UO hires Ombud Brett Harris from Mississippi to replace MacAllister


Brett Harris, university ombudsperson, recently joined the University of Oregon after serving as the ombudsperson at the University of Mississippi. Brett holds a B.A. in American Studies from Idaho State University and a J.D. from the University of Idaho College of Law with a degree emphasis in Native American Law. She completed basic and advanced mediation training through the Northwest Institute for Dispute Resolution and was a court-approved mediator in Idaho. Prior to establishing the ombuds office and serving as ombuds at Ole Miss, Brett served for over two and a half years as a mediation program coordinator for Idaho’s Seventh Judicial Courts, practiced law, and provided mediation and ombuds services in private practice.

6/23/2016: Ombud candidate #2 to give public talk Friday at 4:15 in Johnson Hall

Here are the details on the candidates to replace Bruce MacAllister, with permanent links to their application materials, and a little extra info:

Candidate # 2 Shreya Trivedi

Campus Visit: Friday, June 24, 2016

Candidate Presentation: 4:15 p.m. in the Johnson Hall Conference Room

Candidate Materials: available here.

Candidate # 1 Brett Elizabeth Harris

Campus Visit: Friday, June 10, 2016

Candidate Presentation: 4:15 p.m. in the Ford Alumni Center, Room 403

Candidate Materials: Available here.

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For the historical record, you can find information on the search that led to the hiring of UO’s first Ombud Bruce MacAllister here. MacAllister’s final report is here. The official UO website for the search to replace him is here:

UO Ombudsperson candidates information:

Two finalist candidates for the position of ombudsperson for the University of Oregon will be on campus in the month of June. The UO Ombudsperson search committee invites all interested faculty, staff, and students to attend the public presentation of both candidates. The information about the first presentation is below.

The University Ombudsperson is a designated neutral and impartial dispute resolution practitioner whose major function is to provide confidential and informal assistance to university students, staff, faculty, and administrators. The Ombudsperson is not an advocate for any individual or for the university, but rather acts as an advocate for fairness and healthy campus conflict resolution. The job description is listed here.

MacAllister releases blunt Ombuds report, Reynolds (Law) to be interim

It’s easy to see why Bruce MacAllister was so essential, and so respected. His full report is here. Read it all, here are a few selective snippets:

2. Classified Staff
Deep Mistrust of AA/EO
Classified staff report high levels of distrust and low levels of confidence in the
fairness, competence, and responsiveness of the University’s AA/EO function.
Examples of concerns reported include reaching decisions and conclusions about
employee medical fitness without adequate input from an employee’s physician,
sharing information outside of the appropriate confines of HR record-keeping, and
generating shadow files. Ombuds does not independently investigate concerns and
draws no conclusions beyond noting a pattern of reported perception. I also note that
perception does not necessarily equate to fact, but patterns are important to the
acceptance and long-term efficacy of any particular program.
Patterns of abusive management style in trades positions.
Ombuds received extensive reports of managers in the “blue collar” positions being
subjected to perceived retaliation for surfacing safety concerns or physical injury.
Patterns of perceived avoidance of “Weingarten” protections
Ombuds received reports that employees felt “ambushed” in meetings that were
announced with a more generic topic, but in actually included disciplinary action,
which the employee perceived implicated certain NLRB protections.

3. Officers of Administration and Other Non-union Positions
Widespread perception of a lack of functional protections equivalent to those
available to unionized employees.
Officers of Administration consistently report a perception of an utter lack of due
process protections associated with their position. They report an incomprehensible
and unusable employee grievance process and a widespread sense of vulnerability.
Further, employees in this category report that they have no sense of confidence that
their managers will exercise progressive discipline or even candidly communicate
performance issues and expectations. Rather, these employees report that they
perceive that their managers simply use the annual contract renewal/non-renewal
process to winnow out non-classified personnel perceived to have performance

4. Faculty
Widespread perception of an academic culture that accepts abrasive behavior
and harassment.
There was a strong pattern of concerns reported among faculty that, as colleagues,
faculty are very hard on one another, and that department heads, deans, and other
administrators do not enforce standards of civility.

Perceptions that University “administration” is not transparent
A significant number of faculty reported that they do not trust “Johnson Hall,” and
that “Johnson Hall” resists sharing information and reacts to faculty who speak out defensively and with a tendency towards laying blame or finding faulty with the source of the particular comments.

