About the Office of the Student Ombudsperson

What is an Ombudsperson?

The term “ombud” comes from Swedish: it means representative. An ombudsperson is a neutral party who can give informal and confidential assistance in resolving University related concerns. Whether that concern involves another student, a staff member, an administrator, or faculty member, the ombudsperson is available to help. The ombudsperson is independent of administrative structures, which allows for impartial and objective consideration of all sides of an issue. The ombudsperson will help identify options and strategies for resolution. The ombudsperson is not an advocate or a lawyer, but can advise you of your rights and responsibilities within the University. The ombudsperson provides a safe and confidential space to explore conflicts, problems, and concerns that arise in the course of life at the University. When receiving reports of Title IX or other sexual misconduct/gender based harassment, we cannot guarantee confidentiality, but can guarantee privacy. Information disclosed to us on these matters will be shared with the Title IX Coordinators.

What we do

  • Listen to you (which may be all you want)
  • Answer your questions
  • Discuss your concerns and clarify the issues
  • Explain university policies and procedures
  • Provide information
  • Develop options
  • Help cut through red tape
  • Suggest appropriate referrals
  • Tell you who the appropriate decision maker is
  • Assist you as you pursue resolution(s)
  • Offer coaching for difficult conversations
  • Observe trends and point them out to the administration
  • Recommend changes in policies and procedures

What we don’t do

  • Conduct formal investigations
  • Give legal advice
  • Make decisions (or overturn decisions made by others)
  • Establish, change, or set aside rules, policies, or procedures
  • Supersede the authority of university officials
  • Disclose, and may not be required to disclose information provided in confidence, except for an imminent risk of serious harm where there is no other responsible option, as required by law, or in Title IX and sexual misconduct/gender based harassment situations
  • Serve as an advocate for any individual
  • Serve as a Campus Security Authority under the Clery Act
  • Act as an agent of “notice” for the university
  • Offer psychological counseling

Typical concerns brought to the Ombudsperson

  • Academic issues
  • Incivility
  • Disciplinary matters
  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Cultural conflicts
  • Instructor/Student misunderstanding
  • Financial concerns
  • Housing issues
  • Supervisor/employee relations
  • Privacy issues
  • Roommate concerns
  • Parking problems
  • Workplace issues
  • Unethical behavior
  • Interpersonal communications
  • Administrative questions
  • Ethical dilemmas
  • Unprofessional Behavior
  • Protecting your reputation
  • …and many others

Principles of our Office

The work of the Office of the Student Ombudsperson is undergirded by the ethical principles put forth by the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) We strive to live up to these principles as expressed in the IOA’s Standards of Practice to the greatest extent possible within our own institutional constraints.

Four ethical principles undergird our work:

1.     Independence

The Ombudsperson reports directly to the President of the University. No other administrators can compel the Ombuds to act. The Ombudsperson strives to live up to the trust that people, whether faculty, staff, administrators, or students, place in the office.

2.     Neutrality / Impartiality

The Ombudsperson does not take sides in disputes, does not advocate for students or the University, and does not advocate for particular outcomes. The Ombudsperson has no stake in outcomes. Instead, the Ombudsperson advocates for fair process and tries to assist consultees in identifying their options, discerning possible and likely outcomes, and weighing pros and cons.

3.     Informality

The Office of the Student Ombudsperson is not an office of notice for the University. Consultation with the Ombudsperson does not substitute for any formal process in the University. Communication with the office is “off-the-record.” The Student Ombudsperson can assist consultees who wish to file a formal complaint or to put the University on notice by identifying appropriate formal channels.

4.     Confidentiality

The Ombudsperson does not identify consultees or their particular concerns with other parties without receiving their permission. The ombudsperson acts at his/her own discretion and considers the interests of all parties. The only exception to confidentiality is in the case of imminent risk of serious harm as determined by the Student Ombudsperson, where mandated by law, and in situations of Title IX or sexual misconduct/gender based harassment matters. (If confidentiality is your biggest concern, then you should explore this further with the ombudsperson.)