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The new role of ombudsperson for staff and students is among a series of provisions the UvA is deploying to ensure a safe and inclusive work and study climate.

The UvA is committed to providing a positive study and work environment in which we treat each other with respect, nobody feels unsafe and everyone can develop their talents. We want everyone to be assured they have a safe basis for their work or studies and, if necessary, to conduct difficult or critical conversations. Students and staff must have the opportunity to address concerns, dilemmas and complaints within the UvA. They must feel they are safe to do so and that their report or complaint will be taken seriously.

You can turn to the ombudsperson with reports involving incidents of undesired behaviour (such as sexual or other intimidation, bullying, aggression, violence and discrimination) or with concerns about how the organisation is dealing with rules and procedures. This pertains to matters that transcend individual interests, that are greater than friction between two people and that seem to have become structural in nature.

Acting ombudsperson Jacqueline Schoone

Potrait of Jacqueline Schoone

My name is Jacqueline Schoone. Together with my wife, Ingrid, I live in Amsterdam. I have a background in HR, both in an advisory and managerial capacity. I do this work on a freelance basis. 

For the past two years, I've been involved in in-depth efforts to realise a socially safe work and study climate at Erasmus University Rotterdam. I not only created policy and integrated an ombudsperson – who began work on 1 June 2019 – into their organisation, but also refined policy with regard to confidential advisers and enhancing cooperation between the people involved in creating a safe work and study climate: the occupational physicians, staff welfare, student deans, diversity officers, HRM and managers. I am bringing that knowledge and experience with me to this position at the UvA. 

Freedom is my number one value, as well as what drives me in this role: the freedom to be who you are and to say what's on your mind, in a supportive and challenging climate that fosters cooperation and involvement and where work pressure is balanced. Freedom doesn't mean ‘being able to do anything that's not expressly forbidden'. Rather, freedom is about taking responsibility for what goes on within the academic community. It's a climate in which committments are honoured and you can count on transparent rules and procedures.

In the absence of such a climate, people show less initiative and find it difficult to speak up about things that bother them. In my work, I help people find their way back to common ground. I make sure their voices are heard; I call attention to problems and, when needed, leave no stone unturned. My role is independent and neutral and allows me to conduct investigations without impediment and then make recommendations accordingly, potentially for the UvA as a whole. And that's when a different side of me emerges: my ability to observe with 'sensitivity’ and my drive to enact real change.

In addition to serving as acting ombudsperson, you are also coordinating the procedure to permanently appoint someone to this position. How are you filling these dual roles?

I'm paving the way, as it were, for the permanent ombudsperson, who will be appointed no later than 1 September 2020. I manage the decision-making and practical structuring of the organisational integration of the ombudsperson’s role, while also carrying out the tasks needed in order to make the position a success. These efforts assume a firm foundation for social safety. In other words, a number of effectively functioning and accessible provisions, with a clear purpose. And most importantly, an organisation in which people are personally able to build and maintain a safe work and study climate. Every member of staff and every student bears shared responsibility for the realisation of a pleasant study and work environment for their own benefit and that of others.

I'll additionally serve as acting ombudsperson – managing and investigating complaints from staff and students – until the permanent ombudsperson starts work.

I have dual roles here, and combining these roles was a conscious decision on the Executive Board's part: we are gaining experience and insight into ombuds-related activities, which we are using to position the permanent ombudsperson effectively.

What types of matters can staff and students bring to your attention?

The UvA has confidential advisers in place to support those who wish to report individual cases of undesired behaviour. There is also a confidential adviser who provides assistance with problems regarding individual legal status. Many times, therefore, when someone contacts me about undesired behaviour, I'll first ask if they have already spoken to a confidential adviser. If that hasn't produced a solution, or if the undesired behaviour is structural and systematic in nature, I can conduct an investigation and draft a recommendation. Staff and students can come to me when there is a need for independent, impartial and confidential investigation, including advice or mediation, in connection with their work or study at the UvA. This might be when they've encountered problems in the cooperation between individuals or conflicts in the workplace, or when undesired behaviour has become a structural and long-term issue.

Contact

Jacqueline Schoone can be reached in confidence at the following email address and telephone number. You can schedule an appointment for a one-on-one meeting with her, to be held in or outside the UvA.

Staff and students can turn to the ombudsperson when there is a need for independent, impartial and confidential investigation, including advice or mediation, in connection with their work or study at the UvA. This might be when they've encountered problems in the cooperation between individuals or conflicts in the workplace – when undesired behaviour has become a structural and long-term issue. All contact with the ombudsperson will be treated as confidential. 

T: +31 (0)6 11860520
E: ombudsfunctionaris@uva.nl
Location: Maagdenhuis, Room 0.12

See more information on the role of ombudsperson

Read more about social safety at the UvA on uva.nl/socialsafety