The St. Bonaventure University ombuds officer provides resources to handle complaints in a confidential manner, and to provide neutral, informal conflict resolution to all St. Bonaventure University faculty, students, and employees.
The ombuds officer aims to facilitate communication and dispute resolution, either by offering options for self-help or by mediating to resolve grievances. The ombuds officer may collect and forward to administrators anonymous aggregate data as well as other information to identify problem areas or trends.
The ombuds officer may also serve impartially as an organizational resource to recommend improvements in policy and procedures.
Duties & responsibilities
The Ombuds Office exists to provide an informal process for dispute resolution and is not designed to replace formal grievance procedures or formal procedures regarding tenure, promotion, reappointment, and termination.
The ombuds officer:
- serves in a part-time capacity, reporting to the university president
- provides impartial and private consultation to members of the university community who are aggrieved about an issue
- remains independent and neutral, and exercises good judgment.
- provides information and assists in interpreting university policies and procedures, including referrals to campus offices that may facilitate the resolution of problems, and assistance regarding access to other resources as appropriate for the purpose of filing formal grievances
- shall try not to make judgments and will not make decisions on concerns brought to the ombuds officer.
- shall not provide legal advice or psychological counseling
- conducts appropriate informal inquiries to better understand all perspectives regarding matters brought to the office
- with the inquirer’s permission, consults with appropriate parties to clarify and analyze problems, focus discussions, and develop a mutually-satisfactory process for resolution of disputes.
The ombuds officer does NOT:
- take sides, arbitrate or adjudicate
- Intervene if the person initiating the grievance or others involved in the grievance have already contacted an attorney or, in some cases, the Office of Human Resources, regardless of whether the attorney has initiated formal legal action
- become involved in a case involving a formal grievance, or disciplinary or termination procedures as spelled out in university governing documents.
- become involved in a personnel dispute if a hearing before a university grievance panel has been scheduled or has already occurred, if a proposed decision has been sustained by the hearing board, or if a grievant is represented by counsel
- conduct formal investigations or offer legal advice
- determine guilt or innocence of those accused of wrongdoing
- make administrative decisions, make policy, or change policy
- take action without permission from either the grievant or from university administrators
- act as a witness or later testify in a formal grievance or legal proceeding unless compelled by law
- keep identifying records or assume a custodial role for formal documentation
- provide information without permission that may breach the confidentiality of a grievant or an individual/office initiating contact with the Ombuds Office
Note: Due to the confidential, independent, informal, and neutral functions of the Ombuds Office, communication with the ombuds officer does not constitute legal or formal notice to the university.
- the ombuds officer is not an employee of the university, but is considered an outside consultant
- should be able to communicate effectively with individuals at all levels of the university, and shall be appreciative of and sensitive to dealing with people from a wide variety of backgrounds
- should be able to gather and analyze information impartially, be professional in demeanor, demonstrate integrity, honor confidentiality, and deal fairly, respectfully, and effectively in a timely fashion with all members of the university community
- should adhere to Code of Ethics and Standards of the Practice of the International Ombudsman Association.
- possesses an understanding of the nature of conflict, negotiation skills, and strategies for dispute resolution and system change.
The ombuds officer shall maintain the Ombuds Office by
- ensuring that the integrity of the office is upheld through independence, fair process, neutralityimpartiality, confidentially, and timely attention to the resolution of issues while treating all people with dignity and respect
- being responsible for developing and maintaining appropriate procedures and record keeping
- reporting to the president annually
The ombuds officer reports to the president or provost of the university except in cases involving the president or provost. In cases involving the provost, the ombuds officer reports to the president. In cases involving the president, the ombuds officer reports to the chair and the vice chair of the Board of Trustees.
This page completed with the help of material drawn from the International Ombudsman Association and from the ombuds office at Elon University, with permission.