West Georgia Appoints Ombuds

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Conflict is a fact of life but it doesn’t have to affect a great work environment and that is the incentive for a new University of West Georgia Ombuds Office, which opened this month to help faculty, staff and students resolve issues of conflict.

Patricia Pinkard, coordinator of office services for the College of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Bruce Lyon, a retired vice president for Student Services and Dean of Students Emeritus, have accepted the staff and faculty ombuds positions for 2008-09. Either will see both faculty and staff as well as students.

UWG President Beheruz N. Sethna said that the new office would be a great asset to the campus.

“After returning from my interim appointment as Executive Vice Chancellor, I visited the academic and support departments on campus and listened very carefully to what colleagues were saying,” said Sethna. “One of the requests mentioned with high frequency, was that of creation of an Ombuds Office.  Even in a very tight budget year, my senior colleagues and I believe that this was important enough to support and we are pleased to do so.”

The Swedish term “ombuds” refers to a person who is independent in structure, function and appearance to the highest degree possible within the organization.  Ombuds remain neutral, unaligned and impartial and does not engage in any situation that could create a conflict of interest.

The Ombuds also hold all communications with those seeking assistance in strict confidence, and does not disclose confidential communications unless given permission to do so. The only exception to this privilege of confidentiality is where there appears to be imminent risk of serious harm.

Pinkard, a UWG employee for 15 years, said it was an easy decision for her.

“Being a people person I love meeting people and building new relationships,” said Pinkard. “After working in the construction industry for 20 years and then coming to UWG, I discovered that people will be people and that there are only two things I can control on this earth:  myself and my attitude.

“When this door of opportunity opened, I ran through it. The self-gratification I receive from helping someone, regardless of the situation, is my reward.  I consider this a great opportunity and a pleasure to do something that I love to do and have been doing, but most of all, to serve the university.”

Professional staff members in the University Ombuds Office are trained in accordance with the standards of the International Ombudsman Association and report to the UWG president.

Problems such as workplace discrimination, supervisor or employee disputes, preferential treatment and professional misconduct, and instructor /student issues are examples of what ombuds can help resolve. University policy provides assurance that state employees will not suffer reprisal for seeking the services of the office.