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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
AFA Ombuds, November 2022