UAB’s first Faculty Ombudsperson will be an impartial dispute resolution practitioner, also known as a “neutral,” for UAB faculty.

UAB Ombudsperson Position Description


Job Title: University Ombudsperson
Department: Office of Provost
Reports To: Office of Provost and Faculty Senate
Status: Part-time, .5 FTE (Possibly increasing to full-time depending on usage)

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:

The Ombudsperson is the designated neutral or impartial dispute resolution practitioner at UAB. The major functions of the position include providing confidential, impartial and informal assistance to faculty; acting as a source of information and referral; aiding in answering faculty questions; and assisting in the facilitation of resolutions of concerns. The point of view of all parties involved in each case is taken into account. The ombudsperson is not an advocate for any individual, but rather is an advocate for fairness. The ombudsperson helps to facilitate productive communication aimed at assisting resolve such issues before they become formal grievances. The ombudsperson maintains a database of issues and concerns brought to their attention, and compiles a quarterly report from that data. The UAB Office of Ombuds Services supplements, but does not replace, UAB’s existing resources for conflict resolution.

MINIMUM QUALIFICTIONS AND EXPERIENCE:

Tenured faculty member with additional experience that demonstrates the requisite skills and abilities.

Master's degree or higher. Experience working with people of diverse backgrounds and cultures. Mediation/conflict resolution experience. Demonstrated communication and problem-solving skills. Ability to organize, analyze and report data; and to present information to individuals and groups of varying sizes and hierarchal levels. Demonstrated ability to act independently while also being a team player. Experience working across disciplines or multiple departments/units. Ability to maintain confidentiality with sensitive information, including student information.

PREFERRED QUALIFICATIONS:

Knowledge of legal issues in higher education. Demonstrated interpersonal and facilitation skills. Experience working with diverse groups and individuals. Demonstrated technical literacy. Willingness to complete training in dispute resolution technique. Relevant experience in higher education, knowledge of its structure, policies, and practices. An advanced degree combined with relevant dispute resolution training or Ombuds experience is also preferred, including experience as a counselor, mediator or arbitrator.

SALARY:

Salary is competitive and commensurate with qualifications and experience, and with percentage of full-time effort in the required position. In the case of an individual also holding a regular faculty position, with approval of the faculty member's department, faculty-related duties will be reduced by an amount commensurate with the compensation for Ombuds-related duties.

ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES include the following. Other duties may be assigned
  1. Provide a respectful, impartial and confidential source for faculty to discuss problems off the record.
  2. Assist with clarifying issues, identifying goals and developing as well as considering available options for understanding.
  3. Provide coaching as needed with regard to effective oral and written communication.
  4. Provide information on UAB policies and practices.
  5. Provide referrals to other services at UAB.
  6. Assist in resolving interpersonal conflicts.
  7. Facilitate confidential conversations between and among faculty and administrators involved in conflict situations.
  8. Educate faculty about the Office’s confidentiality, neutrality and availability.
  9. Facilitate one on one and group conversations as may be requested by faculty members for constructive dialogue.
  10. Facilitate assessment of the pros and cons of possible options.
  11. Follow up to determine outcome and further need of assistance.
  12. Create and maintain protocol and a webpage for the Ombuds’ Office
  13. Provide regular reports to the President, Provost and Faculty Senate regarding the number of visitors and types of issues addressed to identify systematic issues and trends. These reports will not contain any information about a specific visitor or information which can be used to identify a specific visitor.

POSITION REQUIREMENTS:

To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty
satisfactorily. The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and
ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

Communication and Problem-Solving Skills
  • Have outstanding communication skills and be able to communicate effectively with individuals at all levels of the university as well as with people of different cultures in both oral and written communication.
  • Have excellent problem-solving skills and be able to gather information, organize, analyze it and as necessary, help develop appropriate options and actions.
  • Maintain a professional demeanor, should have strong presentation skills.
  • Must be able to understand and abide by the four ethical principles of independence, impartiality, confidentiality, and informality.
  • Must be able to effectively listen and maintain confidences.

Decision-Making/Strategic Thinking Skills
  • Must be aware of how decisions might have an impact on all stakeholders. The ombudsperson must know how to proceed with issues, help assess who should be involved and at what stage.
  • Must have an understanding of the principles of simple justice and academic due process.
  • Must be able to command the respect of colleagues and is able to respect the private and confidential nature of the issues brought to his/her attention.

