Q) What happens to information provided to the Ombuds Office?
The Ombuds Office does not keep records with identifying information. Data is kept about the type of Visitor (student, employee, etc.) and the nature of the concern in broad categories that do not allow identification. The records do not include any names or specific identifying information. The data are used to prepare an Annual Report to the President.
Q) With what kinds of issues does the Ombuds Office help?
Whether the issue is big or small, members of the OIST may come and talk with the Ombuds. Often, issues are easiest to solve at the earliest stages and before they have a major impact. Even if the issue seems minor, others in the University may have similar issues. The Ombuds can be a channel to anonymously and confidentially raise concerns and work toward systemic change if necessary.
Q) How is the Ombuds Office different from other university units that may deal with work-related concerns?
The Ombuds Office is informal and “off-the-record” and differs from formal University channels. The Ombuds Office does not make binding decisions, mandate policies, or formally adjudicate issues for the University. The Ombuds Office may communicate concerns to the President when there are matters requiring action by the University. All communication with the President complies with the requirements for permission, confidentiality, neutrality, and independence. Our office supplements, but does not replace, the University’s formal channels.
Q) How does an Ombudsperson differ from an employee relations or human resources professional?
The roles of the ombudsperson and the ER/HR professional are not competing roles but rather complementary.
Employee Relations and Human Resource (ER/HR) professionals assist managers and employees of the organization in establishing, following, and applying Human Resource-related policies and procedures. They may conduct formal investigations, make or modify policies, and accept formal notice of a claim on behalf of the organization. As a result, the ER/HR professional cannot always extend complete confidentiality to individuals who come forward with issues. The ER/HR professional's role is not completely neutral because they are part of the management structure and must directly represent and protect the organization's interests.
An Ombuds function provides informal assistance in surfacing and resolving issues. While they can recommend that an organization consider establishing or revising policy, the Ombuds Office plays no formal role in enforcing or deciding to implement policy. The Ombuds Office members do not conduct formal investigations. However, they assist in identifying or creating options for resolution, including providing information about formal channels with investigatory powers. Because it is not part of the management structure of the organization, the Ombuds Office does not accept notice on behalf of the organization and can extend near absolute confidentiality (except in the instance of imminent threat of serious harm, at the discretion of the Ombuds). The ombuds acts as a neutral party and does not advocate for individuals, groups, or organizations. The only advocacy role is for fairness and equity.
Q) How do I make an appointment to meet with the Ombuds Office?
We take your individual meeting appointment by e-mails: Contact