck also explained the chilling effect that this interim appointment would have on the interim ombuds' ability to actually perform the job. It is clear from previous reporting that there appears to be widespread fear of retaliation among the faculty. Even if the interim ombuds were to recuse himself in matters in which he might have a conflict of interest, this misses the main point: Faculty members and graduate students will likely be reluctant to even contact him given his other responsibilities, especially since he was appointed while Mr. Caferra is still the ombuds and the investigation into the source of the disclosure of anonymous emails by university officials is still pending.   

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On Behalf of Membership, Thank You IOA

By the IOA Membership Committee

As 2020 comes to an end, and for many, the IOA membership renewal period begins, we reflect on the ways our association has strengthened its commitment to support its members in the work we do as ombuds. When presented with uncertainties and roadblocks due to the global pandemic, IOA stepped up to the task by offering opportunities for support, skill-building, and connection. When IOA faced the difficult and unavoidable decision to cancel the annual conference, our leaders rose to the challenge by providing innovative options and opportunities to share our knowledge, skills, and emotions through town halls, comforting videos, timely communications, improved virtual platforms, relevant webinars (free to members), and a myriad of new networks for caring and sharing. 

The IOA Membership Committee would like to express our gratitude for the tireless efforts of our leaders, Chuck Howard (Executive Director), Melanie Jagneaux (IOA President), and Lindsay Jennings (Managing Director), as well as the hard work of all IOA staff and volunteers. Thanks to them, our association and the global ombuds community have continued to grow and evolve amidst current challenges. Now is also the time for all of us, as IOA members, to rekindle our commitment to the work we do and use our talents to advance IOA’s mission. As we reflect on the change and opportunities still to come in the year ahead, the Membership Committee encourages you to renew your membership now to avoid a lapse upon your membership expiration, whether in January or later in 2021. Together we can continue to strengthen international ombuds practices by supporting wellbeing and communication around the globe for many years to come.

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Updates Regarding the University of Mississippi Ombuds

By Chuck Howard, IOA Executive Director and Melanie Jagneaux, JD, MBA, CO-OP

As many of you know, the University of Mississippi campus Ombuds has been placed on administrative leave. IOA leadership is aware of this situation and has been in contact with IOA member Paul Caferra, the University of Mississippi Ombuds, and his lawyer. It appears that the university has not honored its obligation to respect the confidentiality of its ombuds communications with visitors, an issue which is of great concern to IOA and all of its members. Please be assured that IOA leadership has offered to provide Paul any support it can in this matter and will continue to monitor this situation.

As a reminder to our members, if you ever have a need for consultation and support for a matter such as this, Chuck Howard, as our Executive Director, may be able to assist you. Our IOA Ombuds, Elaine Shaw, also is available to offer confidential, informal, impartial, and independent support and guidance to all IOA members.

IOA 2021-2024 Strategic Direction

By Melanie Jagneaux, JD, MBA, CO-OP, 2020-2021 IOA President

Beginning in early 2020, IOA embarked on a strategic planning process to set the course for our near future – the coming three years. The Board of Directors engaged Solid Ground Consulting as just the right partner to guide an effective and fruitful process.

To ensure that we were addressing important interests and perspectives across our organization, we intentionally involved key stakeholders of the organization, including chairs and co-chairs of committees and task forces, members of our emerging ombuds network, former leaders, staff, as well as additional IOA members. Through a series of focus group meetings and one-on-one interviews, Solid Ground gathered a broad range of input and perspectives to inform our process. This information was collected in the form of a Pre-Planning Report, which the Board reviewed over a series of three half-day virtual retreats in late summer 2020. With support from Solid Ground, the strategic planning team presented a draft Strategic Direction document to the Board and to all other members of the Leadership Group (which includes all committee and task force co-chairs). That draft was revised to incorporate feedback and the final draft was presented to the Board and approved at its last meeting in October 2020.

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IOA Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging Task Force Update

By Marcia Martinez-Helfman, JD, MSW

The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Task Force has been formally launched. An organizational meeting of forty-two volunteers was held on Friday, 30 October, and a leadership team is coming together. Jai Calloway, Corporate Ombudsman for Haliburton, and Brett Harris, University Ombudsperson for the University of Oregon, were elected Co-Chairs by the group. It will be on the agenda for the Board of Directors to officially approve the Task Force Co-Chairs at its December meeting.

The Task Force members agreed to break into four teams, each of which will have a particular focus relating to the themes of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, respectively, and will be selecting their own team leads. The IOA Board of Directors provided a draft Terms of Reference, which lays out the Task Force’s purpose, scope of responsibilities, relationship to the organization’s strategic direction, and other guidance for consideration, and invited feedback and recommendations for revisions to the document.

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IOA Leadership Onboarding Program Recap

By Steven Prevaux, JD, CO-OP®
IOA Vice President

IOA successfully launched a new Leadership Onboarding Program (LOP) with more than 30 IOA volunteers participating on 23 September 2020 using a virtual workshop format. We enjoyed an open dialogue with a meaningful exchange of diverse viewpoints and perspectives. A dynamic discussion of IOA leadership roles considered aspects of our “value proposition” through the lens of a focus question: “Why IOA?” Those two words sparked a range of honest, robust, and constructive responses from IOA leaders past, present, and emerging. To get a good sense of these timely and essential concerns check out the following video montage that includes thoughtful wisdom from a half-dozen veteran IOA leaders. 


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2016 Clery Act Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting Rescinded

On October 9th, the U.S. Department of Education rescinded the guidance in its 2016 Clery Act Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting. This is good news for those college and university Ombuds who have been compelled or who are under the threat of being designated “campus security authorities” by their institution. Read the full announcement and the new guidance from the Department of Education here.   Read on for a memorandum with analysis from the IOA Government & Policy Committee, or download it below.

Download the Memo

GPC MEMORANDUM

To:                   All IOA Members & the Ombuds Community

From:               IOA Government and Policy Committee

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2020 IOA Financial Update

By Lee Twyman, IOA Treasurer

The IOA 2020 budget has been significantly impacted by the cancellation of the IOA2020 Annual Conference and pre-conference professional development courses, cancellation of four planned Foundations courses (two at the conference and two scheduled for July of this year) as well as cancellation of one pre-conference core course. The current projected deficit for this year is $254,000. An important footnote here, over the past 5 years, IOA has worked diligently to build financial reserves and those reserves have provided a buffer for this year’s financial downturn and may provide additional reserves to draw upon for a couple more years.  However, just as in personal savings, we do not want to deplete the reserves any more than is absolutely necessary.

The Board and Finance Committee are working closely to remedy this budget deficit and bring IOA back to a positive net revenue within three years (if not sooner). All IOA Committees have been asked to voluntarily defer non-critical spending for the remainder of 2020, and we are looking for ways to gain back lost revenue.

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IOA Ombuds Program Extended

By Melanie Jagneaux, 2020-2021 IOA President

Dear IOA Members,

After a successful pilot program, the IOA Board unanimously voted to extend the IOA ombuds program. Our inaugural IOA Ombuds, Elaine Shaw, CO-OP®, informed the Board that she received calls from all sectors and across the globe. In addition, Elaine presented three ‘upward feedback’ concerns that inspired action of the Board concerning updates to members. Elaine also presented a written report to the Board on the program’s performance for the pilot period, which gave the Board the information necessary to review the program’s performance. The report was favorably received by the Board as it presents ombuds case information in a way that is both informative and reader-friendly. Given the quality and contents of the report, the Board unanimously agreed that IOA members would appreciate receiving the report. 

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