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Faculty Ombuds Officer

The Faculty Ombuds Officer deals with conflicts that arise among faculty members and between faculty members and administrators. The position is located in the Office of the President. The Ombuds has no role in appraising the qualifications of faculty members for tenure or promotion.

In a typical case, a faculty member or administrator contacts the Ombuds and explains the problem from his/her own perspective. Sometimes the Ombuds simply counsels the client, helping him/her to understand the situation and to develop a strategy for dealing with it independently (i.e., without direct involvement of the Ombuds.)

If counseling alone is not sufficient, the client may authorize the Ombuds to contact the other party or parties involved in order to get their perspectives on the matter and see what possibilities there may be for mutually acceptable resolution. The Ombuds may practice "shuttle diplomacy", going back and forth between the parties in order to encourage them to consider various options. This phase of the grievance process is referred to as "negotiation".

Where appropriate, and with the agreement of all parties, the Ombuds may set up a formal "mediation", in which the parties come together face to face and propose specific ways to deal with the problems that have been identified. The Ombuds facilitates this process, and takes note of areas of agreement. Ideally, the parties work out a mutually agreeable solution at this stage.

If the parties cannot reach a mutually satisfactory agreement, then the dissatisfied party may file a formal grievance document with the University Senate. The Ombuds is no longer involved in the process at this point. The Senate appoints an ad hoc review committee to study the grievance and call witnesses to testify as appropriate. The review committee eventually recommends a final resolution of the matter. If either party refuses to accept the review committee's judgment, he or she may appeal directly to the University President.

Interpersonal relations are the most frequent focus of faculty complaints, followed by salaries (including both specific salary levels and equity issues.) Tenure and promotion timing and procedures (not qualifications), workload, sabbatical and other benefits are also significant.

Dr. Ellin K. Scholnick was most recently Professor of Psychology and Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs. Since joining the Psychology Department in 1967, she has served the University with distinction in a wide variety of roles. She has been a member of numerous committees and task forces aimed at improving faculty well-being, including those that developed policies on employment of lecturers, mentoring of junior faculty, distribution of merit pay, faculty grievances, and conversion of librarians to faculty status.

In an effort to increase the University's "family friendliness," Dr. Scholnick was instrumental in creating an automatic tenure delay for childbirth and adoption and a policy that enables temporary reduction of tenured/tenure track appointments for childrearing. Under her leadership, the Provost's Office streamlined the APT process and offered a leadership education program for faculty interested in administrative appointments. A longtime member of the President's Commission on Women's Issues, she was named Outstanding Woman of the Year in 2002.

Dr. Scholnick earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Rochester and served as an Assistant Professor of Medical Psychology at Johns Hopkins Medical School before joining the Maryland faculty. Her research focuses on cognitive development, and she is the author of four edited books and numerous journal articles. A Fellow of the American Psychological Association and a Charter Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, she has also served as President of the Jean Piaget Society.

Contact information

Office: 4205 John S. Toll Physics Building, College Park, MD 20742
Phone: 301-405-1901


Other Resources

University of Maryland Ombuds Services
The Conflict Resolvers Network

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