What does the University Ombudsman do?

Dear Benny:
I’ve read that Joan F. Goodman was recently named the University Ombudsman. Can you tell me what she will be doing in that role?
—Fair and Balanced

Dear Fair and Balanced,
Goodman’s “day job” is as a professor of education in the Graduate School of Education. She has been a tenured faculty member at Penn since 1988 and was promoted to full professor in 1994. She will serve as ombudsman for a two-year term, effective July 1.

Now, for a little history about the position: The Office of the Ombudsman was established in 1971 to help individuals find solutions to problems unresolved through normal channels.?

The ombudsman is actually a part-time position that is held by a tenured faculty member. The office also includes a full-time Associate Ombudsman—Michele Goldfarb. Ombudsman services are available for all members of the University community (except unionized workers at Penn and employees of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania) who seek assistance in addressing problems, including academic disputes, workplace conflicts, compensation equity and interpersonal tensions. The ombudsman’s mission is to resolve these issues before tensions escalate.

In all cases, initial complaints are heard confidentially. Further action is taken only when complainants want the office to proceed on their behalf. If a complainant wishes, the ombudsman will approach the accused, discuss the nature of the complaint and give him or her the opportunity to respond. The office works to find solutions that are acceptable to both the complainant and the respondent.

The ombudsman acts independently and is not an advocate for any one individual or group, but an advocate for fairness, adherence to University regulations, due process and personal responsibility.

To contact the Office of the Ombudsman, call 215-898-8261 or visit www.upenn.edu/ombudsman.

Got a question for Benny? Send it via e-mail to current@pobox.upenn.edu or via regular mail to the Current, 200 Sansom Place East, 3600 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6106.

Originally published on June 11, 2009