Polarization … For a large portion of my tenure as ombuds, it was clearly apparent that faculty had splintered into subgroups around polarizing issues, such as the role of NCAA athletics on a campus, or the appropriate role of the President in challenging personnel or student issues. This extreme polarization led to a widely perceived sense that “Johnson Hall” was operating with a “bunker mentality” and refused to engage. The more that “Johnson Hall” was perceived as refusing to engage, the more activated groups of faculty became. I note that the polarization was not focused exclusively on the Administration versus Faculty vector, but included polarization among faculty, some who perceive that the UO Matters blog inhibits safe and open communication, in itself, and others who believe that the venue provides a valuable independent forum.

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The Reynolds announcement is here:

Reynolds, faculty director of ADR Center, named interim ombudsperson

Jennifer Reynolds, associate professor of law and faculty director of the Appropriate Dispute Resolution Center at the UO, has been named interim University of Oregon ombudsperson. Her appointment will run Jan. 15 to May 15 while the university searches for a permanent replacement.

The UO’s Ombuds Program is a safe and confidential place for members of the UO community to discuss concerns, explore options and find resources. As the ombudsperson, Reynolds will serve as independent and neutral confidant who can assist in resolving university-related concerns through informal means. 

Reynolds fills the position vacated by Bruce MacAllister, who left the UO in November to return to his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and pursue ongoing consulting commitments.

Reynolds, a graduate of Harvard Law School, teaches civil procedure, conflicts of law, negotiation and mediation. Her research interests include dispute systems design, problem solving in multiparty scenarios, judicial attitudes toward appropriate dispute resolution, and cultural influences and implications of alternative processes.

She has received the law school’s Orlando J. Hollis Teaching Award and the UO’s Ersted Award for Distinguished Teaching. She also has served as the national chair of the ADR Section of the Association of American Law Schools.

Ombud Bruce McAllister’s open letter on departure dispels rumors

11/29/2015: Ombudsperson Bruce MacAllister has sent an open letter reviewing the history of the Ombuds program, giving some information on his (considerable) accomplishments at UO over the past 2 years, and giving suggestions for what should be done next to maintain and strengthen the Ombuds program.

This letter should dispel the rumors (see the comments on this post) that his resignation was tied to lack of general support from JH or a disagreement over a specific case. The pdf is here, I’m cutting and pasting the entire text below.

Now if only Chief Internal Auditor Brenda Muirhead would provide an explanation for her resignation!

From UO Ombudsperson Bruce MacAllister,  

To the members of the University Community:

I’d like to express my gratitude to the University community for allowing me the
incredible opportunity to serve as the University of Oregon’s inaugural
ombudsperson. The last two years have been a wonderful experience and it has
been exciting to design and implement the University’s new Ombuds program.

As most of you now know, I am leaving the University of Oregon to pursue some
exciting new career opportunities. This new career direction allows great
flexibility and challenge and allows me to share my experience and expertise with
a number of world-class organizations. I want to emphasize that my decision to
leave the University was completely my own and was driven by complex personal
and professional life and career considerations. While serving as the UO
Ombudsperson, I have received great support from the University community. I
have had the opportunity to work with the University’s administration and with
three University presidents, each of whom have been extremely accessible and
with whom I have felt a cordial and supportive relationship.

Most important, I have had the pleasure of working with nearly 300 individual
visitors who sought my help as the University Ombudsperson. In addition, I
worked with nearly 200 other members of the campus community in various
group situations, including group conflict resolution sessions; organizational
assessment efforts, in which the root causes of chronic conflict were identified
and collectively addressed; and in other organizational development initiatives,
designed to optimize departments and reduce conflict potential. As a part of
Ombuds Program implementation, I worked with an additional 50 key program
leaders such as program directors for sexual assault advocacy, domestic violence
intervention, student conduct, counseling, medical support, emergency response,
and others. Finally, it was a great pleasure to serve on the University Senate’s
Task Force To Address Sexual Violence and Survivor Support, as an ex officio
member. The contributions of this group have already shown lasting value and
positive impact within the campus community.

Recently, the University made a commitment to permanent space for the Ombuds
Office, and we completed plans for an outstanding new location for the program. I
worked personally with the University’s designers to ensure that the new space
will meet the needs for a highly accessible, yet highly confidential facility. I have
been assured by the President’s Office, that the plan is still in place for the
Ombuds Office move, which should hopefully be complete by sometime in Spring

In addition to assuring that the physical space requirements meet the highest
standards, we worked to ensure that all of the infrastructure and systems related
to operating the ombuds program are based on the highest standards of practice.
Elements of this effort include the recently implemented custom case tracking
system, which now enables us to seamlessly track our commitments to visitors
and to archive non-sensitive information. The Ombuds Program web site,
emergency response procedures, confidentiality agreements (for staff), and all
other program documentation, systems, and processes are now in place.

