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Frequently Asked Questions

What can the Ombudsman do?

  • Listen to your questions and concerns
  • Help you to identify and evaluate options
  • Offer an impartial perspective
  • Help you to deal with a problem
  • Facilitate difficult conversations as an impartial third-party
  • Help you resolve a problem by coaching, by shuttle diplomacy or by mediation
  • Make referrals to appropriate resources
  • Recommend constructive change in University policy and procedures
  • Make informal inquiries to gather relevant information

What the Ombudsman will not do.

  • Provide legal advice
  • Offer psychological counseling
  • Make decisions or render judgments on issues
  • Compel or order anyone to take any specific action
  • Conduct formal investigations
  • Participate in formal processes, including lawsuits or grievances
  • "Take sides" or advocate for either party or for the University in a dispute
  • Accept notice on behalf of the University

What about confidentiality?

The Ombudsman is firmly committed to maintaining the confidentiality of everyone who requests his services. The Ombudsman will not disclose any part of your communication unless in the course of your discussions with the Ombudsman you give your explicit permission to disclose information. In situations the Ombudsman believes that talking with other individuals may help your situation, you will be asked for permission before any disclosures are made.

Because confidentiality is so important to the office, all communications are made with the understanding that they are off-the-record and that no one from the office will be called to testify as a witness in any formal or legal proceeding to reveal confidential communications.

Case notes regarding issues brought to Ombudsman are retained only until the matter is resolved as determined by the Ombudsman and then they are shredded.

An exception to this confidentiality is when the Ombudsman decides that an imminent threat of serious harm to any person exists. This determination is made at the sole discretion of the Ombudsman. If you have particular concerns about confidentiality, please be sure to raise the issue when you meet with the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman’s confidentiality cannot be "waived" by users of the office. For example, a person who consults with the Ombudsman should not expect him/her to testify in any formal proceeding. The privilege of confidentiality belongs to the office and not to the users of the office. The individual is free to disclose any information to anyone they choose.

However, the Ombudsman is a Responsible Employee as defined in Policy HRM-040: Reporting by University Employees of Sexual Misconduct Disclosures by Students.

Is the Ombudsman my advocate?

No. The Ombudsman does not take sides in a dispute. The rights and interests of all parties are carefully considered with the aim of promoting a fair and civil process to resolve the issue.

What authority does the Ombudsman have?

The Ombudsman has the authority to contact senior officers of the University, to gather information in the course of looking into a problem, to mediate or negotiate settlements to disputes, to bring concerns to the attention of those in authority, and to attempt to expedite administrative processes. Although the Ombudsman does not have the power to change University rules or policies, the Ombudsman can make recommendations to those with the authority to make changes.

Will the Ombudsman help me in a grievance or lawsuit?

No. The Ombudsman is unable to assist in any matter that is the subject of a formal process including, but not limited to, the University grievance process or legal action. Because confidentiality is so important to the Ombudsman, all communications with are made with the understanding that they are confidential, off the record, and that no one will be called to testify as a witness in any formal or legal proceeding. The Ombudsman will maintain the confidentiality of all meetings and communications and will assert any and all legal protections to maintain that confidentiality. The Ombudsman reserves the right to uphold confidentiality even when the person using the services of the office requests disclosure.

Can I remain anonymous?

Yes. You can call or meet with the Ombudsman to discuss an issue without giving your name. The Ombudsman will work with you to find a way to address your concern in a manner that does not compromise your identity. However, this may limit the options available to you for resolution of your concern.

Am I informing the University about my complaint by speaking with the Ombudsman?

No. Neither informing the Ombudsman in person or in writing about a concern constitutes "notice" to the University. Contacting the office is not a step in any grievance process. Anyone who wishes to "put the University on notice" should contact an administrator or invoke a formal grievance process. The Ombudsman can provide referral information about whom to contact. The Ombudsman may also agree to provide information to University officials. However, the Ombudsman is a Responsible Employee as defined in Policy HRM-040: Reporting by University Employees of Sexual Misconduct Disclosures Made by Students.

What kind of records does the Ombudsman’s office keep?

The Ombudsman does not keep records other than statistical summaries. The office is not a place of notice or "record keeper" for the University. Case notes regarding issues brought to the office are retained only until the matter is resolved as determined by the Ombudsman at which time they are shredded.

The office keeps aggregate statistics and periodically reports general problem areas to senior administrators. Data indicating general categories of users of the office and types of concerns may appear in the Ombudsman’s annual report. The data is strictly demographic and does not contain information that would identify individuals who have used the services of the office. The data is retained in order to signal emerging issues, indicate trends, highlight vulnerable groups, or suggest areas of improvement.