The ombudspersons are impartial and informal sources of assistance for all members of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics community, including students, postdocs, faculty, staff and visitors. The ombudspersons can assist by listening to your concerns, identifying options and strategies for resolution, clarifying policies and procedures, and connecting you to other helpful resources.
Consultations with ombudspersons are informal (“off-the-record”) and confidential, to the extent allowed by law. Ombudspersons pledge to never take any action on your behalf or disclose any portion of your confidential discussion to anyone, without your express prior consent, unless there is an imminent risk of serious harm, or in situations of Title IX-related sexual misconduct/gender based harassment.
Students, postdocs, faculty, staff and visitors with department-related concerns are invited to contact an ombudsperson by email to arrange a conversation.
What is an Ombudsperson?
An ombudsperson is a neutral party who can give informal and confidential assistance in resolving Department-related concerns. Whatever the concern, the ombudsperson can help identify options and strategies for resolution. The ombudsperson is not an advocate or a lawyer, but can advise you of your rights and responsibilities within the Department and University. The ombudsperson provides a safe and confidential space to explore conflicts, problems, and concerns that arise in the course of work and life in the Department. When receiving reports of Title IX or other sexual misconduct/gender based harassment, the ombudsperson cannot guarantee confidentiality, but can guarantee privacy. We are required by the University to share information disclosed to us on these matters with the University’s Title IX Coordinator, Bridget Collier, or with one of her designees.
What We Do
- Listen to you (which may be all you want)
- Answer your questions
- Discuss your concerns and clarify the issues
- Explain department and university policies and procedures
- Provide information
- Develop options
- Help cut through red tape
- Suggest appropriate referrals
- Tell you who the appropriate decision maker is
- Assist you as you pursue resolution(s)
- Offer coaching for difficult conversations
- Observe trends and point them out to the Department Chair and EDI Council
- Recommend changes in policies and procedures
What We Don't Do
- Conduct formal investigations
- Give legal advice
- Make decisions (or overturn decisions made by others)
- Establish, change, or set aside rules, policies, or procedures
- Supersede the authority of university or department officials
- Disclose information provided in confidence, except when there is an imminent risk of serious harm where there is no other responsible option, as required by law, or in Title IX-related sexual misconduct/gender based harassment situations
- Serve as an advocate for any individual
- Act as an agent of “notice” for the university
- Offer psychological counseling
Areas of Concerns that the Ombudsperson can Assist with
- Academic issues
- Code of conduct violations
- Disciplinary matters
- Cultural conflicts
- Advisor/Advisee relations
- Instructor/Student misunderstanding
- Financial concerns
- Housing issues
- Supervisor/employee relations
- Privacy issues
- Workplace issues
- Unethical behavior
- Interpersonal communications
- Administrative questions
- Ethical dilemmas
- Unprofessional Behavior
- Protecting your reputation
Ethical Principles of Ombuds Service
The work of the department ombudspersons is undergirded by the ethical principles put forth by the International Ombudsman Association (IOA). We strive to live up to these principles as expressed in the IOA’s Standards of Practice to the greatest extent possible within our own institutional constraints.
Four ethical principles undergird our work:
The ombudsperson is independent in structure, function, and appearance within the Department (as much as we can be as faculty members in the Department).
Neutrality / Impartiality
The ombudsperson does not take sides in disputes, does not advocate for particular outcomes, and does not pass judgement. Instead, the ombudsperson advocates for a fair process and tries to assist consultees in identifying their options, discerning possible and likely outcomes, and weighing pros and cons.
The ombudsperson does not participate in any formal adjudicative or administrative procedure related to concerns brought to his/her attention, but can assist consultees who wish to file a formal complaint or to put the University on notice by identifying appropriate formal channels.
The ombudsperson holds all communications with those seeking assistance in strict confidence, and does not disclose confidential communications unless given permission to do so. The only exceptions to this privilege of confidentiality are where there appears to be imminent risk of serious harm as determined by the ombudsperson, and in situations of Title IX-related sexual misconduct/gender based harassment.