What is an ombuds?
An ombuds (pronounced "om-budz") is an impartial and independent party who is trained and skilled in interpersonal communication, problem solving, conflict management and dispute resolution. The ombuds provides confidential assistance to help individuals address concerns and fairly resolve problems.
At University of Idaho, the ombuds assists all members of the university community to resolve problems related to their university working, learning or living experience by helping them clarify issues, communicate effectively, access and understand relevant information, identify alternative solutions and work collaboratively to achieve a fair resolution.
When should I contact an ombuds?
You may speak with an ombuds at any time regarding any university-related
concern. Exploring a problem--or a potential problem--with an impartial party
before the situation escalates into a full-blown conflict can help you respond
to your situation more effectively.
When you meet with an ombuds, the
ombuds will listen to you and help you with clarifying your issues and
identifying your interests as well as exploring your options. This process alone
often makes it possible for people to resolve their many of their own problems.
What issues can be brought to an ombuds?
You may contact the Ombuds Office regarding any university-related issue; however, some issues have defined procedures or other designated offices established to address them. The ombuds will let you know if he/she is able to assist you with your concern and will refer you to a more appropriate office, if necessary. Some common concerns involve:
|Performance expectations, position descriptions
|Interpersonal conflicts with faculty, advisors/major professors or peers
|Interpersonal or personality conflicts
|Graduate committee function
What does an ombuds do?
- Listens. An ombuds actively seeks to understand your concerns, as you experience them.
- Helps you analyze
- the problem. An ombuds will assist you in identifying and clarifying your issues and interest.
- Provides relevant information. An ombuds is an information resource and will assist you in finding answers to your questions.
- Explains university policies and procedures. An ombuds will help you to access and understand policies and procedures related to your concern.
- Facilitates dialogue. An ombuds can help you, your co-workers, supervisors, and entire units and departments to communicate more effectively and work collaboratively.
- Helps define options. An ombuds helps parties identify new options and solutions that address their interests.
- Mediates disputes. An ombuds serves as a neutral party and mediator for those parties desiring to resolve a conflict through the mediation process.
- Recommends change. An ombuds makes recommendations for changes in university policy or procedures, when warranted, to ensure clarity, fairness and justice.
How can I contact an ombuds if I work at a branch campus, UI center or research station?
You may call the Ombuds Office or contact the ombuds by phone or email directly (see Contact Us). While many concerns can be addressed by telephone, if necessary, an ombuds will arrange to meet with you at your work location. The ombuds is available by Skype videocall at: uiombuds. This free video service is often very helpful and allows you to discuss issues face to face with an ombuds.
Will the ombuds be my advocate in dealing with an issue?
No, an ombuds does not serve as an advocate for any party. Rather, the ombuds helps facilitate communication between parties. The ombuds will inform parties about additional campus resources.
Can an ombuds give me legal advice?
No. The ombuds is not a legal expert. An ombuds will assist you with exploring
your concerns, identifying, accessing and clarifying relevant university
policies and procedures, and generating solutions options. If you have legal
questions or need a legal opinion, you should consult with your attorney. It is
important to let the Ombuds know if you are working with an attorney.
Can I use the Ombuds Office to document my concern or place an issue on the record?
No. the Ombuds Office is a confidential and informal office. Speaking with an ombuds or sending communication to an ombuds does not constitute notice to the university. The ombuds does not create or retain records or identifiable documents. Working notes, if used, are destroyed when they are no longer necessary to assist with problem resolution. The ombuds will not provide testimony in any formal process, unless otherwise ordered by a court of law.
What does confidential mean?
Confidential means that your contact with the Ombuds Office or an ombuds, and
the content of your conversations, will not be disclosed to any other party
without your consent and the consent of the ombuds. We assert that
confidentiality is the privilege of the ombuds and cannot be waived by any party
without the consent of the ombuds.
There are limits to confidentiality.
Confidentiality may not be maintained in the event that an ombuds is told about
the intent of an individual to harm him/herself or another person, and as
otherwise required by law.
Please note: Electronic
mail should not be used to communicate confidential or sensitive information.
What does impartial mean?
Impartial means that the ombuds does not favor any side, position, or person in
a misunderstanding or dispute. An ombuds does not act, advise, represent or
advocate on behalf of any party. An ombuds is an advocate of justice and seeks
fairness while working within existing policies and procedures. If an ombuds
feels that he/she cannot be impartial or may not be perceived as impartial in
any situation, the ombuds will inform the parties to a concern and may recuse
him or herself from further participation.
What does informal mean?
Informal means that your concerns will be
addressed "off the record" and not through official channels or procedures. This
allows you to freely explore your concerns and consider options privately. It
supports the practice of collaborative problem solving.
problems, the informal approach of working with an ombuds is highly effective
and leads to satisfying outcomes. However, should you decide your concern
warrants a different approach, all formal procedures ordinarily available to you
Note: Contacting an ombuds or the
Ombuds Office does not constitute notice to the university. Time requirements
for filing formal complaints remain in effect.