In the past year, IOA held its fifth annual conference, an attorney wrote the first guide for Ombuds, U.S. legislation created new federal Ombuds programs, FCO began its own training program, a campus suicide drew attention to the role of Ombuds in bullying cases, Cal Caucus resumed its annual meeting, nearly two dozen new offices opened, other Ombuds were newsworthy, certification became a reality, and several notable Ombuds passed away.
Congress Passes Law to Create New Federal Ombuds Offices -- The sweeping reform legislation signed into law by President Obama in July will establish new Ombuds programs for the Securities and Exchange Commission's Office of the Investor Advocate, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and for private student loan disputes. The SEC moved first to solicit public commentary and has already received feedback from many Organizational Ombuds and experts. Meanwhile, the Coalition of Federal Ombudsmen continued to collaborate with other federal agencies that were establishing Ombuds programs on their own mandates.
FCO Debuts Ombuds Training -- In September, the Forum of Canadian Ombudsman hosted its first ever course on Ombuds fundamentals featuring nearly two dozen Canadian Ombuds. Although intended primarily for new and intermediate-level Classical Ombuds, the two-day program is an important new resource for Organizational Ombuds as well, especially in Canada.
Tragedy at UVA Highlights Growing Concern Over Bullying -- One of the many stories of bullying reported in the mainstream press involved the Ombuds at the University of Virginia. In August, an editor of The Virginia Quarterly Review took his own life after complaining about workplace bullying. Although the victim allegedly contacted the UVA Ombuds shortly before his death, the Ombuds was steadfast in protecting his confidentiality. Ultimately, an internal audit found that the University took "appropriate actions" in handling the situation and reiterated that it would have had no notice of complaints heard by the Ombuds. The incident highlighted the relationship between Ombuds and bullying, which was further explored in an article for the LERA Newsletter and an entire issue of the Journal of IOA, and at meetings of the Ombuds of Texas, ENOHE-ACCUO, and the Midwest University & College Ombuds.
Cal Caucus Returns Reinvigorated-- In 2009 the California Caucus of Colleges and University Ombuds did not meet for the first time in nearly four decades due to declining attendance. After retooling, Cal Caucus returned to the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove in November 2010 with an impressive list of presenters from the U.S. and Canada.
Other Ombuds Dominate the Popular News -- For better or worse, Ombuds that made headlines in 2010 were not Organizational Ombuds, but their stories were among the most read on the Ombuds Blog: The BP Ombuds received significant attention in the wake of the gulf oil spill and was eventually slated for closure; National Public Radio will be hiring a new Ombuds; and a high profile Executive Ombuds had a dispute with a Canadian flight crew that garnered unwanted attention.
Certification Becomes a Reality -- Early in the year, the Board of Certification for Certified Organizational Ombudsman Practitioners Board announced the results of the first certification examination. The test has now been administered multiple times and is available to international applicants. So far, 45 Ombuds have passed the exam and certification screening and are eligible to use the CO-OP designation.
In Memoriam -- Several notable Ombuds passed away in 2010, including: Elizabeth Walsh Pino (Palmer & Dodge and McKinsey & Co.); Eugene Vasilew (Binghamton University); Milton J. Brawer (Western Michigan University); and William T. Mason III (John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory). Their contributions to the field and to their constituencies were invaluable, and they will be missed.