UT Appoints Two Ombudspersons to Help Faculty, Staff Resolve Disputes

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KNOXVILLE — Two new ombudspersons will begin mediating disputes for faculty and staff at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, on Jan. 1.

The faculty ombudsperson will be Bill Nugent; the staff ombudsperson will be Elaine Wynn.

“I’m pleased to announce Bill and Elaine’s appointments,” Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said. “They are both very experienced mediators and can help diffuse situations that otherwise might go to the formal grievance or complaint processes. Using mediation to resolve issues before they reach a boiling point is cost-effective, time-saving and allows everyone to remain more productive.”

Bill Nugent

Bill Nugent

A professor in the College of Social Work, Nugent has been at UT since 1991. He has a doctorate in social work and, before coming to UT, worked as an assistant professor at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, as an adjunct professor at Florida State University, as an outpatient psychotherapist in Florida, and as a training director for a network of runaway shelters and family service agencies in Florida.

Wynn has 20 years of experience as a conflict resolution specialist, serving individuals, families, schools, churches and the courts. She currently works in Knoxville as an independent mediator and volunteers as a mediator for Knox County Juvenile Court. She has a bachelor’s degree in behavior science from Lesley College in Cambridge, Mass., and a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School. She worked as the director of adult programs at Concord United Methodist Church, was the first director of Knoxville’s Community Mediation Center and has provided training and program design for a wide variety of organizations.

The ombudsperson program provides an informal mediator, and the process is an alternative to the university’s formal complaint and grievance procedure for staff and the administrative and Faculty Senate process for faculty. An ombudsperson does not serve as an advocate for the faculty or staff member or the university, but as a supporter of fair practices. If mediation doesn’t work, faculty and staff can turn to the formal grievance process.

When faculty or staff members are involved in disputes with colleagues, they are encouraged to schedule a meeting

Elaine Wynn

Elaine Wynn

with the ombudsperson to see if the issue can be resolved without using the university’s formal grievance process. Faculty and staff can self-refer or be referred by others in their department.

When one party contacts the ombudsperson, the ombudsperson then contacts the other parties involved.

To schedule an appointment with an ombudsperson, call 974-6481. Either Nugent or Wynn will return the call and set up the meetings.

In most cases, Nugent said, the ombudsperson first will meet with the individual parties separately. At some point, the two parties might meet together. If a resolution can’t be reached, the mediator will guide the parties into the formal grievance process.

Two offices in Greve Hall will be set up for the meetings.

“When a dispute goes to the formal process, it often becomes situation where someone wins and someone loses,” Nugent said. “Through mediation, we try to reach a resolution that makes it a win-win process.”

Wynn agreed.

“Helping people get along really strengthens the whole system,” she said.

For more information, see http://web.utk.edu/~senate/ombuds/index.html.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu)

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