Ombuds Office Guiding Principles
Please see the Faculty Ombudsperson Charter for full detail and guiding principles.
The Ombuds Office adheres and follows the practices of the International Ombuds Association (IOA). The IOA is dedicated to excellence in the practice of ombuds work and their code of ethics provides a common set of professional ethical principles to which members adhere. The IOA Code of Ethics reflects a commitment to promoting ethical conduct in the performance of the ombuds role and to maintaining the integrity of the ombuds profession. An Ombuds shall be truthful and act with integrity, shall foster respect for all members of the organization they serve, and shall promote procedural fairness in the content and administration of the organization’s practices, processes, and policies.
The Ombuds will establish and follow consistent practices and policies which will be posted publicly on the Ombuds Office website. The Ombuds will also publicize the key principles on which the Office is based, including the confidential, independent, impartial, and informal nature of ombuds services and will clearly explain the standards by which the Ombuds practices to each visitor. The Ombuds shall be a member of IOA and shall adhere to IOA’s Standards of Practice in performing ombuds services for visitors.
Confidentiality is the defining feature of the Ombuds Office. Communications with the Ombuds are confidential to the maximum extent permitted by law. The Ombuds will hold all communications in strict confidence and will not reveal-and must not be required to reveal–the identity of visitors to the Ombuds Office.
The Ombuds will not reveal any information disclosed to them in confidence in accordance with the IOA Standards of Practice. The Office holds the identity and all communications with visitors in strict confidence except under the following circumstances:
- The visitor gives the Ombuds permission to make specific disclosure
- The Ombuds determines that there is an imminent risk of serious harm to self or others
- The rare instance where the Ombuds is legally compelled to disclose.
Since the Ombuds Office is a purely voluntary resource that no one is required to use, those who do so will be understood to have agreed to abide by the terms, conditions, and principles upon which it was established and not call on the Ombuds to testify or produce documents relating to confidential communications in any legal, administrative, or other proceedings.
The University has also agreed to respect the terms, conditions, and principles on which the Ombuds Office was created and will not call on the Ombuds to testify or produce documents relating to confidential communications in any legal, administrative, or other proceedings, absent a court order.
The confidentiality of communications with the Ombuds may not be waived by others. The Ombuds will resist any attempts by visitors or third parties to compel disclosure of confidential communications or documents by invoking the terms, conditions, and principles of this Charter and by asserting a claim of confidentiality under any applicable rule or statute.
Independence is essential to the effective functioning of the Office. The Ombuds functions outside existing administrative structures, shall be, and shall appear to be, free from interference in the legitimate performance of their duties. This independence is achieved primarily through the reporting structure, neutrality, and organizational recognition and respect for the independent role of the Ombuds. Within the framework of IOA standards, the Ombuds will exercise sole discretion over whether and how to act regarding individual or systemic concerns.
The Ombuds provides a means for off-the-record discussions of concern and is a resource for informal dispute resolution and mediation services. The Ombuds has no authority to investigate, arbitrate, adjudicate, or in any other way participate in any internal or external formal process or action. The Ombuds is authorized to provide only informal assistance and does not have authority to make or override decisions; determine policy; provide legal advice; or accept legal notice of claims or complaints against the University. For those wishing to assert claims or have on-the-record communications, the Ombuds can make referrals to appropriate formal channels so that individuals may make informed choices about which process they decide is best for them to pursue. Use of the Ombuds Office is voluntary and not a required step in any grievance or other process.
The Ombuds will strive for impartiality and fairness in the consideration of all visitors and the issues they raise. The Ombuds will not take sides in any conflict, dispute, or issue. The Ombuds will, however, promote fairness and fair process. The Ombuds shall consider the interests and concerns of all parties involved in a situation impartially with the aim of facilitating communication and assisting the parties in reaching mutually acceptable resolutions. The Ombuds will avoid involvement in any matter in which their private interests, real or perceived, may conflict with their ability to be impartial and independent in their role. To avoid such conflicts in the first place, the Ombuds will not serve as a voting member on committees and will not serve in a formal policy-making capacity, except with regard to policies affecting the Ombuds Office. If a potential conflict of interest nonetheless exists, the Ombuds will take all steps necessary to disclose the potential conflict and recuse themselves from involvement in the case.