Office of Ombudsperson

Members

About

Upon action by the Board of Directors, the President of the American Society of Mammalogists has instituted the Office of Ombudsperson, with the individual, or individuals, so appointed to serve to hear and to respond appropriately to complaints of unprofessional behavior by any member of the ASM at its annual meeting or in the governance of the ASM through its committee structure. Selection of appointees and duration of appointment are the prerogative of the President.

Two individuals, Enrique P. Lessa (Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Montevideo 11400, Uruguay) and Jessica E. Light (Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843) have been appointed for the current year. Selection criteria emphasized the possession of common sense, sensitivity to gender and minority issues, discretion, seniority within the ASM, possession of the respect of the membership in general, and a willingness to serve.

Purpose

Creation of the Office of Ombudsperson in itself is meant to discourage any and all inappropriate behavior on the part of the membership of the ASM, and all issues brought before either (or both) of the appointed individuals will be resolved as discreetly as possible. The Ombudspersons are entrusted to deal with each situation as they best see fit.

ASM's Statement of Inclusion

ASM's Statement of Professional Conduct

Course of Action for Alleged Misconduct

Resources

Professional conduct is expected of all participants in ASM sponsored activities, including the annual meetings, and of any individual representing the ASM. ASM is dedicated to ensuring the opportunity for active, equal participation in all ASM functions by all members, regardless of gender, race, ethnic background, age, physical disabilities, or sexual orientation. The full text of ASM’s Statement on Inclusion is available here.  Discrimination and harassment are prohibited by the ASM. Concerns or allegations of misconduct or harassment are to be directed the Office of the Ombudsperson (E.P. Lessa lessa@fcien.edu.uy and J. E. Light jlight2@tamu.edu). Course of action for alleged misconduct may be found here.

General Guidelines

  1. Unprofessional conduct by any ASM member or meeting attendant, including established professionals or ASM leadership, will not be tolerated and is subject to disciplinary action.  If you experience such behavior, depending on the context, you should let the offender know and tell him/her to stop and/or seek help from bystanders. Concerns can also be presented to the Ombudspersons. Note that persistent offensive or unwelcome behavior may constitute harassment and would be subject to disciplinary action.
  2. Established professionals and all ASM leaders hold positions of power, formal or informal, over students and aspiring professionals. These individuals are expected to lead by example regarding our high standards of professional and personal conduct.
  3. All ASM members are potentially bystanders to unprofessional or unwelcome behavior. Bystander intervention can prevent, divert, or mitigate harassment. Do not look the other way. See the Resources page for additional information about bystander intervention and training.

 

Reporting incidents of potential misconduct

ASM Officers appoint 1 or 2 Society members to the Office of Ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson(s) are charged with reviewing and adjudicating allegations of misconduct occurring in the context of Society activities and events, in an effort to seek the truth as a neutral designee. Concerns and complaints of misconduct can be presented to an Ombudsperson or to any ASM officer. However, before action can be taken by the Office of the Ombudsperson, allegations must be presented in writing to an Ombudsperson by the victim or an observer of alleged misconduct occurring within the context of Society events or Society sponsored activities. For egregious misconduct, the Ombudsperson(s) may advise reporting to local law enforcement. For all other cases, the Ombudsperson(s) may discuss the incident with the accuser(s) and the alleged offender(s).  Further investigatory steps may include – but are not limited to – interviewing persons named as witnesses as well as reviewing documents and other evidence supporting the complaint and/or justifying the alleged offensive behavior. Throughout this process, confidentiality will be honored to the extent possible and as necessary so as to respect the accuser(s) and to avoid impeding the ongoing operation of the Society. 

Disciplinary action

The Office of the Ombudsperson shall communicate the charge(s) of misconduct to the alleged offender(s), and inform the alleged offender(s) as to the availability for review of summaries of incidents and evidence supporting the charge(s). These steps will be completed prior to the Ombudspersons convening to determine if misconduct occurred and, if so, deciding on an appropriate course of action.

After review of the complaint and evidence and interviews of witnesses, and after hearing the positions of the accuser(s) and the alleged offender(s), the Ombudspersons will determine whether misconduct occurred. Ombudspersons may confer with select ASM officers if deemed necessary (while honoring confidentiality to the extent possible). If the Ombudspersons determine that no misconduct occurred, that disciplinary action is not required, or if they cannot agree that misconduct occurred (even with input from ASM officers), the accuser(s) will be informed of this decision and no further action will be taken.

