Q: What is an Ombuds?
An Ombuds is a designated neutral or impartial conflict resolution practitioner who provides confidential* and informal assistance to visitors on a variety of issues and concerns. The Ombuds office operates independently and has no formal decision-making authority or disciplinary responsibilities. Ombuds do not act as advocates for any one position in a dispute; rather they strive for fairness of process and healthy campus conflict resolution. An Ombuds is someone who helps people to informally resolve conflict by facilitating communication to help all parties reach mutually satisfactory solutions. Ombuds may also provide coaching and education to help their visitors effectively manage conflict over time.
Q: What are examples of the issues one might bring to the office of the Ombuds?
A: The Ombuds Office is equipped to address a wide variety of issues and concerns, which can fall into several broad topic areas, including organizational climate, interpersonal issues, ethical concerns, issues of perceived unfairness or incivility, behavioral or stylistic differences in the workplace or classroom, or inquiries related to university procedures and policy.
Q: How does someone know when to bring a concern to an ombuds versus reporting it through another campus office?
A: The Ombuds Office does not replace other campus resources but instead is an informal place where members of the campus community might obtain referrals or start exploring a concern, policy, or issue. The ombuds are better utilized as an “office of first resort” as opposed to an “office of last resort.” For people considering whether to report an issue to a formal campus resource, they may want to talk to an ombuds first to weigh various options. Sharing information with the ombuds office does not “let the university know” – or formally report - about an issue or concern, but if individuals wish to engage in formal university processes, the ombuds office will direct them to the appropriate campus reporting unit.
Q: What resolution, if any, could one expect from an ombuds?
A: Ombuds help to empower community members to analyze, strategize, and choose what to do. Since ombuds act outside of formal channels, we do not have authority to resolve issues or direct any specific outcomes. We do not conduct factfinding, adjudicate issues, make determinations, conduct investigations, accept notice on behalf of the university, give legal advice, or provide psychological counseling.
Q: Who does the University Ombuds Office serve, and can meetings be on Zoom?
A: The UOO is here to serve all members of the Oregon State University community, across the state and beyond, including Ecampus and Extension. Meetings can be conducted via Zoom, provided all parties involved agree to it.