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Ombuds Approach

1. After receiving a request for services, I will meet with the requester and work to understand his or her concerns. One goal of that meeting will be to evaluate whether the issue is appropriate for the ombuds option. (For example, if legal action is already under way, ombuds involvement would be inappropriate.)

2. I will propose next steps, usually including information-gathering. If the request involves a dispute with another person, I will ask whether I can talk with the other individual to get his or her perspective on the dispute. In some cases the initiator may prefer that I begin by gathering information from other public sources. For example, if an untenured faculty member were concerned that a senior colleague was asking her to do something that violated university policy, I might be able to help clarify university policy without even involving the senior colleague.

3. To ensure that the ombuds function is neutral, confidential, and independent, I won't discuss ombuds services with anyone without first obtaining the consent of the party/parties. In plain terms, if Person A has a grievance with Person B and both are willing to talk with me, I will seek agreement about who they are willing to have me consult, what information I might request from other sources, etc. Without that consent, I don’t intend to talk with anyone about case specifics, not even the University Ombudsperson, and certainly not deans, department heads, etc. To do so would inevitably cast doubt on the stated norms of neutrality, confidentiality, and independence. (Of course, this does not preclude seeking advice in a non-specific fashion from relevant authorities).

4. Ideally, by providing an informal path to dispute resolution, some issues can be resolved satisfactorily for everyone, without becoming public, litigative, etc.

- Bill Carlsen, 9-30-2011