What is the University of Oregon Ombuds Program?
The University Ombuds Program provides a safe and confidential place for you to seek information, discuss concerns and conflicts, explore options, and identify possible resources. Our goal is to help you develop constructive strategies for dealing with challenging situations and find answers to questions about available programs and resources.
Who can use the Ombuds Program?
The University Ombuds Program is offered as a no-charge service to the entire University community.
What is an ombudsperson?
An ombudsperson is a neutral person who can assist in resolving concerns in an informal, confidential, impartial, and non-escalating manner. The ombudsperson provides services designed to support individuals and groups, optimize the effectiveness of University programs and services, and enhance the overall learning and workplace environments. The ombudsperson does not provide legal advice or psychological counseling.
What procedures or approaches does the ombudsperson use to provide help?
To assist a visitor, the ombudsperson employs a wide variety of informal approaches, including but not limited to:
- Informal consulting
- Facilitated dialogue
- Informal mediation
- Shuttle diplomacy
- Suggesting referrals to existing services
How is the Ombuds Program different from other University services?
The Ombuds Program is a designated confidential resource on the campus. Additionally, the services provided by the Ombuds Program are designed to complement rather than replace other services such as formal processes. We are an informal and confidential resource here to help identify available options.
The Ombuds Program offers a good alternative if you:
- Would appreciate a confidential sounding board
- Want help thinking through how to deal directly with a concern
- Are uncertain about taking a problem through other established channels
- Are unsure who to talk to about a problem or concern
- Want to strategize how to avoid a small problem becoming a big problem
- Want an informal non-escalating approach where the next steps remain within your control
- Need a fresh, impartial perspective
- Want to discuss strategies or possible options and resources for resolving a concern
- Want to maintain the greatest flexibility in addressing a concern
- Would like help communicating with another person or group (e.g., supervisor, co-workers, roommate, etc.)
Am I required to visit the Ombuds Program before I contact other services?
The Ombuds Program is an entirely voluntary service and you are never required to contact the ombudsperson before seeking the assistance of other programs. If you are not sure which other programs may be available to help you resolve a particular issue or concern, you may visit the ombudsperson, who can discuss your concern and suggest options, approaches, and other resources.
Does visiting the Ombuds Program put the University on notice?
No. Because of its confidentiality, impartiality, and independence, the Ombuds Program is not an "office of notice" for reporting discrimination, crimes, or allegations of violations of law (such as a Title IX violation). If you want to put something on the record or obligate the University to respond in some way, you must pursue alternative avenues. We can work with you to figure out what those alternative avenues might be, given the situation.
Are there exceptions to Ombuds Program confidentiality?
Yes. The Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics of the International Ombudsman Association provide standards for operating the Ombuds Program. These standards establish an important exception to confidentiality: when, in the judgment of the ombudsperson, failure to disclose information creates an imminent risk of serious harm to the visitor or to others. Additionally, the Ombuds Program will disclose information where expressly required by state or federal law (e.g., in cases of child abuse or neglect) or if ordered by a court with appropriate authority.
Is the ombudsperson a "mandatory reporter" for Title IX or prohibited discrimination?
No. The ombudsperson is a designated confidential resource at the UO, and is therefore not obligated to report situations that may implicate Title IX or prohibited discrimination. Additionally, the ombudsperson is not a "campus security authority," and thus does not pass along information about crimes that may have been committed. The only exceptions to ombuds confidentiality are child abuse or neglect; imminent risk of serious harm to the visitor or another person; or the order of a court with appropriate authority.
Can the ombudsperson come with me to my performance review?
No. The ombudsperson does not participate in formal processes, such as performance reviews or disciplinary action. Additionally, the ombudsperson will not participate as a "witness" in a meeting, because the ombudsperson cannot be called upon afterward to verify that something was or was not said. This is not to say that you must face all these processes and meetings alone. Come talk with us about your options in these situations.
Does the ombudsperson maintain records?
The ombudsperson and anyone associated with the Ombuds Program do not maintain records of individual visits or any information about the individual visitor that can identify the person or the particular issue or concern. We may keep short-term working notes as necessary to keep track of commitments and follow-up activities. The ombudsperson does keep limited non-identifiable information so that the program can track general trends and work with University governance and administration to identify opportunities for systemic improvements.
Can I remain anonymous?
If you want to remain anonymous, we will work with you to find a way to address your concern in a way that does not compromise your identity whenever possible. The best way to remain anonymous is contacting us by phone.
Whom do I contact, if I have other questions about the Ombuds Program?
Please feel free to call the Ombuds office at (541) 346-6400 or send an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that if you send email, please do not include confidential information.