Informality: The Fourth Ombuds Principle

Imagine this: You’ve just received your performance review and you believe your department chair has treated you unfairly. Your subsequent discussions with her have not helped. You’re new to the university and department so don’t really know the ropes – you’d hate to create a stir so early in your career. But it seems unfair, and you want to do something.

One option is to consult the Faculty Ombudsperson. Because my role is informal, I may able to help you figure out some ways to approach this situation effectively. Let me explain what this means.

If you’ve visited an ombuds, you probably remember that s/he spent a lot of time listening, reframing issues, helping you identify possible options, and strategizing the pro’s and con’s of these actions. With your permission, I will sometimes consult others regarding policies and/or their interpretation on your behalf – anonymously, so you don’t have to reveal yourself. All of these are informal actions. Being an informal resource means I can help you think about your problem in different ways that may help address it without going through the complications of a formal process such as a grievance. Working with me is off-the-record, and no one will know you’ve been to see me unless you tell them.

Being informal means I don’t make binding decisions and I don’t conduct investigations. No one can require you to visit my office – I’m not part of any disciplinary process. Visiting me may help clarify if you want to take formal action, and it in no way precludes you from doing so.  If, after you consult me, you decide to file a grievance or take some other formal action, I step out of the process.

The Ombuds Standards of Practice, informality, confidentiality, neutrality/impartiality, and independence, make up a foundation for providing assistance in effective problem resolution outside of formal processes. If you’d like to contact me, you’ll find contact information on the UMKC Faculty Ombuds website.