Administration Appoints Eight Ombudspersons to Mediate Faculty Disagreements

Andover has appointed eight faculty members as school ombudspersons who will resolve any disagreements that do not require the Dean of Faculty or the Director of Human Resources. The group was created to make communication between the school and the faculty more efficient.

The eight ombudspersons are Maria Rivera, Assistant Physician in the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center; Herbert “Rusty” Langlois, Chief Engineer of the Office of the Physical Plant; Philip Theruvakattil, Network and Fire Engineer in the Office of Information Technology; Clara Isaza-Bishop, Instructor and Chair in Spanish; Joshua Mann ’96, Instructor and Chair in Classics; Bridget Tsemo, Instructor in English; Leon Calleja, Instructor in English and Philosophy; and Diane Domenech-Burgos, MS2Director and Instructor in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science.

“What we are hoping is that the true ombudspersons group should be able to take some sort of disagreement that people are having on campus and actually perform the mediation for that group. Or, they may be able to give advice to a colleague on how to handle a situation on their own without sending that colleague to the Dean of Faculty or the Director of Human Resources,” said Patrick Farrell, Dean of Faculty.

Farrell continued, “Quite often, that feels much better to a colleague with a problem that they don’t feel is big enough to warrant the intervention of the Dean of Faculty or the Director of Human Resources.”

Previously, a group called the Grievance Committee was in place to handle more serious complaints that might come in about a faculty member or administrator’s behavior on campus. The ombudspersons will now take over some of the responsibilities the past Grievance Committee held.

“We found that the Grievance Committee had done absolutely zero cases in the last six years. And I don’t know what happened before that because I wasn’t Dean of Faculty then. So realized the Grievance Committee was not serving the purpose it should be serving,” said Farrell.

According to Farrell, ombudspersons should be able to “direct traffic” and resolve the conflicts through recommendations or mediation.

“If someone comes to [an ombudsperson] and says, I have this problem, describes the problem, the ombudspersons should be able to say that’s something that the Director of Human Resources should deal with, or something the Dean of Faculty should deal with,” said Farrell.

They will soon receive training to prepare them for this role.

The Offensive Conduct Policy found in Andover’s “General Policies Handbook” details how faculty, staff, and administrators should report offensive conduct.

“Employees should always feel free to ask anyone who is engaging in offensive conduct to stop. In addition, if an employee feels that they have seen or been the victim of offensive conduct in the workplace, such conduct should be reported to an Academy ‘ombudsperson,’ the dean of faculty, or the office of human resources,” according to the handbook.

Faculty and staff could report a variety of disputes and conflicts to an ombudsperson that they feel comfortable speaking with, according to Farrell.

Farrell said, “Well, say you had a disagreement with a fellow faculty member. It could be teaching different sections of the same course, and have a disagreement about the content for that course. It had gone to the department chair but the department chair has not been able to solve the personal issues that might be getting in the way of the professional collaboration that might occur.”

Faculty may also choose to discuss their housing situation with an ombudsperson.

“[Say] someone living in on-campus housing [feels like] they should be getting a major repair or renovation done to their apartment. The school might be coming back and saying that your department is not up for that renovation yet. You might want to talk to an ombudsperson about it so you can get a greater understanding of why,” said Farrell.

Ultimately, an ombudsperson aims to increase conflict-resolution skills among faculty and staff.

“Sometimes even if you take your problem you are having with a colleague and you bring it to the higher level of a Dean or a Director, that can sometimes raise the temperature of the disagreement. Whereas the ombudsperson might be able to intervene in a level that does not raise the temperature. There might be an easier and more friendly solution to whatever disagreement is going on,” said Farrell.