Organizational Knowledge and Networking Skills
  • Must be knowledgeable about the university, its structure, culture, policies, and practices, including, possessing a comprehensive understanding of UAB’s policies and procedures (or a university’s policies and procedures, generally), especially those pertaining to grievance, promotion, and tenure.
  • Must have excellent networking skills, understand and participate in collaboration with others, and be able to establish and maintain broad contacts throughout the organization.
  • Must have a strong understanding of individual and group behavior, as well as excellent relationship establishment and management skills
  • Must have knowledge of various computer equipment, word processors, spreadsheets, databases, and other software packages.
  • Must have ability to multi-task and use independent judgment.
  • Must have excellent time management and organizational skills.
  • Must be knowledge of applicable federal, state, and University rules and regulations.
  • Must be able to work independently.

Conflict Resolution Skills
  • Must be able to facilitate resolution of conflict between/among parties. It is important that the ombudsperson have a thorough understanding of what leads to conflict, the nature of conflict, and methods for resolution.
  • Must be willing to attend training provided by the International Ombudsman Association and be knowledgeable of the IOA’s Standards of Practice.
  • Must be certified by the IOA before beginning service.

Sensitivity to Diversity Issues
  • Must be sensitive to dealing with individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures.
  • The ombudsperson must be open, objective, and must seek to understand issues from different perspectives.

Integrity and Efficiency
  • Must operate fairly, effectively and in a timely fashion.
  • Must information confidential and must use good judgment about when and how such information can be shared, while being mindful of maintaining professional standards.

REPORTING:

The ombudsperson is independent of existing administrative structures and for administrative and budgeting purposes reports directly to Office of the Provost.

Please submit applications and questions to Erin Edwards, Office of the Provost, at enesmith@uab.edu or (205) 934-8220.

Faculty News

  • Health Literacy Partnership of Alabama established
    Health Literacy Partnership of Alabama established
    Governor Robert Bentley has signed an executive order establishing the initiative to improve the health literacy of Alabamians, and UAB faculty will play an important role.

    health literacy signingAlabama Governor Robert Bentley signs an Executive Order establishing the Health Literacy Partnership of Alabama in his office at the State Capitol in Montgomery on Wednesday, April 20, 2016. UAB faculty members Conan Davis, Ann Gakumo and Joy Deupree are at left. (Photo courtesy of the Governor's Office.)Gov. Robert Bentley announced April 26 that he had signed an executive order establishing the Health Literacy Partnership of Alabama.

    The Health Literacy Partnership of Alabama, created by Executive Order 18, will recommend to the governor ways to improve the health literacy of Alabamians. Recommendations may take the form of regulatory or statutory changes, with initial recommendations due before the start of the 2017 regular session of the Alabama Legislature.

    “It is vitally important that people understand their health care needs and how they are treated. This reduces chronic illness and in turn lowers overall health care costs,” Bentley said. “This partnership is important to providing the resources needed by the people of Alabama to ensure they know how to properly seek treatment for any health issues they may have.”

    Joy Deupree, an assistant professor in the UAB School of Nursing and Robert Wood Johnson executive nurse fellow, will chair the Partnership.

    “From diagnosis to medication management and discharge instructions, patients are at risk for poor outcomes because they often do not understand how to use the information," Deupree said. “The support of the governor to establish a meaningful initiative to address health literacy disparities in Alabama is an important development for the health and economic future of our state. I am deeply grateful for his commitment to improve health care outcomes in our state.”

    The Partnership comprises members from health care-focused agencies and organizations across Alabama, including four other UAB faculty members:

    • Nancy E. Dunlap, M.D., professor emerita of medicine
    • Conan Davis, DMD, assistant dean for Community Collaborations and Public Health, UAB School of Dentistry
    • C. Ann Gakumo, assistant professor, UAB School of Nursing; Robert Wood Johnson nurse faculty scholar
    • Kathleen Ladner, adjunct associate professor at UAB School of Nursing
  • UAB driving simulator lab has national debut live on TODAY
    UAB driving simulator lab has national debut live on TODAY
    Cutting-edge technology and research brings national attention to UAB.
    news today play btnClick the image above to play TODAY show segmentNBC’s TODAY show traveled to Birmingham to hear from UAB College of Arts and Sciences distracted driving expert Despina Stavrinos, Ph.D.

    On April 29, TODAY show correspondent Jeff Rossen reported live from UAB’s Translational Research for Injury Prevention Lab about the dangers of using social media and texting while driving.

    The TRIP Lab recently became home to the world’s first SUV simulator, made possible through donations from Honda Manufacturing of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Transportation.

