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
Term.

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
official.

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.

Sincerely,
Bruce MacAllister

University of Oregon Ombudsperson

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

An anonymous fan of the blog sends this:

Date: Friday, November 20, 2015 at 4:34 PM
To: Senior Leadership Team <
Subject: personnel announcement

Sent on behalf of Greg Stripp

Dear Colleagues,

I want to let you know about a departure from the university family. Ombudsperson Bruce MacAllister has decided to leave the university so that he can return to his home in Santa Fe, NM, to pursue ongoing consulting commitments. His last day will be November 30. We will communicate interim plans soon, as we assess program needs and plan for a new recruitment.

We are deeply grateful to Bruce for launching the University of Oregon’s ombuds office, which is an independent and neutral problem-solving resource for students, faculty and staff. Prior to joining UO, Bruce helped design and implement a number of ombuds programs, including the ombuds office for the University of California at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

We’re sorry to see Bruce go, and we wish him the very best of luck.

Greg Stripp

11/19/15: Ombud Bruce MacAllister to leave UO?

That’s the rumor from the faculty breakfast club. Here’s hoping it’s not true. MacAllister has done an amazing job. Before he came 2 years ago I had no idea what an ombud did, now I have no idea how UO can function without one. Their website is here.

11/21/2015: Looks like an interesting workshop:

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22 Responses to Ombud Bruce McAllister’s open letter on departure dispels rumors

  1. Anonymous says:

    Say it aint so.

  2. So, unfortunately. says:

    The rumor at the faculty breakfast club is now that a certain administrator will be holding a party. For successfully getting rid of our auditor and ombudsman.

  3. Kitten says:

    Sh*t! First the auditor, now the ombudsman.

    I suppose Schill is simply too new and too busy travelling to make inroads on the group-think, but really: it must happen soon.

    • uhhhh says:

      Schill took the side of the administrator. That’s why the ombudsman is leaving. Wasn’t that spelled out for you?

      • uomatters says:

        It’s anonymous, tell us what you know. Around the Oops certainly isn’t going to tell us anything about the auditor or this!

  4. AL says:

    Mr Schill’s famous press release on August 4 (“I do not believe any of our coaches, administrators, or other university personnel acted wrongfully, nor do I believe that any one of them failed to live up to the high moral standards”) emboldens the old guards to continue with their corrupt practice. His recent interview with the editors of Portland Tribune (a tiny e-newspaper that I had never heard of until Nov 11) signifies he caters to the rich and influential. Business as usual.

    • Fishwrapper says:

      I’m sure there are some provincial types in the Portland area who have not heard of the R-G, or the Weekly, either. And they don’t even sponsor a spelling bee.

    • (No Longer) Working GTF says:

      This news, on top of the discouraging proposals (and lack of any any economic proposals once again) from the first round of GTFF bargaining brings to mind a famous lyric:

      Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

  5. Buzz says:

    If true, this would be a serious loss for the UO; someone whose few public presentations exhibited more balance and understanding of what it takes to manage a public university than the words of any sitting administrator.

  6. Dysfunction says:

    The two independent offices – Internal Audit and the Ombuds. If this is true it is not good. I hope people keep an eye on these offices. If these offices are failing the university will not move forward. If Bruce is leaving we shouldn’t let it go. It was already enough losing Brenda. Until Internal Audit and the Ombuds are supported by the Administration we will see more of the same patterns.

  7. Dysfunction says:

    This letter does not make me feel any better. It sounds like he wanted a charter. It would be nice for someone with some inside information to shed more light on his departure. Open letters like these are political and interwoven within are the real reasons he is leaving.

    • uomatters says:

      His letter seems pretty clear.

      • Dysfunction says:

        His actions speak louder. The UO is now a potential client. Like I mentioned, I am guessing this letter is strictly political while at the same time being very clear on the issues that need to be addressed.

        I could be totally off in my thinking but my guess is that this paragraph is the issue:

        “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.”

      • just different says:

        I think it’s possible to read a bit too much between the lines. MacAllister isn’t the passive-aggressive type and his decision to leave probably was entirely his own. However, I know he wasn’t thrilled with the level of cooperation and support he received from some offices within the university. That may or may not have been a contributing factor to his decision, but dropping hints about that in a letter to the entire campus isn’t his style.

        • Dysfunction says:

          Thanks for your insight. You are probably right about reading too much between the lines. I am just having a hard time with the departure of both Bruce and Brenda.

        • All true, says:

          But rarely will you see those in positions of power fired in a dramatic fashion a la Riviere. The Hat was encouraged to leave in this gentler way, but refused. What do you think would have happened to the Ombudsman or auditor if they refused?

        • Lest we forget says:

          Gott was outright fired, and they literally rained money and praise on him on the way out. The club looks out for their own.

    • OA Anon says:

      While it seems that the choice to leave was probably Bruce’s I also think that the University did not try very hard to keep Bruce on (e.g. make him feel supported and adequately compensated) when he had other career options come up. That retention thing.

  8. disgusted not amused says:

    I heard from inside source that he was forced out. And one of the self-professed “front runners” for the position now is a kid with less than six months at the city prosecutor’s office (and some military time). There was a recent lunch between the cpo and the u of o attorneys to facilitate “collaboration”. Interesting.