Not exactly sure what an Ombudsman does? We are here to help you understand how our office can work for you. Here are some frequently asked questions about the role of an Ombudsman in a university setting.

 

What is an Ombudsperson?

An independent and neutral person with whom someone can speak confidentially, informally, and off-the-record to receive information, guidance, or discuss options about university-related issues, concerns, or questions. 

What does an Ombudsperson do?

  • Listen and help sort/frame issues to help people navigate situations
  • Assist people on addressing full spectrum of issues that are university related
  • Receive and provide information confidentially
  • Identify options and explain policies, process, and UAB procedures
  • Coach on how to most effectively articulate concerns
  • Share conflict trends quarterly reports for a leaderships review
  • Provide mediation or facilitation within an intact group to unpack concerns to design forward facing resolution processes

What can I expect if I make an appointment with the Office of the University Ombudsperson?

The Ombudsperson traditionally follows these 5 phases during an initial consultation with a visitor:

  1. Welcome & Disclaimer – The Ombudsperson will share their standards of practice, role parameters and functions of the office.
  2. Hear Perspectives- The Ombudsperson will actively listen to the visitor’s narrative to understand values, needs and wants. The Ombudsperson will share a neutral perspective to the visitors concerns.
  3. Identify Problem – The Ombudsperson will clarify and confirm the visitors concerns. Identify relevant policies and resources that can address concerns
  4. Explore Options- The Ombudsperson will offer the visitor options to reduce or resolve the conflict. The path forward is solely the decision of the visitor.
  5. Select Intervention Method- Offer additional conflict intervention services to continue the collaborative conversation.

All meetings with the Ombudsperson are voluntary and confidential.

When should I contact the Ombudsperson?

You should contact the Ombudspersons office when you are looking for:

  • A confidential safe space to discuss a university related problem.
  • An impartial listener.
  • An informal approach and process for conflict reduction or resolution.
  • Tools and techniques to effectively communicate concerns with others.

What are some issues that I might consult with the Ombudsperson about informally?

You are free to contact the University Ombudsperson’s office any time you are dealing with a university concern and seek conflict management, reduction or resolution assistance. The list of issues presented below while not all-inclusive, do provide indication of typical uses of the Ombudsperson’s informal conflict intervention services and skill set:

  • Interpretation of administrative policies, procedure or practices
  • Evaluative disputes that do not follow formal processes
  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Perceived unethical practices by any UAB community member
  • Departmental disputes
  • Perceived harassment / discrimination
  • Fear of retaliation

What the Ombudsperson does NOT do.

  • Receive notice of claims against the university
  • Conduct formal and fact-finding investigations
  • Make or change University decisions, rules, or policies
  • Duplicate an existing grievance procedure
  • Testify in a formal grievance or legal proceeding
  • Serve as a visitor advocate or take sides in conflicts.
  • Arbitrate, adjudicate, give legal advice or participate in formal grievances
  • Give psychological counseling
  • Substitute for formal channels to file grievances or performance concerns.
  • Keep records or record meetings 
  • Take action to redress sexual harassment, violence or other misconduct.

If I am considering a formal complaint or involved in a formal process, can I contact the Ombudsperson?

Yes. Although the Ombudsperson does not participate in formal complaint or grievance processes, we can help you better understand the process and procedures.

What makes the Ombudsperson different from other UAB resources?

The Ombudsperson’s office is situated outside the management structure and reports trends to the Chief Human Resources Officer, The Provost, The Faculty Senate and Staff Senate. The triangulation structure allows the Ombudsperson to function independently and impartially. The office serves as an ear of the people to raise off the record concerns to leadership about complex concerns.

What does confidentiality and notice mean for the Ombudspersons Office?

The University Ombudsperson does not disclose and is not required to disclose any information provided in confidence, except to address imminent risk of serious harm. Records pertaining to complaints, inquiry or investigation are confidential and not subject to disclosure outside the ombudsperson’s office. The Ombudsperson does NOT reveal the identity of the visitor without the visitors expressed consent.

What is the Origin of an Ombudsperson?

The Ombudsperson or Ombuds is a time-tested institution which evolved in the Scandinavian countries. It was aimed at giving the common people a tribunal to which they can readily ventilate their grievances against the government. King Charles XII of Sweden is generally credited with initiating the office of the ombudsman. An official with the title of Hogsta Ombudsman (Supreme Royal Ombudsman) was appointed in 1713. Introduced in the Constitution of 1809, an Ombudsman was appointed by Swedish Parliament, making the office independent from the King. As a Swedish word, it literally means one who represents another.

The Dictionary generally defines Ombudsman as a government official who investigates complaints against the government or its functionaries.

 


Additional Resources

Faculty Senate | Staff Council