Lamar University appoints Jim Mann as first university Ombudsperson

Confidentiality, independence, impartiality and informality. Those are the four principles outlined in the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice advocated by the International Ombudsman Association –– they are also the four principles in which Dr. Jim Mann operates. The criminal justice professor was recently named as Lamar University’s first faculty ombudsperson following an internal search.
The Ombudsperson, who reports directly to the president, acts as an independent, impartial, confidential and safe resource for faculty and staff at Lamar University to get information and develop options for how to move forward in difficult situations. As Ombudsperson, Mann will process concerns, educate LU employees facing conflict, and assist with mediation and conflict resolution. headshot-jim-mann
“Essentially, what we do is provide a neutral third-party avenue for faculty to respond,” Mann said. “We are the first step off-the-record where faculty or employees can come and say, ‘there’s a problem, I’d like to get help for that problem and figure out where to go from here.’”
Mann, who previously served as professor of criminal justice at LU for 14 years, assumed the role of university Ombudsperson in January of 2022. Prior to joining Lamar University, he served as a volunteer community mediator for the Dispute Resolution Center in Jefferson County. He also served as hostage negotiation team leader for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and taught undergraduate conflict management courses.

“As university Ombudsperson, one of my goals is to be able to help people solve conflicts or individual problems that have to do with organization –– and we’re operating on the code of ethics and standards of the International Ombudsman Association so what is said in the Office of the Ombudsperson stays in the office,” he said.
The IOA Code of Ethics provides a common set of professional ethical principles to which members adhere in their organizational Ombudsperson practice:
The ombuds functions independently of formal administrative channels and reports only to the president.  Striving to assist faculty and staff, the ombuds serves to clarify issues and encourage problem solving. This may take the form of mediation, coaching, or other informal avenues by which issues can be resolved in a fair and efficient manner. 

An ombuds does not take sides and instead works to develop options to address issues which support empowerment and an equitable process for those seeking assistance with organizational conflicts.

All information and communication with the ombuds is confidential and identities of individuals are protected from formal channels unless there is an imminent threat of serious harm or prescribed by law.  Parties may elect to give their consent to release information to selected others as a means of resolving an issue or to proceed with mediation.  Permanent records of confidential information are not retained. 

The ombuds cannot impose decisions or replace, substitute, or participate in any formal grievance process.  Visiting an ombuds doesn’t trigger a formal investigation.  Speaking with an ombuds is always off-the-record. However, it does not prevent an individual from seeking a formal process if desired.  Utilizing the services of the ombuds is a good first step to resolving a conflict in a manner that can benefit all parties and prevent further disruption in the future.
How the Ombudsperson can help:
  • As an impartial party, the Ombuds can facilitate the process of dispute resolution among faculty and other members of Lamar University.
  • The Ombuds listens and works to resolve problems by clarifying concerns, opening channels of communication, and identifying options.
  • The Ombuds serves as a neutral mediator who seeks fairness, equitable solutions, and connections to university policies.
  • The Ombuds may provide information about university policies and provide referrals to university services and programs. 
What does the Ombudsperson not do?
  • Provide legal advice
  • Participate in formal investigations
  • Provide psychological counseling
  • Address non-university-related complaints or problems
  • Make binding decisions, mandate policies or change existing policies 
The Office of the Ombudsperson is located in the Wayne A. Reaud building, room 114. All conversations are confidential; for more information or to schedule an appointment, LU faculty and staff can call 409-880-8039.