The Office of Ombuds Services provides an independent, confidential space to be listened to and receive informal counsel and advice. 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 faculty ombudsperson reports annually to the Faculty Council and Office of Academic Affairs, the Office of Ombuds Services functions independently of all university offices, and neither represents the university administration nor any individual or group.
Neutrality and impartiality
The ombudsperson does not take sides and remains neutral. The ombudsperson is not an advocate for faculty or students or for the university, but rather, acts as a facilitator and is even-handed. The ombudsperson does not have the power to change decisions but can advise, refer, review and/or persuade as a neutral and impartial agent. The ombudsperson promotes fair practices and fosters 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 faculty ombudsperson 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 the ombudsperson 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. The ombudsperson pursues resolution of concerns and looks into procedural irregularities and/or broader systemic problems. The ombudsperson does not make binding decisions. The ombudsperson, as an informal resource, does not 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.