(Consultation Services are exclusively available
to Tenure-Line and Non-Tenure-Line FACULTY)
The following principles guide the work of faculty ombudspersons.
Confidentiality- Independence- Informality &
Neutrality and Impartiality
Faculty ombudspersons provide a safe environment for the discussion of issues and concerns; by listening to concerns, they assist the faculty in identifying or creating options for resolution that meet the needs of the faculty and the university, including referrals to formal channels with investigatory powers. Faculty ombudspersons do not keep formal records, perform formal investigations, or advocate for either one party or another, but they advocate for fairness.
Mohamad A. Ansari, University Faculty Ombudsperson
Associate Professor of Mathematics, Penn State Berks
Office Hours: By Appointment
Dr. Ansari was elected by the Senate for a 4-year term (2018 – 22) as the University Faculty Ombudsperson. In 2017-2018 he served as the University Faculty Ombudsperson Elect. A Penn State faculty member since 1983, Dr. Ansari served as chair of the University Faculty Senate during the 2015-2016 academic year. He has represented the Berks campus as a faculty senator since 2001, with his current term expiring in 2020. He also served as chair of the Berks Faculty Senate several times, most recently from 2011 to 2013. Dr. Ansari has also served six years on the Senate Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities.
Message from the University Faculty Ombudsperson
It is my great honor to serve as the University Faculty Ombudsperson. I strive to follow the duties that are outlined in the University Faculty Senate Standing Rules as well as The International Ombudsman Association Standards Of Practice.
My fellow Ombudspersons and I are committed to listening to the faculty; answering questions; explaining policies and procedures; providing information and advice; exploring possible solutions; suggesting appropriate referrals; assisting in pursuing a resolution; and informally mediating a dispute where appropriate.
Should you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone (610-396-6129).
Mohamad A. Ansari
University Faculty Ombudsperson
College/Campus Ombudsperson Training
The University Faculty Ombudsperson coordinates the training of all college and campus ombudspersons. Dr. Ansari will disseminate important information among the various colleges and campus ombudspersons. He also serves as the University-level contact for all unit ombudspersons. For consultation or questions, email: email@example.com or call (610) 396-6129.
An Ombudspersons Orientation Meeting will be held at the beginning of the fall semester for all academic unit ombudspersons. Additionally, during 2019-2020 academic year, two regional meetings will be held for ombudspersons from colleges at University Park and for the ombudspersons from Commonwealth campuses.
The 2018-2019 Ombudsperson Orientation Meeting was held on August 21, 2018 from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm in Kern 102 at the University Park. Zoom connections were available for those who cannot attend in person.
Faculty Orientation Handouts (2018-2019)
Faculty Ombudspersons are committed to:
- To enhance communication;
- To listen and help to analyze the problem or complaint;
- To clarify possible misunderstandings in situations which involve potential disputes;
- To help to define and evaluate options;
- To identify and explain relevant university policies and procedures;
- To assist to resolve issues informally and expeditiously;
- To assure that appropriate department, college and/or campus procedures are exhausted before referring the case to higher levels.
Faculty Ombudsperson shall not:
- Hold hearings;
- Exceed the role of conciliator and adviser;
- Substitute his or her judgment for that of appropriate administrative and/or faculty bodies;
- Serve as counsel for either party to a complaint before the Hearing Board.
View the full list of Unit Ombudspersons. If any discrepancies are identified, please contact us.
At the end of the academic year each unit ombudsperson will be asked to complete a survey on their activities for the year. Dr. Ansari will summarize the findings of the survey and present to them to the Senate Council. When requested, the University Faculty Ombudsperson will also present an overview to the full Senate. Privacy and confidentiality of individual cases will be protected.
Academic Unit (College and Campus) Ombudspersons (AC76)
“Colleges and campuses should have a person or group to serve in the role of ombudsperson. The individual or group should be selected by procedures approved by a majority of the faculty in the unit.” AC 76
Note: According to AC 76 they are also responsible for Informing the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and appropriate college or campus officials if a matter cannot be resolved at the lower level and the case is to be referred to the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities. However, in practice, notification is now done by the Senate office automatically when a case comes to the Senate Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities..
Six Steps to the Conflict Resolution Process
- Clarify what the disagreement is. Clarifying involves getting to the heart of the conflict. The goal of this step is to get both sides to agree on what the disagreement is. To do this, you need to discuss what needs are not being met on both sides of the conflict and ensure mutual understanding. During the process, obtain as much information as possible on each side’s point of view. Continue to ask questions until you are certain that all parties involved (you and those on either side of the conflict) understand the issue.
- Establish a common goal for both parties. In this step of the process, both sides agree on the desired outcome of the conflict. “When people know that they’re working towards the same goal, then they’re more apt to participate truthfully to make sure that they reach that end goal together.” Kimberly A. Benjamin explained in a recent BLR webinar. To accomplish this, discuss what each party would like to see happen and find a commonality in both sides as a starting point for a shared outcome. That commonality can be as simple as “both sides want to end the conflict.”
- Discuss ways to meet the common goal. This involves listening, communicating, and brainstorming together. Continue with both sides working together to discuss ways that they can meet the goal they agreed on in step 2. Keep going until all the options are exhausted.
- Determine the barriers to the common goal. In this step of the process, the two parties acknowledge what has brought them into the conflict and talk about what problems may prevent a resolution. Understanding the possible problems that may be encountered along the way lets you proactively find solutions and have plans in place to handle issues. Define what can and cannot be changed about the situation. For the items that cannot be changed, discuss ways of getting around those road blocks.
- Agree on the best way to resolve the conflict. Both parties need to come to a conclusion on the best resolution. Start by identifying solutions that both sides can live with. Ask both sides and see where there is common ground. Then start to discuss the responsibility each party has in maintaining the solution. It’s also important to use this opportunity to get to the root cause to ensure this conflict will not come up again. “A lot of times when we try to fix problems, we get so caught up in fixing it that we do not identify what we need to do so it doesn’t happen.” Benjamin cautioned.
- Acknowledge the agreed upon solution and determine the responsibilities each party has in the resolution. Both sides need to own their responsibility in the resolution of the conflict and express aloud what they have agreed to. After both parties have acknowledged a win-win situation, ask both parties to use phrases such as “I agree to…” and “I acknowledge that I have responsibility for…”