New ombudsperson named to fill position at the UO

The UO has chosen Brett Harris, currently at the University of Mississippi, to serve as the university’s new ombudsperson starting Aug. 22.

At the UO, Harris will serve as an advocate for fairness and healthy campus conflict resolution. She also will oversee a program that offers all members of the campus community a central, safe and easy place to gain access to support and problem-solving resources.

“The ombuds role is about diffusing situations of potential conflict before they become a problem, and I’m confident Brett will help us truly grow this important service at the UO,” said Michael H. Schill, university president and professor of law. “Thanks to the hard work of our committee members, we will bring to campus a person with great talent and a track record of successful mediations and dispute resolutions.”

Harris earned a bachelor’s degree from Idaho State University and a law degree from the University of Idaho. Her emphasis in Native American law led her to studies in alternative dispute resolution, including basic and advanced mediation training through the Northwest Institute for Dispute Resolution.

She has been at the University of Mississippi since 2015.

Prior to Ole Miss, Harris worked for nearly three years as a mediation program coordinator for Idaho’s 7th Judicial District. She concurrently ran a private dispute resolution practice and was listed on the Idaho Supreme Court roster of court-approved mediators.

“While the UO Ombuds Program is still somewhat new, it has clearly matured rapidly,” Harris said. “It has a completed charter, new confidential location, adequate staffing and an established name in the campus community. I’m eager to join the dedicated team already in place and hit the ground running.”

Established in 2014, the UO Ombuds Program provides impartial dispute resolution practitioners who offer confidential and informal assistance to university students, staff, faculty and administrators. The ombudsperson is not an advocate for any individual or for the university.

Jennifer Reynolds, associate professor of law and faculty director of the Appropriate Dispute Resolution Center at the UO, has been serving as interim ombudsperson since January.

“The university owes Jennifer Reynolds a debt of gratitude for stepping in, continuing to grow the program and providing great services to the campus community,” said Kevin Reed, vice president and general counsel and the search chair. “Her work is deeply appreciated.

“I would also like to thank everyone who participated in this process. Your positive feedback about Brett helped guide our decision making, and having leadership from United Academics, SEIU and the OA Council at the table brought a variety of great perspectives, which was highly beneficial.”

Harris will work remotely until early September as she moves her family and Reynolds returns to teaching in the School of Law.

By Tobin J. Klinger, University Communications