OU Names New University Ombudsperson
NORMAN, OKLA. – The University of Oklahoma announced today the appointment of Jeffrey Harp as university ombudsperson. In this role, Harp will serve as a neutral and confidential resource for faculty, staff and students on all three campuses to share concerns and explore constructive solutions.
Harp’s career has been devoted to public service. With more than 35 years of experience in university law enforcement and community relations, Harp most recently served over two decades as executive director of public safety at the University of Central Oklahoma. Prior to joining UCO, Harp advanced through the ranks at the OU Police Department, rising to the role of lieutenant.
A national search was conducted for the ombudsperson position, attracting 15 highly qualified applicants. The five members of the search committee – chaired by Ben Keppel, professor in the Department of History – included faculty and staff representatives.
“Jeffrey Harp has dedicated his entire career to building bridges among campus constituents to achieve positive outcomes – skills that will make him an incredibly valuable resource for our employees and students,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. “We are confident that his leadership and expertise will enhance our overall efforts to sustain a supportive and welcoming campus environment.”
Independent of all administrative and academic offices, the ombudsperson is empowered by the Office of the President to function neutrally and confidentially. The role can assist members of the OU community by listening and helping clarify their concerns; helping them understand and weight their options; and developing strategies for handling difficult situations. The ombudsperson seeks to help individuals manage and resolve conflicts within the university community early, informally and at the lowest level possible, without necessarily the need to pursue any formal proceedings. The role supplements, but does not replace, the university’s existing avenues for formal conflict resolution.
Beyond conflict mediation, the ombudsperson can help the university identify trends or patterns affecting campus climate, and will make recommendations to leadership for how to best address and resolve systemic issues.
The importance of an ombudsperson at OU was something the Norman campus Faculty Senate emphasized to university leadership.
“The ombudsperson is a vital resource in a dynamic organization like a university,” said Faculty Senate Chair Dave Hambright. “Jeffrey Harp brings decades of relationship-building experience and genuine care to this role, and we are grateful he is here to serve the OU community.”
At UCO, Harp worked consistently to nurture collaborative relationships among campus stakeholders to prevent and resolve conflicts. The wide scope of his leadership included oversight of 50 full- and part-time staff across all areas of university public safety, including campus police, environmental health and safety, risk management, emergency management and other areas. He was also a member of numerous campus teams and committees focused on safety and community well-being, including crisis response, behavioral assessment and threat assessment teams, among others.
Harp’s 15 years with the OU Police Department began when he was an undergraduate student, beginning with his assignment as a student community service officer. He remained with OUPD after graduation, first serving as a commissioned and certified peace officer, and later holding a variety of roles including patrol officers, patrol sergeant and lieutenant. He also has experience working as a crisis negotiator for the combined Norman/OUPD Special Response Team and as a public information officer.
He has remained active in various professional organizations throughout his career. He recently completed a term as chair of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Chancellor’s Safety and Security Task Force Training Subcommittee, and he is an active member of the Governor’s CLASS Task Force Policy and Law Subcommittee, as well as the Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training Advisory Council.
Harp has earned two degrees from the University of Oklahoma: a bachelor of arts in political science in 1987 and a master of public administration in 2002.
To learn more about the university’s Office of the Ombudsperson, visit ou.edu/ombuds.
About the University of Oklahoma
Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. OU serves the educational, cultural, economic and health care needs of the state, region and nation. For more information visit www.ou.edu.