Letter from the IOA President - A Call for Fairness & Justice

Dear fellow IOA members,

Over the days following the senseless killing of George Floyd, people across the world have shared an outpouring of emotion from deep sadness to intense rage as the latest in a pattern of police violence against black people. I know that many of you may be feeling frightened, sad, hopeless, or angry; I certainly am.

It is at times like this that I realize how very important our role as ombuds is to the communities we serve. As ombuds, we are called to help, to heal, to educate, and to find solutions to our visitors’ issues. Perhaps our call to help has never been more important than it is today. No one person can heal the wounds of racism or prevent them from recurring. But as ombuds, we can do our part to help people address racism and other issues of violence or exclusion. We can be a voice to address systemic issues and fair processes whether with our visitors, with each other, within our organizations, or within our communities.

I imagine that many of you are plugged into the happenings in your cities and neighborhoods and are hearing loud pleas for help and outcries for change. No doubt, you are connecting and helping where you can. I hope you also feel comfortable asking for help, especially if these events are directly impacting you. I trust that you are activating your personal support networks, and I also want to remind you that your professional network in IOA is here for you, too. Please use our online Discussion Circles and the LinkedIn Organizational Ombuds Discussion Forum to share resources and support. Utilize the IOA Ombuds Program. Plan to join a Community Connections event. Reach out to our leadership team with suggestions for resources or action.

We will also be accelerating the launch of IOA race-based Affinity Groups so that there are spaces within IOA to build community and support others with whom we share an aspect of common personal identity. These will include affinity groups for Black and/or African American members and also for White and non-Black Indigenous People of Color committed to anti-racist work. Please take the IOA Affinity Group Survey if you haven’t already, and watch for more details soon.  

Recent events have brought front and center our collective need to address unacceptable conditions. Racism is not acceptable. Police unaccountability is not acceptable. We will need courage to face the situation and advocate for fairness and justice. I am reminded of Robin DiAngelo’s keynote address at IOA 2019 in New Orleans, “White Fragility and Why it Matters.” As a white woman, I recall being both brought up short and very moved by her statements. I heard her say that being nice won’t eradicate racism. Rather, she said that it takes “strategic, intentional, anti-racist action.”

As we move forward courageously in the face of needed change, I can assure you that I will raise the importance of this topic in our strategic planning process. I encourage all of us to remain committed to our ombuds values. I hope that we remain connected to the goodness within us and hold fast to that. As we stay connected to the light in us, we can shine that light outward which may help reveal a guiding path to healing for ourselves, our visitors, our institutions, and our communities.

IOA President Melanie Jagneaux Melanie Jagneaux, JD, MBA, CO-OP®
2020-2021 IOA President



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