Issue: Consistent Terminology in IOA Communications “Ombudsman versus Ombuds”
Please note: This recommendation to the Board addressed consistent terminology in IOA documents. It was not a proposal related directly to considering a change of name for IOA.
Recommendation to the IOA Board
1. Going forward, for the purposes of consistency and to promote universal recognition of meaning, use the word “ombudsman” for bylaws, SOP’s, Code of Ethics and IOA documents that are publicly available outside of IOA membership such as the website, training materials, and membership application forms. On all such documents, footnote the first use of “ombudsman” with the following: "*The term ombudsman is used to communicate
to the widest possible community and is not intended to discourage others from using alternatives. IOA respectfully acknowledges that many practitioners use alternative forms of this word."
2. Incorporate changes to existing documents when there is an opportunity in the future to revise or reissue the document. There is no need for an immediate, mass revision of documents.
3. Specifically recognize the appropriateness of alternatives to “ombudsman” that are a best fit to an individual practitioner’s environment. This acknowledgment could be included in whatever communication is used to advise membership.
4. Do not censor use of alternatives to “ombudsman” in individually authored documents such as e-mails, postings to the list serve, letters, articles, agendas, meeting minutes, committees calls, etc.
5. Approve this as a recommendation going forward. Share that decision with the membership in a short newsletter article. Rationale: The Association should decide on one word for consistency and clarity and “ombudsman” appears to have the most universal recognition of meaning inside and particularly outside of IOA. Footnote the use of the word to ensure that IOA acknowledges that “ombudsman” is not the only acceptable term and uses of alternatives such as “ombuds” may be a better fit for the two environments of individual practitioners. The Board should emphasize the importance of global stakeholders understanding what we do while at the same time recognizing that other terms may be seen as more inclusive in a given member’s organization.
Information regarding the use of the word “ombuds”:
• Widely used in the United States within the profession, especially in academic environments
• "Ombuds" appears in the IOA web address
• Internet search reveals 66,000+ entries, the first 24 included many U.S. universities
• Some Universities use it as the official name of their program/practice
• Word is generally not found in standard English dictionaries
• Possibly not well recognized /understood outside of the United States, especially by individuals not in the profession
• Word is used repeatedly in virtually all documents on the IOA website except for the Bylaws.
• Seen by some as more consistent with current gender equity.
• Was in the official name of University and College Ombuds Association (UCOA) and in the UCOA Standards of Practice
• Considered by some to be slang
• Used in the U.S. outside of IOA, e.g. in American Bar Association documents, California Caucus of College and University Ombuds, etc.
Information regarding the use of the word “ombudsman”:
• Used in the name of the IOA
• Likely recognized by the widest community of stakeholders
• Grammatically correct; the word appears in English language dictionaries
• Some perceive "ombudsman" as a more professional term
• Seen by some as exclusive, not gender neutral
• Seen by some as honoring tradition