AERA to Introduce an Ombuds Resource at the Annual Meeting
AERA to Introduce an Ombuds Resource at the Annual Meeting

March 2019

At the 2019 Annual Meeting, AERA will introduce an ombuds resource for meeting participants. An AERA Annual Meeting ombuds serves as a neutral, independent party who is available on site to hear concerns confidentially. The ombuds can assist with identifying options and resources to resolve conflicts or issues such as harassment, discrimination, or any violation of AERA’s ethics code or standards of conduct. This new resource is available to all attendees, staff, exhibitors, and anyone else participating in the Annual Meeting.

“The Annual Meeting ombuds program reflects AERA’s strong commitment to fostering an inclusive, supportive, and respectful environment for all who participate in the meeting,” said AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine. “Introducing an ombuds at the Annual Meeting is an important step in AERA’s ongoing effort to enhance and expand its activities and initiatives aimed at preventing and responding to sexual and other forms of harassment or misconduct.”

At the 2018 Annual Meeting in New York, AERA’s ethical standards prohibiting discrimination, exploitation, and harassment were prominently displayed throughout the meeting, along with statements of expectations for conduct. For 2019, the Annual Meeting submission process was modified to require all who submit papers in response to the open call to explicitly affirm that both their work and their professional conduct are aligned with the AERA Code of Ethics.

In addition to advancing the association’s goal to maintain a welcoming and supportive environment at the annual meetings, these efforts aim to heighten awareness and promote a sense of shared responsibility among meeting attendees.

With support and input from the leadership of the Association, including the Standing Committees, the Executive Board, and Council, AERA will pilot a two-person ombuds team in Toronto.

This arrangement pairs Shannon Lynn Burton, a full-time professional ombuds, with Carol Mershon, a social scientist who has both formal ombuds training and experience serving as a meeting ombuds for other professional associations. Burton is the university ombudsperson at Michigan State University. Mershon is the Hugh S. and Winifred Cumming Chair in Politics at the University of Virginia.

The AERA ombuds will be available during the Annual Meeting for individual, confidential consultations (scheduled or walk-in) on April 5 (12:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.) and April 6–8 (9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.). The Ombuds Office is located in the Intercontinental Hotel, Upper Level, Wentworth Room. The best way to contact the ombuds during the meeting is by email at

Attendees who wish to consult with the AERA ombuds after the Annual Meeting may contact them by email through April 30. The AERA ombuds follow the International Ombuds Association’s Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.

Burton and Mershon will participate in a special Town Hall session on “Sexual Harassment and Climate Change in Scholarly Associations and the Academy” on Friday, April 5 (4:20 p.m.–6:20 p.m., Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 100 Level, Room 103 A&B).