Role of the Faculty Ombudsperson
Communication by email is not recommended. Please call the Faculty Ombudsperson at (336) 278-6248 if you have questions or concerns.
The Faculty Ombudsperson at Elon University
The Faculty Ombudsperson is authorized to confidentially receive complaints, concerns, or inquiries about alleged acts, omissions, improprieties and/or broader systemic problems within the ombudsperson’s defined jurisdiction, and to listen, offer options, facilitate resolutions, informally investigate or otherwise examine these issues independently and impartially. The Ombudsperson is authorized to work exclusively with teaching faculty.
Professor Jeffrey Clark currently serves as the Elon University Faculty Ombudsperson.
Functions of the Office
The Elon University Faculty Ombudsperson seeks to promote fairness, conflict resolution, and cooperation through education, negotiation and mediation. The Faculty Ombudsperson adheres to the Standards of Practice adopted by The International Ombudsman Association. These standards were developed in accordance with commonly understood principles within the Ombuds profession and reflect the core values of IOA. The Standards of Practice help guide members in making responsible choices and further, are intended to promote constituents’ understanding of and confidence in Ombuds Offices and their services.
The professional standards of independence, informality, neutrality, and confidentiality guide the work of the Ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson is independent of all formal university processes or procedures. Therefore, he/she is authorized to informally assist with the resolution of issues and disputes. The Ombudsperson is a designated neutral party and does not function as an advocate or representative. All conversations with the Ombudsperson are confidential, except when the safety or security of others are concerned, when permission is given by the complainant to speak with others involved in the case, in cases dealing with concerns about violations of the university’s non-discrimination policy, or where the Ombudsperson may be required by law to testify. For concerns about discrimination or harassment on the basis of age, race, color, creed, sex, national or ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or veteran’s status, please go to Bias Response website.
- Coaches individuals to assist them in achieving their goals themselves
- Engages in shuttle diplomacy between individuals to assist communication
- Mediates to reach a mutually-created agreement
- Promotes a safe place to talk, to the extent provided by law
- Answers questions or helps find someone who can
- Helps analyze situations, and identify and evaluate options for resolving problems or conflicts in the workplace
- Remains impartial to ALL individuals
- Facilitates communication between individuals or groups
- Seeks to prevent negative conflict through early intervention
- Provides important feedback to the President and Academic Council by reporting issues and trends without disclosing identities
The Ombudsperson Does NOT…
- Take sides, arbitrate or adjudicate
- Intervene if the faculty member has already contacted an attorney or the Office of Human Resources
- Become involved in a case that has reached a disciplinary or termination process because it is no longer an informal matter
- Offer confidentiality in cases dealing with violations of the university’s non-discrimination policy
- Become involved in a personnel dispute if a hearing before a University grievance panel has occurred and the proposed decision has been sustained by the hearing board, or if a grievant is represented by counsel
- Conduct formal investigations
- Make administrative decisions for administrators
- Give legal advice
- Determine “guilt” or “innocence” of those accused of wrong-doing
- Make or change policy
- Take action without permission
- Act as a witness or later testify in a formal grievance or legal proceeding unless compelled by law
- Keep identifying records nor assume a custodial role for formal documentation
- Participate in any formal grievance processes
- Breach Confidentiality
Ombuds Office Categories of Concerns and Reporting Responsibilities
It is the responsibility of the Ombudsperson to submit an annual report to the President and Academic Council.
The confidentiality of all cases and anonymity of persons will be maintained. In addition to faculty rank and gender, permissible types of information to be reported include:
- The total number of new cases during the period June 15 – June 15.
- Identifying the following categories of concern, which include:
- Services and Facilities
- Academic concerns
- Health and Safety
- Procedures and Policies
- Strictly Interpersonal Conflicts
- External Issues
- Problematic Style of Management and Communication
- Identifying trends or systemic problems within the University
Definitions of Categories of Concern
- Services and Facilities: institutional benefits/activities and/or the physical, structural or environmental aspects of the work place.
- Academic Concerns: issues related to curriculum, grading, pedagogy, and/or intellectual property.
- Health and Safety: any aspect of the working conditions that may negatively impact the health and safety of employees and/or opportunities to keep physician appointments and have adequate time for treatment and recovery.
- Procedures and Policies: clarification of policies (both written and unwritten), how they apply to specific individuals, and what procedures one should follow to register a formal complaint.
- Ethics: behavior that does not conform to professional standards of conduct
- Interpersonal Conflicts: persons in a unit of the university are having repeated and multiple problems in communicating with one another: a faction within a unit perceives the behavior of another faction or individual to be offensive; conflict between individuals that may or may not be mutual but seem unrelated to their jobs and work situation, though these usually become involved.
- External Issues: issues unrelated to the work place that negatively impact employee performance.
- Problematic Style of Management and Communication: visitors feel that their chair or higher administrator:does
- not listen to them or respond to discussion of issues
- is unavailable for discussions
- refuses to offer explanations for their decisions
- subtly or jokingly threatens to withhold or allocate resources or positive evaluations
- asks for personal assistance unrelated to university work
- agrees to work-related terms with the faculty member but does not fulfill that commitment
- goes into a rage and verbally insults others
- always seems to blame others when things go wrong
Forms of Assistance Provided to Ombuds Office Visitors
- Individual Consultation
- Mediation or Group Facilitation
Definitions of Forms of Assistance
Individual Consultation, often about university policies and procedures, is the primary form of assistance provided by the Ombudsperson. It involves extensive discussion of a situation to discover the visitor’s concerns, consider their goals, discuss potential strategies that one might utilize to resolve the conflict, educate about the university’s formal and informal organization, and/or discuss timing of actions and diplomatic approaches to taking action. Assistance in this category often includes conflict coaching to explore ways that one might raise difficult issues, approach others, and/or attempt to gain cooperation. Some cases result in formal complaint procedures during or after Ombudsperson consultation, but the Ombudsperson is never directly involved in this process due to the informal nature of the Ombudsperson’s role within the university.
Referrals occur when the visitor’s needs are best met through contact with another university office or department. In all instances an Individual Consultation precedes referrals.
Mediation or Group Facilitation occurs when the Ombudsperson engages in structured mediation between two parties. This requires separate meetings with all disputing parties prior to a mediation session. In some instances it is necessary to engage in shuttle diplomacy, where the ombudsperson meets individually with all parties involved in the dispute.