Ombudsperson

The Executive Committee of the AFA is pleased to announce the position of AFA Ombudsperson (Ombuds).  The position will be held by Francine Montemurro, who has over 20 years’ experience as a practicing Ombuds.  She currently serves as University Ombuds at Boston University, a position she has held since 2009.  Previously she served for 12 years as University Ombuds at the State University of New York at Binghamton.

The Ombuds will provide informal, confidential assistance to members of the AFA who need advice about work-related ethical issues, discrimination or harassment.  The AFA Ombuds is a resource for AFA members to discuss concerns, develop options, problem-solve, create paths for self-advocacy, and make informed choices about the best path forward. In keeping with the principles of the International Ombudsman Association, the Ombuds has an obligation for even-handedness, and does not perform investigations.

A more formal description of the duties and scope of the AFA Ombuds can be found in the charter, here:

Francine Montemurro
Francine Montemurro

The AFA Ombuds provides informal, confidential problem-solving assistance to members of the AFA. I was appointed AFA Ombuds when the role was created in December 2019.  Since then, a total of 23 individuals have contacted me for assistance.

Following is a summary of observations and aggregate case data. Because strict confidentiality is a key principle of practice for all organizational ombuds, this summary includes only general information that has been anonymized.

Organizational ombuds work includes a range of problem-solving and conflict management interventions that address both individual disputes and problems that appear to  be systemic in nature.

Most of the cases I’ve received have involved individual disputes, i.e., AFA members seeking help with managing conflict with either another AFA member, or with a colleague or supervisor at their home institution. Invariably, in each case, the underlying concern was how to address the problem and minimize damage to the individual’s professional reputation, career, or professional relationships.

Generally, systemic issues involve the policies, practices, or organizational norms that exist in an organization itself. In my AFA Ombuds role, while many inquirers perceived concerns about the norms, climate, and challenges of academia and their respective home institution, very few individuals sought assistance from me regarding systemic concerns about the AFA itself.

In every case, my primary role has been to help individuals clarify their concerns, identify their priorities, communicate clearly and effectively, and identify possible options for next steps in conflict situations and/or managing difficult conversations.  I also researched and directed individuals to appropriate resources that could provide additional guidance.

Inquiries usually include a complexity of concerns, perceptions, facts, and interests. My role includes helping inquirers identify what matters most to them (i.e., their primary concern) and what they would like to see happen. Primary concerns are broadly categorized using the list in Appendix II of this report. The primary concerns for each of the 23 cases I’ve received are listed Appendix I (point #4) of this report.  Additional aggregate demographics are also included in Appendix I. While I did meet with AFA members on-site at the 2020 AFA Conference, all subsequent inquirers have contacted me via ombuds@afajof.org.

I will be on-site and available for in-person meetings during the AFA 2023 Annual Meeting at the at the Sheraton New Orleans.

Francine Montemurro,
AFA Ombuds, November 2022

 


Frequently Asked Questions

The Ombuds role reflects the AFA commitment to the AFA Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics. The Ombuds provides a resource for those who have concerns related to upholding the Code; this includes those who have observed a possible violation, have been harmed by a violation, or are seeking clarification.

The Ombuds is available to informally discuss concerns, develop options, problem-solve, create paths for self-advocacy, and make informed choices about the best path forward. The Ombuds also assists the AFA in identifying issues that appear to be a source of problems to the AFA or its members.

Yes. Your communication with the Ombuds is considered privileged, confidential, and off-the-record. You may consult with the Ombuds without divulging your name or any identifiable information. The principle of confidentiality helps create a safe place to voice concerns, evaluate issues, and identify options in discussions with the Ombuds.

Consistent with the International Ombudsman Association Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, the only exceptions to the Ombuds confidentiality principle are i) when, during the course of communications with the Ombuds, permission to disclose has been given to the Ombuds, and the Ombuds determines it is appropriate and has agreed to do so, or ii) when the Ombuds determines that there is an imminent risk of serious harm.

Except as required by law, communications with the Ombuds are made with the understanding that the Ombuds will not provide documents, testify, attend, or participate in any formal or legal proceeding.

Anyone with a concern regarding AFA core activities or the academic finance profession, more broadly, may consult with the Ombuds.

The Ombuds may be contacted for assistance with concerns about AFA core activities, an AFA member’s home institution, or the full range of issues involving the academic finance profession, including but not limited to, concerns about ethical breaches and sexual harassment and discrimination.

As a confidential, informal resource, the Ombuds can help you identify resources and develop strategies and options to address your concerns. This may include, for example: providing a sounding board; helping to locate relevant policies and resources; and providing strategies for self-advocacy, difficult conversations, and managing conflict.

The Ombuds provides only informal assistance, and does not make or override decisions, determine policy, testify or participate in formal actions, provide legal advice, or accept legal notice for the AFA or any other institution, entity, or person. If you wish to file a formal grievance or to go on-record, the Ombuds can help you locate appropriate formal channels so you can make choices about which process is best for you to pursue.

Yes. As a confidential resource, the Ombuds also provides a means to discuss informal and formal options off-the-record. While the Ombuds is empowered to provide only informal assistance, you may consult with the Ombuds for help in identifying appropriate resources for filing a formal grievance.

No. The Ombuds does not provide legal or other kinds of advocacy or enforce the AFA Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics.

No. The Ombuds maintains only anonymous, aggregate data. Informal notes may be temporarily created only as needed for case management. You are not required to provide your name or personally identifiable information to the Ombuds. If you choose to do so, no records containing identifiable information will preserved.

You may contact the Ombuds whenever you are most comfortable doing so, and you are encouraged to do so at the early stage of a concern. Consulting with the Ombuds early on often preserves more choices for you to address your concern.

The Ombuds is available for consultation in person at the annual AFA meeting and available all year at ombuds@afajof.org.

The Ombuds is independent, and not a member, of the AFA.

Starting January 1, 2020, the role will be filled by Ms. Francine Montemurro.