Essential characteristics of the Ombuds

There are four key characteristics that mark the service of the Office of the Ombuds: confidential, impartial, independent and informal.


The university ombuds will not disclose the identity of visitors using services of the Office of the Ombuds without the permission of those visitors except for the following rare situations:

  • An Office of Ombuds staff member witnesses a crime or from the information communicated has substantial reason to believe that a violation of criminal law may have occurred or is likely to occur in the future that affects the university or involves a university matter
  • An Office of Ombuds staff member has substantial reason to believe a violation of the university’s Sexual Harassment Policy has occurred
  • An Office of Ombuds staff member becomes aware of a situation that poses a risk of serious harm to an individual or individuals
  • A court order or statute requires disclosure

Under these circumstances, the ombuds shall make every best effort to get the matter reported to the appropriate university authority in a timely and responsible way. If, despite best efforts, the ombuds cannot get the matter reported to the appropriate university official in a responsible and timely way, the ombuds shall report the matter to the appropriate university authority. Any disclosure of information made without the visitor’s specific consent shall be the minimum reasonably necessary to comply with the foregoing exceptions.

With the visitor’s permission, the ombuds may disclose both the identity of the visitor and the visitor’s concern, but the ombuds will make disclosure in a very limited framework, that is, only to those who need to know. Even if the visitor gives the ombuds permission or encourages the ombuds to disclose confidential information to the broader public, the ombuds will not do so. The confidentiality of the Office of the Ombuds cannot be ‘waived’ by a user of the office.

The ombuds takes all reasonable steps to protect written and electronic materials pertaining to confidential discussions from inspection by all other persons.

Periodically, the university ombuds will report activities of the office. Such reports will present data in aggregate, anonymous form to protect the confidentiality of the office.


The ombuds has no personal interest or stake in and incurs no personal gain or loss from the outcome of an issue.

The ombuds avoids situations that may cause or result in a conflict of interest for the ombuds.

The ombuds does not serve as an advocate for any person or office within the university. The ombuds acts in consideration of, and with respect for, the legitimate interests and concerns of all affected parties in a dispute.

The ombuds advocates for fair processes and their consistent implementation.


The Office of the Ombuds lies outside established management and structures of the university. For administrative and budgetary purposes, the ombuds reports to the Office of the President.

The university ombuds does not make, change or set aside university policy or administrative decisions.

The university ombuds has access to relevant information needed to fulfill responsibilities of the Office of the Ombuds, ensuring that the records and information therein are kept secure and confidential.

The university ombuds has discretion to accept or to act on a particular concern, complaint or question.


The Office of the Ombuds’ services are informal and a supplement to, and not a replacement for, the university’s formal administrative processes. The Office of the Ombuds shall seek to assure that visitors are aware of formal processes available to them, and the ombuds shall refer visitors to such processes where required or appropriate.

The ombuds will not become involved in any complaints or issues pending in formal processes except when the parties mutually agree to request ombuds services in an alternative dispute resolution process.