A new offering at Plant Biology 2023 will be ombuds services, made possible by ROOT & SHOOT. Ombuds provide confidential and independent guidance and can help attendees with specific concerns that might arise during the conference, such as issues rooted in incivility, bias or cultural differences; issues of equity or access; and threats or harassment.
“We are never the wrong place to go. It’s never too soon or too late to come and talk with us,” said Bathabile Mthombeni of Untangled Resolutions. “I will be there in Savannah, walking around. Folks can flag me down if they’d like to. We will have a space where we can meet and maintain confidentiality.” Mthombeni’s colleague Laura Minero will provide remote support. See their introductory video below.
Ombuds will be available between 9 am and 5 pm daily between August 4 and August 9. A Plant Biology 2023 attendee seeking ombuds services can provide contact information through an online form. An ombuds will call as soon as possible and no more than 24 hours later. The link to the online form is also available through the Plant Biology 2023 app.
“You can reach out to say you’d like to meet, and we’d be happy to meet with you,” Mthombeni continued. “We encourage everyone to read the Code of Conduct and know what the expectations are. Then, if you’re experiencing discomfort, reach out to us. That’s all that it takes. You don’t have to prove that you are feeling uncomfortable or that this behavior is happening. We are there to help you talk it through and make an informed decision.”
“We want to understand your perspective, your expectations and potential resolutions. Then we can help you understand how that aligns with the resources available,” she continued. “Each person we work with is at the center of the services we provide.”
Mthombeni outlined other aspects of ombuds services you should be aware of:
- Ombuds are impartial and don’t take sides. They are not advocates for a specific person to get a specific result, they are advocates for equity and fairness.
- An ombuds won’t talk with anyone about your concerns without your permission (with the usual exception of imminent risk of serious harm). Everything is off the record.
- While ASPB secured the ombuds services for Plant Biology 2023 attendees, the ombuds are completely independent of ASPB. This also means official complaints cannot be made to the ombuds; the ombuds can help you decide whether to make a formal complaint and help connect you with the appropriate resources to do so.
“We are there to empower folks to make their own best decisions, and also help ASPB create a wonderful and fulfilling experience for everyone in Savannah,” Mthombeni said.