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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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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.

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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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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Letter from the IOA President - A Call for Fairness & Justice

Dear fellow IOA members,

Over the days following the senseless killing of George Floyd, people across the world have shared an outpouring of emotion from deep sadness to intense rage as the latest in a pattern of police violence against black people. I know that many of you may be feeling frightened, sad, hopeless, or angry; I certainly am.

It is at times like this that I realize how very important our role as ombuds is to the communities we serve. As ombuds, we are called to help, to heal, to educate, and to find solutions to our visitors’ issues. Perhaps our call to help has never been more important than it is today. No one person can heal the wounds of racism or prevent them from recurring. But as ombuds, we can do our part to help people address racism and other issues of violence or exclusion. We can be a voice to address systemic issues and fair processes whether with our visitors, with each other, within our organizations, or within our communities.

I imagine that many of you are plugged into the happenings in your cities and neighborhoods and are hearing loud pleas for help and outcries for change. No doubt, you are connecting and helping where you can. I hope you also feel comfortable asking for help, especially if these events are directly impacting you. I trust that you are activating your personal support networks, and I also want to remind you that your professional network in IOA is here for you, too. Please use our online Discussion Circles and the LinkedIn Organizational Ombuds Discussion Forum to share resources and support. Utilize the IOA Ombuds Program. Plan to join a Community Connections event. Reach out to our leadership team with suggestions for resources or action.

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Virtual Meetings and the Virtual Ombudsman

By Bruce MacAllister 
IOA Board of Directors

In these strange and challenging times, many mediation and ombudsman programs are having to make the switch to working virtually with visitors using a variety of web-based and telephone-based meeting approaches.  While much of my mediation and ombuds work has been based out of “brick and mortar” programs, since 2011, much of my work has also been global and virtual. 

Making the switch from face-to-face, in-person meetings to more distant substitutes poses some challenges, but over time I have discovered some tips that seem to help close the gap between the comfort and ease of sitting down together in an informal setting to building connections with visitors and others via phone or via conferencing software.  The goal of this posting is to offer a few tips to successfully bridging the gap between the comparative ease and comfort of in-person meetings to holding those meetings from a distance.

Tips:

Tip 1: Observe ceremony.  When a visitor comes to me for an in-person meeting there are several things that are important:


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Warm Thoughts from the IOA President

By Marcia Martínez-Helfman, IOA President 2018-2020

My first thought when I woke this morning was that I should be heading to the airport to fly to Portland and the IOA’s 15th Annual Conference. The Foundations Course would have already been underway.  I’d be preparing for our Board of Directors meeting on Saturday and Sunday, and excited that the Conference itself would be underway beginning Sunday night.  I will truly miss the camaraderie, learning, sharing, and just plain socializing with you all.

Today, I return to my home office aka the dining table after taking time to plot and execute a strategy for replenishing my refrigerator and pantry.  My son, recently back from London and self-isolating, stood at the curb to pick up the groceries I brought to him as I waved from my car.  These unprecedented times have touched all of us, across the globe, in small and great ways.  Too much suffering continues, and many lives continue to be lost.

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Welcome Newly Elected Board Directors!

By Marcia Martínez-Helfman, JD, MSW
2019-2020 IOA President

The annual election of IOA Directors has just concluded, and I’m delighted to report the results. I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank the Nominations and Governance Committee, Board of Directors, and all IOA members for participating in the election process!

We are excited to welcome three new directors to our Board:

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IOA Board Nominations Are Open Until 18 November

By Steven D. Prevaux, Chair, Nominations & Governance Committee

Tis the season for autumn leaves turning, friends and family returning and candidates yearning. Earlier this week the IOA Board of Directors issued the annual “Call for Nominations” seeking eligible candidates to run for election to serve on the IOA Board. We encourage you to reflect on this opportunity to nominate excellent colleagues for this amazing opportunity!

As a voluntary association, we thrive on practicing the very principles that we encourage our organizations to provide such as fairness, empowerment, and inclusivity. We celebrate the deep variety of experiences, talent, and perspectives of our members and invite your participation.

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IOA Board of Directors Spotlight - Steve Prevaux

by Jennifer Smith Schneider, Ph.D., Student Ombuds, University of South Florida
Editor, The Independent Voice

Steve Prevaux, who is my colleague at USF, was appointed to the IOA Board in August. In an effort to promote transparency and enhance our sense of community, I asked Steve to respond to a few questions (some of which are serious and others that are less so), and I want to share his responses with you here. I think the world of Steve, as a professional and as a human. I feel certain that you will enjoy getting to know him better. Enjoy the read!

What motivated you to become a leader in IOA?

The IOA is poised to make a very positive difference in the directional development of the future organizational ombuds practice. Colleagues have expressed that my governance background and experience with rapidly developing organizations would be helpful as our Board navigates strategic decision points during a period of rapid change. My home university has successfully closed the graduation gap among students, regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. This ethos is also a nice fit for the IOA’s current culture of sustainable inclusivity. We are now reaching for the next level of success- onward and upward!

What is your biggest goal for your time on the Board?

Creating clear and transparent processes that add consistent value! We have reached a crucial point in the organizational development of the IOA. Now is a great time to have an authentic dialogue about our future strategic direction with an eye towards positive change management. The consensus we build around our core leadership focus and resulting practices should increase transparency to members and boost our overall effectiveness. The recent hire of our first Executive Director is a solid step in this direction, and I look forward to collaborating with him during my service on the Board to promote IOA success. 


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Update on the Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education

by Marcia Martínez-Helfman, JD, MSW, 2019-2020 IOA President

Greetings, Colleagues –

I want to share with you this letter I received from the National Academies' Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education acknowledging the IOA as a founding member of this very important effort to address sexual misconduct in academia. IOA has made a four-year commitment to this effort. Hats off to Jessica Kuchta-Miller, IOA Board member and Government & Policy Committee Co-Chair, for bringing this opportunity to the IOA.

The Action Collaborative will host an annual summit every fall in a different part of the country. The Summit is an opportunity to gather information, engage in a dialogue, gain diverse perspectives on how to effectively prevent sexual harassment and abuse, and ultimately identify and elevate promising practices for preventing sexual harassment and abuse. This year's Summit will be held November 19 - 20, 2019 at the University of Washington in Seattle, and is free and open to the public. Jessica Kutcha-Miller and Chuck Howard will be attending on behalf of IOA, and will be sharing information about the value and effectiveness of ombuds programs with Summit participants.



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Interview with Amanda Dean

by Roy Baroff, COOP®, Faculty and Staff Ombuds, NC State University

This is part of an ongoing series of conversations between an IOA Board Director and an IOA member.  In mid-August I, Roy Baroff (RB), spoke with Amanda Dean (AD), asking about her journey into ombuds practice, how IOA helped along the way, and what else IOA could or should be doing. We had a pretty far-ranging conversation; here’s a summary, and I hope you enjoy it! I really appreciate Amanda for sharing her time and her journey with us!

 RB: Could you start by sharing how you got into ombuds work?

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