October 15, 2012


A. Annual Report of the University Faculty Ombudsperson for 2011-2012 (D 10035).

Professor Mary Steinhardt (kinesiology and health education) presented her annual faculty ombuds report (D 10035), which is summarized in the PowerPoint slides in Appendix A. After describing the position’s history, purpose, authority, function, and operating principles, Professor Steinhardt reminded faculty members that she also started seeing postdoctoral fellows in 2010. During the 2011-12 academic year, Professor Steinhardt had meetings with sixty-five individuals from ten different colleges/schools, which was a significant increase from the previous year. She consulted with individuals from a wide-variety of university positions, including twenty full professors, fifteen assistant professors, nine associate professors; eight department chairs or directors, four lecturers or specialists, three deans, three research scientists, and three post-doctoral researchers. One research scientist also held a staff position and was referred to Ms. Jennifer Sims, the staff ombuds.

Professor Steinhardt noted that her time involvement has recently experienced a spike to twenty hours in the past month and a half, mostly involving conflicts of faculty members with other faculty members or with their chairs. She referred to these as professional conflicts, some of which focused on issues of tenure and promotion, post-tenure review, and salary and merit increases. She said her goal was to resolve cases that were brought to her without formal grievances being filed, and she acknowledged the extraordinary cooperation she has received from deans, vice provosts, the provost, and legal affairs toward that end. Professor Steinhardt presented slides that included the UT Honor Code and meaningful words from her predecessor, Professor Stan Roux (see appendix).

Professor Steinhardt elaborated on a recent Postdoctoral Fellow and Well-being Survey she conducted in consultation with one of her Ph.D. students and in conjunction with Ms. Liza Scarborough and the Office of the Vice President for Research. In this context, Professor Steinhardt presented concepts based on research by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The concepts pertained to the  “broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions,” which asserts that positive emotions, such as gratitude, hope, interest, and awe, help individuals to widen their thought-action capabilities and build up their resources over time. Dr. Fredrickson’s research indicates that a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions is needed move an individual’s life from floundering or depressed to flourishing or resilient. Adversity requires coping strategies, which build resilience and buffers. Coping strategies (e.g., taking action, planning, reframing, social support, or acceptance) as well as mal-adaptive coping strategies (e.g., denial, blame, or shame) mediate the relationship between emotions and resilience. After her brief discussion of the theory, Professor Steinhardt explained how she uses the research findings from the Postdoctoral Fellow and Well-being Survey in her brown-bag outreach training sessions for postdoctoral research fellows. She said it was gratifying to be able to do a study with one of her own doctoral students and then utilize the findings in her outreach efforts to meet the needs of the postdoctoral fellows. Professor Steinhardt then thanked Chair Hilley for the opportunity to present her annual report to the Council.

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