Dean Larry Shapiro announced the creation of an Ombuds Office as of July 1, 2013. Currently a pilot program, this office will serve faculty members with appointments at the School of Medicine.
Karen L. O’Malley, Professor of Neurobiology, has agreed to serve as primary Ombuds for three years. After evaluation of the pilot program, the Ombuds Office might expand to serve other constituencies within the University.
Promising and maintaining confidentiality (unless there is imminent risk of serious physical harm or a court has ordered disclosure of information, despite the University’s effort to maintain the confidentiality of communications with the Ombuds Office) and providing neutral, informal, and independent conflict management and dispute resolution services for faculty members with appointments at the School of Medicine
Following the Standards of Practice and Ethical Principles of the International Ombudsman Association
Obtaining legal advice from the Office of Vice Chancellor and General Counsel about how best to protect the confidentiality of communications with the Ombuds Office and for general legal advice and, when necessary in the professional judgment of the Ombuds, consulting independent counsel regarding issues related to the role and operation of the Ombuds’ Office.
What the office can do
In carrying out its mission, the Ombuds Office will provide the following functions:
- Consult with faculty members with appointments at the School of Medicine who voluntarily seek information and/or informal assistance in the management or resolution of University-related conflicts, disputes, or complaints;
- Inform such faculty members who visit the Ombuds Office (“visitors”) about informal, formal, and/or administrative options for managing and resolving conflicts, complaints, and disputes;
- Provide information about relevant policies and procedures;
- Provide informal mediation and/or facilitation services or information about how to obtain these services elsewhere;
- Make appropriate referrals to other offices, services, departments, or procedures;
- Explain both orally and in writing the impartial, confidential, informal, and independent operation of the Ombuds Office to all visitors seeking assistance; and
- Identify and share with School of Medicine Administrators and with the Executive Committee of the Faculty Council data showing patterns of issues, concerns, or complaints and any apropriate recommendations for addressing them
What the office cannot do
In carrying out its mission, the Ombuds Office is not authorized to:
- Make, change, or set aside a law, policy, or administrative decision;
- Make binding decisions or determine rights;
- Share confidential information with anyone, including the University administration and members of the Office of Executive Vice Chancellor and General Counsel unless, in the professional judgment of the Ombuds, there is an imminent risk of serious physical harm; a court orders disclosure of information, despite the University’s effort to maintain the confidentiality of communications with the Ombuds Office; or the visitor has given permission to do so;
- Compel anyone to implement its recommendations;
- Conduct formal investigations for purposes of administrative or judicial proceedings;
Give legal advice;
- Receive official notice for the University about issues (other than complaints about the Ombuds Office) or require any persons at the University to take action to address issues brought to the attention of the Ombuds;
- Make administrative decisions for University administrators (other than those affecting the operation of the Ombuds Office);
- Determine the “guilt” or “innocence” of anyone accused of wrongdoing;
- Disclose documents or provide testimony in formal grievance or disciplinary proceedings or litigation except to explain the role of the Office and provide publicly available information (unless ordered to do so by a judge);
- Maintain formal written case records identifying visitors to the Office;
- Assist individuals with an issue that is currently pending in a formal forum (e.g., appeal of a tenure denial before the Advisory Committee on Tenure and Academic Freedom) unless all parties and the presiding officer in that action explicitly consent to suspend the formal process;
- Take on conflicting administrative (non-Ombuds) responsibilities within the institution (e.g., investigations).
- Assist individuals other than faculty members with appointments at the School of Medicine.