On April 28, the Ombuds Search Committee officially recommended that President Oxtoby hire a candidate for the position of campus ombudsperson. As the student representative on the committee, I was present at both this candidate’s interview and the meeting at which the decision was made to recommend him. I am concerned that the committee mischaracterized and ignored feedback from students and service staff regarding the search. As a committee we read through a variety of anonymous feedback from students, faculty, and administrative staff after the candidate’s visit to campus earlier this month. The responses ranged from positive to negative, with the majority solidly on the fence. The vast majority, however, called for the college to bring in additional candidates for comparison.
There was no established channel for service staff to bring anonymous feedback to the committee. The Workers Support Committee spoke with a number of workers after the candidate’s visit, as did the service staff representative on the search committee. A majority of service staff responded negatively to the candidate. Many felt personally offended by some of his statements, and there was a general feeling of distrust for both the individual candidate and for the position of the ombudsperson.
Finally, nearly all of the responses questioned the ethics of filling this position during a general hiring freeze and when budget cuts are already negatively impacting service staff.
Despite these responses from community members, the majority of the search committee decided to recommend hiring the candidate without continuing the search or bringing other candidates to campus. In the memo to President Oxtoby, the community response to the candidate was characterized as “overwhelmingly positive,” effectively silencing the voices of students and staff and manufacturing a false image of community consensus. The committee brushed aside criticisms of the position of the ombudsperson as outside of the purview of the search committee. The problem of hiring an ombudsperson during budget cuts was sent separately to the Budget Planning Advisory Commission (BPAC). Presumably acting under the impression that the campus community overwhelmingly supported both the candidate and the position, the BPAC approved his hiring.
We are now in the process of hiring a candidate whose reception was lukewarm at best, to a position that is mistrusted and unwanted by many of the very workers it is intended to aid, using money that could be spent to prevent staff layoffs. Is this what Pomona means by openness, transparency, and community involvement?
Nathaniel Spielberg PO ’11