Session 4 D

The Ombuds Dilemma: Can We Impact Systemic Oppression and Inequality While Remaining a Designated Neutral?

Time: Tuesday 1:00 PM – 2:10 PM

Presenter(s): DeShaunta Johnson, Ph.D., College Ombudsperson, Barnard College of Columbia University – Learn more about this presenter by visiting the presenter page.

Level: Established 


Is there a role for the neutral ombuds in interrupting and dismantling systems of oppression? What does it mean to arrive at an equitable solution to a problem when there is an unequal distribution of societal power between participants? Should an ombuds seek to redress or correct larger societal imbalances due to say, colonization, slavery, or settler violence? Are there situations that call for an ombuds to publicly take sides on an organizational issue that concerns justice, equity, or equality? Furthermore, how are our conclusions about these issues possibly shaped by our own identities and social positions? In an interactive session that will surely raise more questions than it answers, we will collectively interrogate notions of neutrality to arrive at more complicated ideas about the role of the ombuds in organizations.

Learning Objectives

  1. Arrive at a much more nuanced and complicated view of neutrality.
  2. Consider more deeply and fully engage their current choices around issues of equity, equality, and justice.
  3. Be able to identify more clearly the ways their social position impacts their thinking as an ombuds.
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