    With the new simulator, UAB researchers hope to facilitate solutions and best practices in motor-vehicle-related safety and crash prevention, addressing the major public health problem of highway and traffic-related injuries and death. 

  • Debunking digital eyestrain and blue light myths
    Debunking digital eyestrain and blue light myths
    Adam Gordon, O.D., discusses blue light, including the lack of clinical evidence in advertisements overstating dangers, as well as the effects of blue light on sleep and eye discomfort.

    Nearly 90 percent of adults use digital devices for two or more hours per day, according to The Vision Council’s 2016 Digital Eye Strain Report, exposing consumers to blue light that some suggest is dangerous.

    Adam Gordon, O.D., clinical associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, believes overuse and exposure to blue light may lead to eyestrain and focusing problems, but does not appear to cause long-term harm, eye disease or damage to the retina.

    “Lens manufacturers have jumped on the band wagon of harmful blue light and are creating products that they claim will protect your eyes from macular degeneration or other eye diseases,” Gordon said. “Blue light more often causes eye discomfort and annoyance than physical harm. It is important to understand what blue light is, where the accusations of hazard and threat of blue light come from, and how it truly affects your vision.”NYCU eyes1

    What is blue light?

    Part of the visible light spectrum, blue light is the high-energy light just beyond the potentially harmful ultraviolet light.

    Blue light is normally transmitted through the eye to the retina, because it is visible light that our eyes are designed to receive. Light is visible to the eye and triggers the visual process that leads to vision and sight.

    A large body of experimental and clinical evidence over 20-30 years shows that UV light can be harmful to the eye and contribute to diseases such as cataracts, pterygia or growths on the front of the eye, and perhaps macular degeneration. Most eyeglass and sunglass lenses and many contact lenses have been developed to block out UV light.

    Compact fluorescent light bulbs, high-intensity headlights and other LED lighting do emit higher blue light energy than more traditional incandescent light bulbs, causing excess exposure to blue light than we received before. Digital devices such as TV screens, computer monitors, cellphones and tablets also emit significant levels of blue light. The higher levels of blue light place more strain on the eye’s focusing system than do printed materials. nycu eyes 2

    Is blue light harmful to the eyes?

    Digital eyestrain refers to blurred vision and other symptoms such as burning, stinging or tearing of the eyes associated with prolonged use of digital devices. Digital eyestrain leads to dry eyes and puts strain on the muscles that help the eye focus. When staring at a digital device, the eye does not blink as frequently, and this causes faster disruption and evaporation of the tear film that protects the ocular surface. When the surface of the eye begins to dry, irritation is felt, such as burning and stinging.

    When viewing digital devices, the eyes are looking at a pixelated image that is rapidly alternating or flickering multiple times per second. It is much harder for the visual system to maintain a sharp or consistent focus on an electronic image compared to a hard image.

    There are numerous eyeglass lenses now available to selectively block out the high-energy blue light that contributes to the fatigue and strain placed on the eye’s focusing system. For people who spend significant hours on a computer or other digital device, these lenses may provide some relief and comfort.

    To further maintain comfortable vision while using digital devices, it is important to use the 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 minutes of digital device use, look away for 20 seconds focusing on something 20 feet away. Using artificial tear or lubricant drops may also relieve some symptoms of dryness.

    There is some early laboratory research using animal models that suggests excessive blue light exposure can damage some sensitive cell layers of the retina. There is no clinical evidence at the present time that links blue light exposure from digital devices to any pathology or disease of the eye.

    “Some advertisements from lens manufacturers are misleading consumers to believe that blue light from digital devices will cause serious harm to their eyes,” Gordon said. “Products created to block out blue light minimize eyestrain when using computers and digital devices, but have not been tested or shown to prevent any type of eye disease.”

    Macular degeneration and other eye diseases in relation to blue light is the great unknown. The main risk factors for these eye diseases are age, genetic factors, UV light, smoking and poor nutrition more than digital device use.nycu eyes 3

    Benefits of blue light

    One of the physiological benefits of visual light, specifically blue light, is the relationship with our internal circadian clock. As part of the sleep/wake cycle, blue light triggers the suppression of melatonin in the brain, keeping us awake. This tells us when we are tired or should be awake.

    “We are not designed to be using our phones and tablets 6 inches from our faces, particularly when we are lying in bed with the TV on,” Gordon said. “This is suppressing the melatonin, making it more difficult for a good night’s rest and REM sleep.”  

    Turn off your devices one to two hours before going to bed to trigger the release of melatonin, giving it a chance to increase just before dozing off into deep sleep.

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