As a result of intensive work during the implementation phase for the program,
the University of Oregon is now among the leading universities in the country
with respect to its ombuds program’s clear status as a confidential resource for
students and employees who encounter a sexual harassment or assault situation.
Thanks to the contribution of our late former President, David Frohnmayer, in
conducting an independent legal review, the support of Interim President Scott
Coltrane, and the staff support of the University General Counsel’s Office, the
University of Oregon Board of Trustees passed a very expressly worded policy
statement that identifies the University Ombuds as a confidential resource for
employees and students. While some have speculated that I was not in support of
an approach that required the additional steps of an independent legal review,
the idea was actually mine and I fully supported this approach as a way to ensure
that the decision to identify the Ombuds Program as a highly confidential
resource was a durable one and not dependent on the fiat of a single University

The University Ombuds Program is now nearly fully implemented with one
notable exception. Since January of 2015, I have endeavored to work with the
administration to finalize the Ombuds Program Charter. The charter documents
and memorializes the University’s commitment to the independence,
confidentiality, and neutrality of its ombuds program. Virtually all university
ombuds programs include such a document and benchmarks are readily available
for comparison to the draft that I have developed for the University of Oregon. I
would urge the University Senate and larger campus community to be zealous in
its insistence that the Ombuds Program function to a fully endorsed charter, as
the charter is critical to formalizing the ground rules and working commitments
to your ombuds program. The existence of a charter will help your Ombuds
Program weather transitions in administrations and boards and protects your
Ombudsperson from retaliation for bringing uncomfortable truths to the
attention of your administration.

I would also urge the university community to be actively engaged in the
screening and selection process for your new lead ombudsperson. Having served
in both the position of a large agency general counsel and a large organizations
ombuds, I can tell you from first-hand experience that the role of the
ombudsperson in a large complex campus is no less critical than that of your
General Counsel. The ability to identify potential issues and to effectively place
them on the screen of campus administration is a major element of the program’s
value. Thus, I urge you to place great energy into identifying a successor to the
position with the skills-set appropriate to the challenges and of the gravitas to be
effective and influential.

I leave the University with some sense of sadness in that I had originally
envisioned remaining at the helm of your program for some time yet. However, a
combination of professional and personal circumstances required more
immediate action. I want to acknowledge the outstanding support of the
University Senate and the campus community in general for helping me to gain
familiarity with the campus and to launch your program. I also greatly appreciate
the support of the University Board of Trustees, the current and former
University Presidents, Provosts, and many excellent key staff, such as the deans
and staff within the various colleges, members of HR, Student Life, and in the staff
attorneys in University Counsel’s Office. With the help of these many people and
others, we have launched a nationally recognized and sustainable ombuds
program, which already serves as a benchmark to other higher education
institutions. I am very proud of what we have accomplished together in a
relatively short time.

While I am leaving the University, I am not leaving the ombuds or higher
education communities and I will remain an active and engaged resource. I am
committed to the success of the University and its Ombuds Program and will
remain completely accessible for advice or for background information. I invite
any member of the campus community to reach out to me in the future should
the need arise. The staff of the Ombuds Office will have my contact information.

Bruce MacAllister

University of Oregon Ombudsperson

Update: It’s so: Ombud Bruce MacAllister to leave UO

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UO hires Bruce McAllister as Ombud, from Los Alamos

From: “President’s Office” <pres@uoregon.edu> Subject: Bruce MacAllister to join UO as university ombudsperson
Date: February 10, 2014 at 2:55:26 PM PST
Reply-To: pres@uoregon.edu

Dear Campus Community,

I am pleased to announce that Bruce MacAllister will join the University of Oregon as university ombudsperson.

MacAllister comes to the university from Santa Fe, New Mexico, where most recently he served as the Ombudsman Program Director for the International Foundation for Online Responsibility [This seems to be an anti-child-porn-on-the-internet trade group]. He brings 20 years’ experience working with the University of California, where he served for ten years as the first Ombuds Program Director for Los Alamos National Laboratory. He has exceptional experience in the design, implementation, and program management of ombuds programs and has helped to launch a number of ombudsman programs in higher education and corporate settings both nationally and internationally.

“I’m flattered and excited that the University of Oregon community selected me from among the excellent candidates that applied for the position. I really enjoy working with organizations to help them with their ombudsman programs and sharing my expertise in organizational conflict resolution, mediation, and training. I look forward to joining the university community and helping the UO implement a world-class university ombudsman program,” MacAllister said.

We are delighted that MacAllister has chosen to bring his skills and rich background to the University of Oregon. He holds a B.S. in chemistry and biology from Phillips University, and J.D. from the University of Tulsa. You can find more information about the University Ombudsperson position here and see Bruce MacAllister’s experience here.

Please join me in welcoming him to campus when he arrives in mid-March.

Michael Gottfredson, President