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March 12 , 2004

Mount Holyoke Welcomes New Ombudsperson Adrianne Andrews

Photo: Todd M. LeMieux

Adrianne Andrews

Adrianne Andrews began work at Mount Holyoke March 2 as the College’s new ombudsperson. Andrews has served as ombudsperson at Smith College for the past two-and-a-half years and will now share her time equally between the two colleges.

The ombuds office at Mount Holyoke opened in 1988 to ensure that every member of the College community receives fair and equitable treatment. The ombudsperson is here to support and assist students, staff, and faculty who believe they have been treated unfairly. The ombudsperson is empowered to investigate complaints and to facilitate and mediate their resolution.

President Joanne V. Creighton looks forward to working with Andrews. “The College is committed to being a community that welcomes and affirms every member,” Creighton said. “The ombudsperson’s role is to ensure that when conflicts arise, the parties will be given voice and a just resolution reached in a manner that protects due process.”

Andrews’s extensive experience in the academic world suits her particularly well for the position, said Penny Gill, Mary Lyon Professor of the Humanities and politics professor, who served on the search committee. She has a Ph.D. in anthropology and a graduate certificate in African studies from Northwestern University. After teaching in the Department of Afro-American Studies at Smith College from 1988 to 1993, she taught in the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. She has participated in ongoing training as an ombudsperson since taking the position at Smith, including formal training in mediation, and is currently participating in advanced mediation training and multicultural conflict resolution. “She has a very analytic understanding of the complex structures of many personal issues and conflicts,” Gill said. “She thinks systemically, perhaps a reflection of her career as an anthropologist.”

Andrews agrees that her academic background has given her valuable insight in her work as ombudsperson. “I have experience as a faculty member, so I understand faculty issues and the dynamics of faculty behavior. Having been a student of color, I feel I am able to understand the concerns of students of color, while at the same time remain sensitive to the issues that Euro-American students face as well.” She added that her work as ombudsperson at Smith has given her an understanding of staff concerns as well as “sensitivity to the issues that administrators face in keeping the institution running harmoniously and effectively.”

As ombudsperson, Andrews will handle only informal grievances; she has no jurisdiction over formal grievances. “I want to help redress grievances through mediation before they become formal grievances,” she said. “Mediation is a wonderful tool for resolving differences, for getting win-win outcomes.”

Andrews emphasized the impartiality of her position. “While I may be seen speaking with members of the administration or with parties in a conflict, I am absolutely impartial.” She also stressed that her office is totally confidential, “unless there’s a threat to an individual, self, or the institution.”

Andrews looks forward to “establishing the trust and integrity in running the office” she has achieved at Smith. “It takes time and experience in a community to do that,” she said. Andrews added that she feels very welcome and supported at Mount Holyoke already. She will be on campus Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Friday afternoons this spring.



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