University Ombuds Home
What Does the University Ombuds Do?

The University Faculty Ombuds provides information, options, impartial review, and help in resolving conflicts, and they offer feedback and recommendations for system change to senior administration. Using an alternative dispute resolution sensibility, or perhaps more apt, an appropriate dispute resolution sensibility, the ombuds can provide options to whistleblowers or members of the organization with ethics concerns; provide coaching, shuttle diplomacy, generic solutions (meaning a solution which protects the identity of one individual by applying to a class of people, rather than just for the one individual) and mediation for conflicts; track problem areas; and make recommendations for changes to policies or procedures in support of orderly system change.

The ombuds practicing to the International Ombuds Association (IOA) "standards of practice" is neutral and visibly outside ordinary line and staff structures. The ombuds practices informally, with no management decision-making power, and without accepting "notice" for the organization. The ombuds typically keeps no case records and keeps near absolute confidentiality. The only exception is when there appears to be an imminent risk of serious harm to a person, and the ombuds can see no responsible option other than breaking confidence -- but the ombuds can almost always find "other responsible options", such as helping a visitor to make an anonymous report about whatever appears to be the problem.

Another ombuds function is to monitor and pick up "new things" -- that is, issues new to the University. This is particularly important if the "new thing" is "disruptive" in the sense of requiring the University to review and possibly improve its policies, procedures and/or structures. In recent years there have been many articles about organizational ombuds and about how they coordinate with internal conflict management systems. (See for example: International Ombudsman Association and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Ombuds Office for many references).