Chapter 2 – Office of the University Ombudsperson
The Office of the Ombudsperson, located at 308 Jefferson Building, serves students, faculty, and staff by offering a confidential, neutral, and independent dispute resolution service. The Ombudsperson's mission is to ensure that all members of the University community receive fair and equitable treatment within the University system.
Established in 1985, the Office of the Ombudsperson is staffed by two Ombudspersons appointed by the President of the University. One is appointed to a half-time, nonrenewable four-year term, and the other has a full-time professional appointment. The Ombudsperson serves as a neutral listener, information resource, adviser, intermediary, and mediator. The Ombudsperson considers all sides of a question impartially and objectively.
The Ombudsperson explains and clarifies the established policies and procedures of the University, and actively represents the University's commitment to fundamental fairness in its community. The Ombudsperson does not have the power to order changes in rules, regulations, policies, procedures, or the behavior of others; however, he or she does have an obligation to bring to administrators' attention any policies, programs, or personnel or institutional decisions which he or she believes violate the rights of students, faculty, or staff. The Ombudsperson has access to all information and all individuals in the organization, as permitted by law. Questions concerning reasonably required access will be resolved by the General Counsel in consultation with the Ombudsperson and other appropriate University officials.
Confidentiality and independence are critical characteristics of the office. The Ombudsperson receives every new complaint with the presumption of confidentiality and never divulges a client's name or the nature of a complaint to anyone without the client's consent. The Ombudsperson is not an administrative officer of the University and does not report to any administrative office or constituency group. The office does not keep records on behalf of the University, and consultation with the office does not constitute notice to the University of any complaint or grievance. The Ombudspersons do not testify in any formal proceedings concerning matters brought in confidence to the office. The Ombudsperson presents an annual report to the President and the University community. The work of the office is reviewed by a campus-wide committee appointed by the President of the University typically every four years.
For many problems a procedure is already in place and outlined by University rules or policies. Where practical, faculty or staff members should discuss problems with department chairs, supervisors, and/or union representatives; students should observe procedures outlined in Policies and Regulations Affecting Students. Normally complainants should follow the regular policies and procedures or routes of appeal set forth in University publications (Operations Manual, Policies and Regulations Affecting Students, staff and faculty handbooks, etc.) before contacting the Ombudsperson. Sometimes, however, reasons may exist for not advancing a complaint through official channels. These channels may mean lengthy and damaging delays, or entail a lack of confidentiality and/or impartiality. In these situations the Ombudsperson may present a desirable alternative.
The Ombudsperson generally is not involved in the substance of formal appeal procedures, but may make inquiries about alleged irregularities in the proceedings. The Ombudsperson may decline a case when judging intervention inappropriate. The Office of the Ombudsperson is independent of the University disciplinary process. The Ombudsperson may choose, but is not required, to take up conflicts with individuals, companies, or organizations falling outside the jurisdiction of The University of Iowa when the issues involve the University. However, the Ombudsperson may have limited ability to help in these cases.
No retaliatory action is to be taken against a student, staff, or faculty member because he or she consulted with the Ombudsperson's Office. Visiting the Ombudsperson's Office should not jeopardize an employee's job security, promotion, tenure, scholarly opportunities, or performance evaluations. Neither will it jeopardize student evaluations or grades.
A staff member who requests time to visit the Office of the Ombudsperson during working hours should not be denied the opportunity to do so and may request time during normal working hours for the initial appointment. For subsequent appointments, employees must request additional release time through the Office of the Ombudsperson. Employees who prefer not to notify their supervisors of their intention to visit the Ombudsperson's Office may make special arrangements for noon or after-hours appointments. Third-shift employees should schedule appointments during regular working hours (8 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday–Friday) or telephone to make special arrangements.
For more information, see the Office of the Ombudsperson web page at https://ombudsperson.org.uiowa.edu/.