Committee tries to help UA community resolve conflicts

By Alicia A. Caldwell
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 11, 1996

Anyone in the university community who has a university-related problem can talk to a ombudsperson to hopefully find a solution.

The University Ombudsperson is a committee of 25 to 30 university staff and faculty members dedicated to helping students, staff and faculty find a resolution to their disputes.

According to Dan Maxwell, committee co-chair and director of the Department of Student Programs, application packets are sent out across campus asking for nominations to the committee. Nominations are taken for individuals in various employment levels and from departments across campus.

"We are looking for people who can listen, mediate and reason," Maxwell said with regards to the application and nomination process.

Each member of the committee is also involved in training sessions that are conducted by the co-chairs, Maxwell and Susan Theiss, business manager in the Department of Family and Community Medicine.

The training consists of an initial session to inform the members of all of their roles. In addition, the trainees are given a manual of established policies on issues such as affirmative action and sexual harassment.

The main purpose of the committee is to help mediate the problems the students, faculty and staff may have in the classroom, work environment or any other university-related situation, Maxwell said. The job of the ombudsperson is not to solve the problems or disputes but rather to mediate and aid in the resolution process, he said.

"We are here to listen to the dispute and to make the individual aware of all of the routes that they can take to resolve the dispute," Maxwell said.

However, if the individual has taken the problem to a legal level or the human resources department, the committee halts all action on the situation.

Maxwell said the entire process is confidential and the individual who starts the mediation process makes all of the decisions as to what steps will be taken.

Although the process is confidential, there is a tracking or reporting process that is involved. Each case is documented in a generic form in order to keep a record of the type of problems addressed by the committee. These reports are then given to Jaqueline Schneider, special council to the university president and general council. From her, the reports are given to President Manuel Pacheco himself.

Maxwell said there has been an increase in the number of cases that the committee is involved in because more people are becoming aware of its presence and the services that it provides.

If needed, there are also members of the committee that speak fluent Spanish and Arabic that may aid in the initial meetings to resolve a conflict.

Both of the chairs are appointed for a two-year commitment while regular committee members are able to participate for an extended period of time, as long as they feel that they have the time to commit.

Anyone interested in utilizing the assistance of the Ombudsperson Committee should obtain a brochure from the Department of Student Programs for a listing of the committee's members.