The Office of Ombuds Services provides an independent, confidential space where faculty members and graduate and professional students can discuss issues and receive informal counsel and advice. The office is staffed by two ombuds, one dedicated to each group. The ombuds help explore options and make decisions by gathering information and resources to aid in the process. They also guide faculty and graduate and professional students in identifying and reframing issues. The ombuds help develop solutions and strategies to resolve conflict by thinking creatively and working with the faculty or student to empower them with the tools to solve problems themselves. In some cases, the ombuds might informally mediate and facilitate communication among the parties involved.
While the ombuds do not take sides in a conflict, they report to university officials any trends emerging from the issues brought to them by faculty and graduate and professional students. They can recommend improvements to policies and procedures and identify persistent sources of conflict.
The Ohio State Office of Ombuds Services operates according to the standards of practice of the International Ombudsman Association (IOA). These include:
Though the ombuds report annually to the Faculty Council and Office of Academic Affairs, the Office of Ombuds Services functions independently of all university offices, and neither the faculty ombud nor the graduate and professional student ombud represents the university administration nor any individual or group.
Neutrality and impartiality
Members of the Office of Ombuds Services do not take sides and remain neutral. They are not advocates for faculty or students or for the university. Rather, they act as a facilitator and are even-handed. The ombuds do not have the power to change decisions but can advise, refer, review and/or persuade as neutral and impartial agents. They promote fair practices and foster integrity and timeliness in the administration of university policies and practices that affect faculty and graduate and professional students.
To the extent permitted by law, conversations with the ombuds are confidential except where there appears to be imminent risk of serious harm, where harassment or other illegal activity may be involved and where there is no other reasonable option.
Meeting with an ombud is an informal and off-the-record process, which includes such means as listening, providing and receiving information, identifying and reframing issues and developing a range of responsible options. Ombuds pursue resolution of concerns and look into procedural irregularities and/or broader systemic problems. They do not make binding decisions or participate in any university adjudicative or administrative hearing, process or procedure related to concerns brought to their attention.
The modern use of the term "ombudsman" began in Sweden with the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman, instituted to safeguard the rights of citizens by establishing a supervisory agency independent of the executive branch. Currently, more than 400 colleges and universities have ombuds offices.