Committee informally mediates campus feuds

By Katherine Kisiel

Arizona Summer Wildcat

Their motto is, "Up a tree? Call one of these, 'Friendly Listeners'," and it is a service everyone should know about.

The Ombudsperson Committee is designed to deal with problems that faculty, staff or students might have with the university or with each other.

Jackie Schneider, special counsel to the president who confirms the committee's staff, said she and President Manuel T. Pacheco came up with the idea for the Ombudsperson program over three years ago.

Schneider said she felt the university did not have a system for students, faculty and staff to express their concerns or problems.

"It's a great way for people to voice their problems in a complete, confidential system," Schneider said.

Susan Theiss, the new '95-'96 co-chairwoman of the committee, said she has found "absolute success with the committee." She said the committee has been fortunate to have such caring individuals who want to help the university community.

The committee consists of volunteers who are nominated by peers and finalized by the president.

There are 25 members and five ex-officio members. The members consist of faculty, staff and some students. The five ex-officio members are not appointed by the president, but are part of the committee because of their positions, including the president of ASUA and the chairman of the faculty.

The members go through professional training by people who are educated in the field of mediation, Theiss said.

Along with the training, the committee has sub-committee's that deal with reporting, publicity and updating resources.

Lisa DuBois, co-chairwoman of the committee for the past two years, said the most successful part of the committee is that the members are from all levels and parts of the university.

The committee handles about 90 cases a year and deals mainly with students having problems with professors and employee/supervisor issues, DuBois said.

According to the '93-'94 Ombudsperson Annual Report, the majority of cases involved employee/supervisor relations, totaling over 29 cases that year.

In the student column, the highest number of cases were in student/faculty relations.

In the faculty column, the highest number of cases included four in department harassment/departmental matters and at least three dealing with promotion/tenure issues.

The committee tries to provide resolutions to problems so people can avoid going to a higher level, like legal assistance, which is often time-consuming and costly, DuBois said.

People turn to the service for mediation because it helps resolve disputes more informally. "Mediation, it's like magic; it really works," DuBois said.

The Ombudsperson Committee is not empowered to change a formal decision made by the university; rather it is a free service designed to resolve problems in an easy, informal way.

To contact the Ombudsperson Committee, call Susan Theiss at 626-7020.

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