UT Staff Council welcomes first staff ombudsman

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Jennifer Sims, the University’s first ombudsperson for staff employees, starts her position later this month. Ombuds officers have already been available for students and faculty at UT, but Sim’s office will be the first to adresss and resolve conflicts for staff members within the University.

Photo Credit: Erika Rich | Daily Texan Staff

University administrators have appointed an official to help mediate staff conflicts on campus for the first time.

Staff Ombuds Officer Jennifer Sims will start July 20. Her office will serve as an independent, neutral third party that addresses and resolves staff conflicts and concerns with the University. The University’s Staff Council has worked with administrators to create the position since spring 2010.

Sims has previously worked as an ombudsperson for the University of Hawaii at Manoa and associate ombudsperson for Bridgepoint Education. She said she can help the University community by providing a confidential and neutral intermediary that staff members will feel comfortable working through challenges with.

“I think it’s a great thing in terms of equity because there are already faculty and student [ombuds] offices,” Sims said. “I think it says a lot about the University valuing staff enough to give them the same type of opportunities that other groups on campus have.”

UT President William Powers Jr. said in a press release Sims’ knowledge of the field will help establish the success of the new office at UT.

“She has extensive experience in dispute resolution and will serve as a strong, independent advocate for our staff,” Powers said. “The Staff Council has made an ombuds officer a priority, and I believe this position will benefit our staff and the University as a whole.”

Sims said she has not yet established how exactly her office will be structured, but it will follow the same ethics and standards of practice as the University’s student and faculty ombuds offices.
“Being an ombuds is about social justice and problem solving which is something I’m naturally drawn to,” she said. “Being on a campus is a community that’s a workable size, and you can actually see some of the fruits of your labor.”

Sims said her office will have to figure out boundaries of their responsibilities and those of other offices, but she looks forward to working with all members of the University community.

“I’m learning more about the University each day, and it seems like a great campus,” she said. “I feel that it has a sense of class that I haven’t seen in many other university campuses.”

Former Staff Council Chair Ben Bond headed the organization when Sims was selected for the position. He said in a press release that Sims is well qualified to serve as staff ombuds officer, and her office will be a helpful resource for the entire University staff.

“The Staff Council worked hard on its recommendation to the president, and we are grateful that he chose to implement it,” Bond said. “Adding the new staff ombuds will make the University of Texas at Austin a better place to work for everyone.”

Printed on 07/11/2011 as: University officials approve hire of staff-exclusive ombuds officer