What is an ombuds?
The word ombudsman (OM-buds-man) comes from Sweden, where the term was first used to designate a public official who was appointed to investigate citizens’ complaints against governmental agencies. We use the shorter term “ombuds.” Here at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the ombuds helps faculty, staff, students and administrators solve workplace problems, and gives generic feedback on matters of general concern.
What we do
Our responses are tailored to the individual’s situation and informed consent, so we…
- Listen, which may be all you want
- Discuss your concerns and help clarify the most important issues
- Help identify and evaluate your options
- Gather information, explain policies, and offer referrals to other resources
- Serve as a neutral party to solve problems and resolve conflicts and work to achieve fair outcomes for all parties using mediation and other conflict resolution strategies
- Offer coaching, for example to help you prepare for a difficult conversation
- Review drafts of employment-related documents
- Consult with groups on development of policies and procedures
- Facilitate conversations
- Consult with University officials about broad issues and trends
- Make recommendations for institutional change when appropriate
- Use our experience, knowledge, and judgement to assist all visitors and improve Carolina
- Provide referrals to other resources
- Operate under the code of ethics and standards of practice of the International Ombudsman Association
What we don’t do
- Make decisions for anyone
- Offer legal advice
- Offer psychological counseling
- Participate in the University’s grievance process or any other formal process
- Testify in any judicial or administrative proceeding, unless required by law after reasonable efforts have been made
- Serve as a place to put the University on notice of claims
- Serve as an advocate for any individual or entity
- Address issues involving persons not at Carolina
What power does an ombuds have?
We have the authority to contact senior officers of the University, to gather information if a visitor requests that a situation be investigated, to mediate or negotiate settlements to disputes, to bring issues to the attention of those with authority to address concerns, to expedite administrative processes, and to make recommendations for change in policy or practice when appropriate. We are not decision makers. We do not have the power to establish, change, or set aside any University rule or policy.
When should I contact the Ombuds Office?
Contact us as a first step, or as a last resort, or anywhere along the way. Come and share your concerns, evaluate your situation, and plan your next step–if you want to take a next step.