What is an Ombudsperson, Ombudsman and Ombuds?
The position of “ombudsman” (om budz man) originated in Sweden in the 1800s. The term means “representative”. "Ombuds' is the shortened, generally Americanized version of the term "Ombudsman."
There are mainly three types of ombuds – organizational ombuds, classical ombuds and advocate ombuds. The functions, responsibilities, and standards of practice are very different for different types of ombuds. Most Ombuds in academic institutions in the U.S. are “Organizational” Ombuds. An organizational ombuds, by definition, is “a designated confidential, neutral, and independent resource to informally facilitate the resolution of conflicts and address questions or concerns raised by members of an organization”. The International Ombuds Association oversees the organizational ombuds profession and many Ombuds, including the Ombuds at SHSU practice as per the Standards of Practice (SOP) and Code of Ethics (COE) of the International Ombuds Association (IOA).
For more information about the organizational ombuds profession, watch this video – Who Are Ombuds?
Who can contact the Ombuds Office?
The Ombuds Office at SHSU serves faculty and staff.
What can the University Ombuds do?
The Ombuds can:
- Provide a neutral and confidential space for communication
- Listen actively to your concerns
- Discuss your concerns, help you obtain information and identify options for addressing them
- Listen to and assist you with underlying concerns
- Explain or clarify University policies and procedures
- Provide information and explore options to address concerns and constructively resolve conflicts
- Assist you to evaluate, understand and determine available options and strategies to pursue those options
- Answer your questions or refer you to someone who can
- Informally look into the issues raised, with permission from the faculty/staff
- Identify existing resources and refer you to appropriate resources/processes
- Provide information about the appropriate SHSU office for formal reporting and official channels for grievance procedures
- Facilitate conversations, upon agreement, between members of the University community to resolve issues
- Collect anonymized data on emerging trends and patterns while maintaining confidentiality
- Provide feedback to the Office of the Provost about trends and patterns while protecting confidentiality
- Make recommendations for positive change
What can the University Ombuds not do?
- Tell you what to do
- Advocate on your behalf
- Change any University policy or rule
- Override decisions made by any University administrator
- Provide legal advice or representation or medical or mental health counseling
- Testify or act as a witness in an official proceeding, internal or external, with respect to confidential communication
- Represent or participate in formal processes or procedures
- Conduct formal investigation
- Initiate an official investigation or take disciplinary action
- Adjudicate cases
- Receive or accept Notice of any claims against the University
- Participate in any informal resolution process after the filing of a formal Title IX complaint.
When should I contact the Ombuds Office?
You may contact the Ombuds Office for any University related issue, concern, or question. You may contact the Ombuds when:
- To discuss an issue with someone off the record
- You need someone to listen to you impartially and in a confidential setting
- You are experiencing interpersonal conflicts at work
- You believe that you have been treated unfairly
- You would like to know which policies, procedures, or regulations might apply in your situation
- You are unsure of where to go or what options exist for you to address your concern
- You feel the need to facilitate communication in a difficult situation
- You have a concern, complaint or a question about an office, service, or decision
- You want to explore alternatives to resolve an issue or a problem that you are facing
- You want to discuss a difficult decision at work and how to approach it
- You want to resolve an issue informally
- You want to know what other resources are available for you to address your concern
- You are unsure who to reach out to for help and need guidance
Are all conversations with the University Ombuds confidential?
All communication with the Ombuds Office is strictly confidential and off-the record. Confidentiality is not only the foundation of the office, but also it is required by the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the profession.
The Ombuds Office does not maintain records with individually identifiable information. Unless required by law or court order, the Ombuds Office will not reveal the identity of faculty or staff who reach out to the office , will not disclose the contents of conversations with faculty/staff, nor will it discuss a faculty or a staff member's concern in a manner that will identify them. To the extent authorized by law, information about the persons and issues raised in the Ombuds Office shall remain confidential.
The only exception to confidentiality is if an imminent risk of harm to self or to others is identified, a faculty/staff member gives express permission to the Ombuds to disclose their identity or contents of their conversation during confidential communication, or disclosure is required under TSUS Rules and Regulations (e.g., reporting of wrongful or fraudulent conduct) or local, state, or federal law. If during a confidential communication any allegations of Title IX violations are reported, the Ombuds Office is required by law to notify the SHSU Office of Equity and Title IX. The Ombuds Office is not an office of record. Speaking to the University Ombuds Office does not constitute legal notice to the University
How does the Ombuds Office differ from other conflict management resources on campus?
The Ombuds Office operates as per the Standards of Practice (SOP) and Code of Ethics (COE) of the International Ombuds Association (IOA) and is guided by the four principles of confidentiality, impartiality, independence, and neutrality. These four principles together differentiate the operations of an Ombuds Office from other support resources on campus.
The University Ombuds Office is an informal resource and is completely voluntary. The services of the Ombuds Office are initiated by faculty or staff. The office supplements other formal resources on campus that may require a formal process. The Ombuds Office operates independently, free from interference and any undue influence from the University or its administrators. If you are unsure where to take your concern or question, the Ombuds Office is a safe place to start.
Who does the University Ombuds report to?
The University Ombuds reports to the Office of the Provost.
Can I talk to the Ombuds Office first if I want to file a formal complaint?
Yes. While the Ombuds Office is not authorized to receive formal complaints, the Ombuds can help you understand processes, explore options, identify alternatives to formal grievance procedures, and discuss possible outcomes before you decide whether to file a complaint. The Ombuds can direct you to the appropriate procedures and office should you wish to file a formal complaint.
Is the Ombuds Office an appropriate office to submit a formal claim or notice to the University?
No. The Ombuds Office is an informal and off-the-record resource which is NOT authorized to receive or accept legal notice of any claims against the University. The Ombuds does not represent the University and therefore cannot receive formal complaints.
Meeting with an ombuds does not affect your ability to pursue formal complaints. The Ombuds can direct you to the appropriate procedures and office should you wish to file a formal complaint.
I would like to report Title IX violation. Is the Ombuds office an appropriate office to report the violation?
No. To report any Title IX violations please contact the SHSU Office of Equity and Title IX. Moreover, if during a confidential communication any allegations of Title IX violations are reported, the Ombuds Office is required by law to notify the SHSU Office of Equity and Title IX. The Ombuds Office will also not participate in any informal resolution process after the filing of a formal Title IX complaint.