If the Ombudsperson(s) determine that misconduct occurred, they will inform the Society President of their recommended disciplinary measures.  Separately, the accuser(s) and to the offender(s) will be notified of such recommendations. Disciplinary measures will be commensurate with the offense(s). Egregious and illegal actions may justify an immediate lifetime ban from all future meetings and revocation of membership. For less egregious cases, the Office of the Ombudspersons will employ a three-step process:

At the first instance of misconduct, the offender(s) will be notified of unacceptable behavior, reminded of the ASM Statement of Inclusion and expectations regarding Professional Conduct, and encouraged to consider relevant training or counseling. If misconduct is repeated at a subsequent Society event or Society sponsored activity, the Ombudspersons will recommend a mutually-agreed upon suspension of participation from all Society events for a specified period of time, after which the offender may resume participation. However, if misconduct is repeated a third time, subsequent disciplinary action may include a lifetime ban from all future meetings and revocation of membership.

Recommendations of the Ombudsperson(s) may be appealed to the Society President within one month following notification of the decision by the Ombudsperson(s). Thereafter, the President shall review the evidence and the evaluation of the Ombudsperson(s), and may confer with other Officers of the Society to determine whether to affirm, reverse, or alter the recommendations of the Ombudsperson(s). The President’s decision shall be final and not subject to appeal. However, if the disciplinary actions include non-voluntary: 1) suspension of activities or participation, 2) exclusion from attendance and/or voting at the annual meeting, 3) exclusion from eligibility to serve in an elected Society office or on a Society committee, or 4) revocation of membership, the decisions must be ratified by a 2/3 vote of the Board of Directors.

Procedures involving Officers and Ombudspersons

Officers or Ombudspersons shall recuse themselves from cases in which they have potential conflicts of interest. In the event that the Society President is accused of misconduct, the Presidential duties described above will go to the President-elect. Measures for removal from elected office are described in the Bylaws should disciplinary action be required for any officer of the Society.

Resources are available for guidance and education on professional conduct. These include Title IX resources both within and outside academia; read these pages carefully and click links for additional information. Most universities and places of employment also offer sexual harassment and sexual violence training (in person training or online). We also strongly recommend Bystander Intervention training, which is becoming common among universities and in society. Lastly, always feel free to contact your Ombudspersons for further assistance.

Recommended Resources

We note that many of these links are focused on harassment and assault. But we also believe these links could be useful for other types of nonprofessional behavior.

Society/Academic Links

AAUP American Association of University Professors Statement on Professional Ethics (https://www.aaup.org/report/statement-professional-ethics)

AAAS Code of Conduct (http://meetings.aaas.org/policies/)
American Astronomical Society (https://aas.org/policies/anti-harassment-policy)

Entomological Association of America (http://www.entsoc.org/code-conduct)

Blog Posts

Guest post: The say I broke some twitter feeds: Insights into sexism in academia Part I and Part II (links: https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/guest-post-the-day-i-broke-some-twitter-feeds-insights-into-sexism-in-academia-part-1/

https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2017/07/10/guest-post-the-day-i-broke-some-twitter-feeds-insights-into-sexism-in-academia-part-2/

Bystander Intervention Links

Although the below links are focused on harassment and assault, Bystander Intervention training could be useful for any type of nonprofessional behavior.
 

What Is Bystander Intervention, Anyway? (link: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/28/bystander-intervention_n_6061782.html)

Your Role in Preventing Sexual Assault (link: https://www.rainn.org/articles/your-role-preventing-sexual-assault)

Stepping Up to Stop Sexual Assault (link: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/09/education/edlife/stepping-up-to-stop-sexual-assault.html)

This is Why Every College is Talking About Bystander Intervention (link: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/colleges-bystander-intervention_us_56abc134e4b0010e80ea021d)

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (link: https://www.nsvrc.org/projects/engaging-bystanders-sexual-violence-prevention/bystander-intervention-resources)

StepUp (link: http://stepupprogram.org/)

Ten Free Resources on Bystander Intervention (link: https://home.campusclarity.com/free-online-resources-to-help-you-develop-your-bystander-program/)

Helpful Reading

Clancy, K.B.H., R. Nelson, J.N. Rutherford, and K. Hinde. 2014. Survey of academic field experiences (SAFE): trainees report harassment and assault. PLoS One 9(7): e102172 http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0102172

Nelson, R.G., J.N. Rutherford, K. Hinde, and K.B.H. Clancy. 2017. Signaling safety: characterizing fieldwork experiences and their implications for career trajectories. American Anthropologist 119(4): 710-722. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/aman.12929/epdf

Persistent Sexual Harassment is a Primary Reason Women Leave STEM (link: https://jezebel.com/persistent-sexual-harassment-is-a-primary-reason-women-1763267021)

There is No Moral Relativity in Sexual Harassment (link: https://www.chronicle.com/article/There-Is-No-Moral-Relativity/242067