Frequently Asked Questions
Why does the Office of the Student Ombuds (OSO) exist?
This office is available to support students’ opportunity for success. The OSO provides students with an informal, neutral, safe, and confidential place to share concerns or questions, to consider multiple perspectives of an issue, and to explore options for informal resolution.
Who can use the services of the OSO?
The OSO primarily serves currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate students. We can also assist faculty, staff, alumni, previously enrolled students and parents with questions about student-related concerns. The information we can provide about students is limited based on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Why should you consider going to the OSO?
- You would like to talk confidentially about a situation
- You need help communicating with someone with the University
- You are unsure of the policies or procedures that apply to your specific problem or issue
- You would like to know what resources or options are available
- You want information about how to file a complaint, appeal, or grievance
- You feel a policy or procedure is not being followed properly
- You are not sure where else to turn for help
What does “confidential” really mean?
- Confidentiality means that you are free to discuss concerns related to classes, professors, other students, other administrators, departments, etc. without that information leaving the office. However, there are legal exceptions and University policies that occasionally require staff members to break confidentiality. These primarily entail imminent risk of harm to yourself, others, or a perceived threat to the University. Staff members will make every effort to inform you if your case is likely to require a breach of confidentiality. With that being said, rarely does the OSO need to break the confidentiality of a student.
- Confidentiality is a fundamental element of the Ombuds Program. As such, the Ombuds Program is not authorized to accept notice of allegations of violations of law or other formal complaints. The Ombuds Program treats all communications, and the identities of all visitors, as strictly confidential to the maximum extent permitted by law unless, in the discretion of the Ombuds, failure to disclose information would create an imminent risk of serious harm. No employee or other University constituent may compel the Ombuds Program to disclose information.
What should I expect when I meet with the Student Ombuds?
- Provide a respectful and comfortable environment for conversation
- Listen to your questions, concerns, and complaints
- Help gather information about potential options and appropriate resources
- Suggest connecting with individuals or offices with expertise in a specific area
- Clarify university policy and procedure
- Address questions concerning appropriate academic or administrative channels
- Open avenues of communication
- Share information about how to file a formal complaint, appeal, or grievance
- Track trends and common areas of concern
Is the Ombuds a student advocate?
No, the student ombuds does not take sides. Because one of the OSO’s core operating principles is neutrality, the ombuds is not a student advocate. The ombuds works to evaluate an issue from all sides and to explore solutions in an impartial manner in effort to find a satisfactory resolution to the concern.
Can the Ombuds accompany me, represent me, serve as my advocate, or act as a neutral witness?
Due to our informal and impartial role we do not advocate for or represent any individual or group, nor do we accompany visitors in meetings or proceedings or attend meetings/proceedings as a neutral witness. We can, however, provide consultation and coaching on effective communication and conflict management strategies as you prepare for the meeting, and/or provide confidential and informal mediation/facilitation at the meeting if all parties are in agreement.
Does the OSO keep documentation of the information I provide?
The office does not maintain any permanent records.
Can I use the student ombuds services if I have filed a formal grievance or retained an attorney?
No. The OSO is an informal resource. The goal is that the informal process can address the concerns before it goes through the formal grievance process or is addressed by an attorney.
What is the OSO reporting structure?
The OSO is structurally located in the Office of the Vice President for Academic Engagement, yet it functions independently. In accordance with Ombuds ethics and standards of practice, only non-identifying statistical information and trends are reported, which help to inform positive change efforts including improvements to university policies and practices.