Staff Ombuds Office Welcomes University Community to New Location in Walter Webb Hall

Event: The Staff Ombuds Office at The University of Texas at Austin on March 8 will celebrate the grand opening and open house of its new campus location.

When: Thursday, March 8, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Where: Walter Webb Hall, fourth floor, the northwest corner of 25th at Guadalupe streets.

Parking for people with disabilities is available nearby, and the ramps and elevators provide wheelchair accessibility. Visitors who park in the San Antonio Garage at 2420 San Antonio St. may ask to have their parking receipts validated in the Staff Ombuds Office.

Background: Jennifer Graf Sims was appointed the university's first staff ombuds in July. Her office has recently relocated to new space in Walter Webb Hall.

The office is available to work with staff members on issues such as interpersonal difficulties, harassment or discrimination, questions about policy, workplace disputes, ethical dilemmas, cultural misunderstanding, conflicts of interest, disciplinary actions, health and safety concerns, unprofessional conduct, and threats or retaliation.

"The office is a good first step any time there is a problem at work. We are problem solvers," said Sims, who previously had been associate ombuds for Bridgepoint Education in San Diego, Calif. "My goals are to continue to build a culture of alternative dispute resolution and publicize this great resource to staff members, work on policy related to the office, offer trainings in the areas of conflict resolution, and work in a method of continuous quality improvement of the services we offer to visitors."

There has been a student ombuds on campus for about 40 years and one for faculty members for about 10 years. This is the first time there has been one for staffers.

"We do this confidentially and off the record entirely. We are independent from any other process at the university," said Sims, who is an alternative dispute resolution expert, as well as a certified ombuds practitioner. "I understand trust is something to be earned, and I look forward to meeting staff and addressing their issues."