University decides against appointing interim ombuds following retirement

Following the early fall announcement of the retirement of Lavada Austin, who served as CPP’s University Ombud since 2008, President Coley has decided against appointing an interim to fill the position and instead will offer alternative resources, such as CPP Listens and the Whistleblower hotline.

The Office of the University Ombuds was first chartered in 2006 to be a space for the resolution of conflict and to provide explanations about campus policies, systems and processes. CPP Listens differentiates from Ombuds by providing a centralized place where the campus community can report incidents or concerns with the option of anonymity.

“We need to seek out the areas that should change or ways that we should think about this position differently, because we are in a COVID environment,” said Coley. “What we recognized is that, for the benefit of faculty and staff, we have not settled on a final decision. What we are focusing on is a goal that supports students, faculty and staff whether it be in conflict resolution or in identifying some concern that they don’t feel comfortable in expressing to a manager or to another administrator.”

The Office of the President has clarified that CPP Listens is not an instrument for conflict resolution and will not directly mitigate conflict.

“The Office of the University Ombuds provided confidential, neutral, independent and informal resources for expeditious resolution of problems and conflicts,” Chief of Staff Nicole Hawkes said on behalf of the Office of the President. “It served as a place where members of the university community could seek guidance regarding problems, issues, conflicts and concerns.”

CPP Listens is a mechanism for gathering information through complaints that do not have a clear avenue to be reported to

“It was established to create a place for community members to raise concerns related to inclusivity and climate that may not fall under a formal complaint process, Executive Order or bargaining agreement,” Presidential Associate for Diversity, Inclusion and Campus Climate Nicole Butts said on behalf of the Office of the President.

CPP Listens and the Whistleblower Hotline existed on campus prior to the retirement of Austin, and neither are considered a replacement for the University Ombud, due to their differentiating purposes.

“There are many different avenues for reporting of formal complaints and CPP Listens supplements and supports those existing avenues,” Hawkes added. “If a submission to CPP Listens suggests that one of those existing processes should be involved, the submission will be referred to the appropriate office, which may include the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance, Employee Labor Relations, Faculty Affairs, Student Affairs or the University Police Department.”

Although the Office of the President has yet to come up with a new place for faculty to work through issues of conflict, it maintains the stance that there will be an adequate replacement to come in the future.

“Being able to communicate and express concerns without fear of retribution is the fundamental issue, and there needs to be a connection or a link that can provide assistance. We are looking for a long-term strategy for this,” added Coley.

The CPP Listens form is available to students, faculty and staff who may be experiencing an issue related to inclusivity, discrimination, retaliation or sexual misconduct. For more immediate assistance, students can call the Office of Inclusive Excellence or email at inclusiveexcellence@cpp.edu.

(Feature photo courtesy of Cytonn Photography)

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