Wollman appoints new ombudsperson

Category:  News
Thursday, October 8th, 2015 at 12:19 AM
Wollman appoints new ombudsperson by Tracy Geibel

Have you ever been frustrated with someone? And no matter what you do, it seems that you can’t get along with this other person. Perhaps, you should get in touch with the ombudsman.

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, Edinboro University President Julie Wollman appointed Ron Wilson, the current director of social equity and the Title IX coordinator, to be the new ombudsperson in order to replace Marilyn Goellner, now the director of major and planned gifts in university advancement.

“I chose Mr. Wilson because his background as a judge and a mediator make him perfectly suited for this role,” Wollman said.

“Moreover, his personality and approach to issues are a great fit — he is a thoughtful listener and a dedicated problem-solver.”

“It is hard to fill Marilyn Goellner’s shoes as ombudsperson, but if anyone can do it, Ron Wilson can. Like Ms. Goellner, he is empathetic, smart and eager to help others find good solutions.”

Wilson’s job as the ombudsman is to resolve conflicts, whether it be between two students on a team who can’t seem to get along, several faculty members in the same department who don’t work well together or some unhappy roommates who have already signed an apartment lease together.

Goellner had been doing the job of the ombudsperson while also working as the director of major and planned gifts. With Wilson as the ombudsman, Goellner will be able to focus on her new position.

“A recent reorganization within the advancement division requires me to be off campus extensively to visit university alumni and supporters,” Goellner said. “The arrival of Ron [Wilson], who has a myriad of experiences and training in social equity, diversity and inquiries, is a natural choice as the university’s new ombudsman.”

Wilson began working on May 26, 2015 as the director of social equity and the Title IX coordinator. The ombudsman position has been added to his other current responsibilities.

“The university ombudsman acts as an informal, confidential resource for students, faculty and staff to discuss their concerns and complaints,” Wilson said in an email to students and faculty.

“I don’t take sides but am committed to equity and fairness.”

Previously, he served as chief presiding judge of the South Tucson Municipal Court in Tucson, Arizona and worked as an adjunct professor of African American studies for the University of Arizona. He has been trained as a mediator, as well.

Most of the people who came before him as a judge were what he described as “individuals who committed quality of life crimes.” He described them as “good people” whose poor decisions were a result of financial or other problems in their lives.

“My second year of being on the bench I began to realize, after seeing the same people over and over again, that the system just wasn’t working,” Wilson said.

“Not only were people not paying their money, but we were making matters worse for them, for their families, for their children, for the community because now these individuals who could have been law-abiding, tax-paying citizens were homeless; they were unemployed; they were incarcerated.”

Through the creation of “community” or “problem solving” court, Wilson found resources for these people. He looked for ways to support healthy habits and relationships and discourage unhealthy ones.

“The role of the ombudsman is very similar, in that people who have concerns, people who have problems, people who have worries, people who don’t have or feel like they don’t have someone that they can talk to can talk to me,” Wilson said.

“I may not do anything other than just listen and give them feedback as to what I just heard, or they might ask me for some direction.”

Sometimes, Wilson will suggest that he talk to the person that the student or faculty member is conflicting with. However, the meetings are confidential, so he only does so with permission.

If the other person involved in the situation is brought in, the ombudsperson provides a “neutral, safe environment” for the individuals to discuss issues.

“There’s no sanctions. There’s no judging. There’s no pointing fingers. There’s no blaming,” Wilson said. “It’s about open, honest, safe communication.”

Wilson hopes to create a team of mediators. He recognizes that some people who meet with him may feel more comfortable talking to a woman or a peer about a situation.

“There’s a lot of people, like RAs [Residence Assistants], campus ministry, the counselors over in Ghering [Health and Wellness Center] that are already doing it,” Wilson said, “but I would just like to create a roster and then train them in the transformative mediation, so they have another tool in their chest when it comes to having dialogue with people that they are already engaging.”

Students can contact Wilson at (814) 732-1710 or rwilson@edinboro.edu.

He is available Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but suggests that people contact him to set up appointments.

Tracy Geibel is the Campus Life Editor at The Spectator. She can be reached at campuslife.spectator@gmail.com.

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