Ombuds Program Roles & Operating Principles

Informality Notice
Independence Program Effectiveness and Evaluation
Neutrality & Impartiality Roles and Responsibilities of the Program Director
Confidentiality

Informality

An Ombuds works outside the formal problem-resolution and grievance procedures of the University. The role of an ombuds is to listen, receive, and provide information from parties, provide informal facilitation between parties when requested, and such other functions normally seen as within the purview of a University ombudsperson. An ombuds does not make, change, or set aside policy or previous administrative decisions, nor does an ombuds serve to determine the rights of others to unilaterally resolve conflicts.

An ombuds provides services on a voluntary basis. No individual can be compelled to seek assistance from the Ombuds Program or to participate in an ombuds' session. In addition, an ombuds has the discretion to determine whether a request for services will be accepted.

Use of the Ombuds Program is not a required step in any internal grievance procedure. The Ombuds Program is not part of any University review or appeal process.

While an ombuds may engage in informal, confidential fact-seeking, or otherwise
gather information related to a particular issue or case, the Ombuds Program does not engage in formal investigation or fact-finding on behalf of individuals or the University. If an ombuds concludes a formal investigation may be necessary, the ombuds shall refer the individual to the appropriate University office.

While an ombuds may prepare written notes while assisting parties to an issue or case, the Ombuds Program generally will not keep written records of its cases. However, this shall not preclude maintaining aggregate data on overall cases which allow for periodic evaluation of ombuds and the Ombuds Program itself. || top ||

Independence

Ombuds will operate under the supervision of the Ombuds Program Director. The Ombuds Program is intended to be independent in its structure, function, and appearance. This means that in the legitimate performance of his/her duties, an ombuds shall be freee from interference, retalilation, or the control of others outside the Ombuds Program.

An ombuds responds to the issues, concerns, or problems of others by request rather than by proceeding on his/her own initiative.

An ombuds has access to all appropriate administrative levels within the university and is authorized to obtain information necessary in the resolution of conflict except where prohibited by University policies or by law. || top ||

Neutrality & Impartiality

An ombuds shall be neutral, impartial, and absent of self-interest in the performance of his/her duties in the program. An ombuds shall act in such a fashion as to respect the rights of all parties in a conflict. An ombuds does not give legal advice or act as anyone's representative, advisor, or counselor. An ombuds does not serve as an advocate for an individual or for the University.

An ombuds may strive to uphold an important workplace principle (such as a fair process) in the resolution of a problem. Upholding an important workplace principle may mean that suggestions are made to the Chancellor (or other appropriate University administrators) for considering change to University processes or procedures. || top ||

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is an essential characteristic of ombuds work. An ombuds will not voluntarily disclose outside the ombuds' office information provided by visitors (including the visitor's identity) without the visitor's explicit permission except as provided in an appropriate document. Confidentiality extends not only to the spoken word but to all other forms of communication to and with an ombuds in his/her work, including working records of an ombuds. This includes information regarding whether someone did or did not contact the ombuds office. Such information may be shared if permission is given by a visitor and an ombuds also agrees to share this information. In addition, an ombuds shall comply with all University regulations and standards relating to personal privacy and the confidentiality of information.

Exceptions to the principle of confidentiality include when an ombuds a. believes there is a reasonable risk of serious personal injury to anyone or the possibility of future criminal activity, b. has knowledge of past criminal activity, or c. where information is legally required to be disclosed.

To the extent allowed by any policy or law, an ombuds shall not be compelled to testify in a University hearing regarding matters brought to the ombuds office. Nor shall the University ask an ombuds to reveal information received in the appropriate pursuit of his/her ombuds-related work except as legally required or a provided in this document.

As allowed by University policy and authorized by the Chancellor, the University shall attempt protect an ombuds from subpoena by others seeking to extract information received in the appropriate pursuit of his/her duties as an ombuds. || top ||

Notice

Communication with an ombuds is informal and off-the-record, and does not constitute formal notice to the University of alleged, actual, or perceived inappropriate behavior by University employees. Other channels exist within the University for such notice to be given and will be discussed ay an ombuds as appropriate when requested. The ombuds is available to refer visitors to offices that can "receive notice" for the institution.

The ombuds are employees, active or retired, of the University who are approved by the Chancellor and serve as volunteers in addition to their regular job duties. Ombuds do not receive a salary for the duties and services they perform as ombuds. Ombuds are required to attend an orientation to ombudsing and to practice in accordance with the principles and ethics as set forth by the IOA. They are also required to attend at least two Ombuds workshops or training sessions a year in order to be considered for reappointment. Workshops are in-house and are conducted under the direction of the Program Director. The length of the ombuds' appointments to the program shall be determined by the Chancellor. || top ||

Program Effectiveness and Evaluation

The Ombuds Program and its Director shall be evaluated annually by the Chancellor. Criteria for evaluation shall be determined by the Chancellor. || top ||

Roles and Responsibilities of the Program Director

The Director shall be a member of the University community who, by experience, personal characteristics, and training, exemplifies the attributes of a qualified University ombuds. It shall be the responsibility of the Director to maintain the operation and integrity of the Program in keeping with the Standards of Practice of the International Ombudsman Association insofar as is practicable.

The specific responsibilities of the Ombuds Program Director shall include (but may not be limited to):

  • The selection, orientation, and on-going training of the ombuds;
  • Maintenance of consistent standards among the various ombuds of the principles of confidentiality, impartiality, and independence;
  • Handling of individual cases as well as coordination of all referrals to ombuds;
  • Gathering aggregate data on the ombuds program and presenting them periodically in report form to the Chancellor, taking into consideration the confidentiality of individual cases;
  • Overseeing expenditures from the Ombuds Program budget;
  • Coordinating publicity for the Ombuds Program. || top ||