University Ombuds Policy

Executive Memorandum 15-011

June 30, 2015

From: Paul J. Zingg, President

Subject: University Ombuds Policy

I. SCOPE

This policy creates a University Ombuds that serves all CSU Chico students, staff, faculty, administrators, as well as visitors to the university who are interacting with persons in the campus community.  

POLICY

The Ombuds function to assist parties in reaching mutually acceptable agreements in order to find fair and equitable resolutions to concerns that arise at the University. Use of the Ombuds is voluntary.

The Ombuds shall be a place where members of the CSU Chico community can seek guidance regarding the addressing or resolution of disputes or concerns through a resource which is confidential, neutral, informal and independent.

Services of the Ombuds do not replace other processes at the University.  While the Ombuds is always available for initial consultation, the Ombuds does not assist with conflicts, complaints, or disputes as defined by the collective bargaining agreements or governed by other applicable Executive Orders. Specifically, the Ombuds does not have authority to assist with issues of sexual violence or harassment under Title IX, or discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation issues arising under Executive Orders 1095, 1096 & 1097 or their successors; nor to address complaints made under Executive Order 1058, or its successor.  Issues concerning any of these matters will be referred the services of the appropriate Administrative office.

Principles of Practice

We follow the standards of practice and ethical principles of the International Ombudsman Association (unless superseded by University policies, state or federal laws) as articulated in the IOA Standards of Practice and the IOA Code of Ethics.

The four standards of this work are Confidentiality, Independence, Impartiality, and Informality.

  1. Confidentiality

The Ombuds does not keep records, other than statistical data about people and trends. The Ombuds shall not disclose confidential communication to anyone, except as required by law and/or Executive Order.  Information may be disclosed, if a person using office services gives the Ombuds permission to do so.  

In order to protect the safety of members of the University community, the Ombuds cannot maintain the confidentiality of certain disclosures, including, but not limited to, disclosures regarding public safety, harm to self or others, violations of law, discrimination, or sexual harassment. For more details about limits to confidentiality, please see CSU Executive Order 1095, or its successors, regarding the issue of Confidentiality and Sexual Violence.

The Ombuds does not participate in any legal or administrative proceeding including, but not limited to, depositions, grievance proceedings, or trials unless compelled by law, and shall maintain the confidentiality of all dealings with the Ombuds to the extent permitted by law. The Ombuds does not contact or communicate with attorneys, or have any other involvement in the matter once legal steps have been initiated unless compelled by legal process.

2. Independence

The office functions independently and outside of existing departmental structures, but for administrative and budgetary purposes only, the Ombuds provides an annual report to the Academic Senate, the Student Academic Senate, Staff Council, and the President’s Office and will make the annual report available to share with organizational decision-makers on campus.

The annual report to the University shall be limited to information about trends and issues affecting CSU Chico without identifying any parties to those issues, or providing details about any specific matter that includes any personal details of the parties. In addition, the Ombuds shall make recommendations to the university about policy changes, needed training, or other procedures that may enhance the campus climate. 

3. Impartiality

The Ombuds  is an impartial resource and, therefore, does not serve as an advocate for any member of the community or any party in a dispute or conflict. The goal of the Ombuds  is to promote fair and equitable resolutions to problems and to help community members reach satisfactory outcomes.

4. Informality

Because the Ombuds is impartial, users of the Ombuds can speak candidly about their concerns without fear of reprisal. Following the standards of practice as defined by the International Ombudsman Association, the Ombuds is a confidential, independent, impartial, and informal resource for members of the university community (faculty, staff, students and community members).

The Ombuds does not participate in any formal administrative, academic, or contractual processes, nor does the Ombuds maintain detailed records. The Ombuds does not make judgments or binding decisions, and does not mandate policies or formally adjudicate issues. Use of the Ombuds services is voluntary, private, off-the-record, and is not a required step in any formal investigations or processes.

The Ombuds provide referrals and informal assistance only and has no authority to make decisions on behalf of the University, including situations where the dispute involves or alleges violations of laws, regulations or Executive Orders. However, as stated in the “Confidentiality” section above, the Ombuds is required to make certain disclosures to the University once the Ombuds is put on notice of the alleged violations.    

Within the standards of practice described above

A. The Ombuds can:

  • create a safe, informal environment to listen to concerns
  • help identify issues and consider ways to reframe them that may help people reach solutions
  • help people to see and understand their options
  • assist people in improving communication with others
  • assist in resolving disputes not otherwise governed by contract and/or Executive Order
  • explain and provide information on appropriate University policies and procedures
  • refer people to the right office or other appropriate resources/processes
  • receive referrals from other administrative offices to assist in resolving disputes
  • provide information to the University (while maintaining confidentiality) regarding problematic trends/issues/systemic matters

B. The Ombuds cannot:

  • tell people what to do
  • advocate on any party’s behalf in a conflict
  • make or change University decisions, rules, or policies
  • set aside a decision or supersede the authority of another University official
  • supplant an existing grievance and/or complaint procedure
  • provide legal advice
  • testify in a formal grievance or legal proceeding with respect to confidential communication unless compelled to do so by court order and/or subpoena
  • conduct formal investigations, issue findings, binding decisions, judgments and/or determine whether or not a case has merit.
  • accept notice of claims against the University.

C. Retaliation for Using the Ombuds 

    Students, staff, faculty and administrators shall have the right to consult the Ombuds without reprisal.

D. Structure/Responsibilities

  • The University Ombuds   are independent from other organizational entities.
  • The University Ombuds hold no other position within the organization which might compromise independence.
  • The University Ombuds exercise sole discretion over whether or how to act regarding an individual’s concern, a trend or concerns of multiple individuals over time, within the standards of practice described above, and in keeping with CSU Executive Orders.
  • The University Ombuds  has access to information and individuals in the organization, as deemed appropriate to fulfill their job duties; as permitted by their employment classification; and as consistent with law.
  • This is approved for immediate implementation.
  • The University will provide time and resources to support the Ombuds. 
  •  The University Ombuds will be created by the Office of the President and the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate in cooperation with one another, and will be assessed periodically.

 II. REFERENCES

This document was assembled using the wording and ideas of other university Ombuds offices and the International Ombudsman Association “Standards and Practices.” Entire sections of this text were copied from other web pages, see especially: Ombuds Office, San Bernardino: http://ombuds.csusb.edu/faq.html; Ombuds Office, UC Irvine: http://ombuds.uci.edu/; International Ombudsman Association: Standards of Practice http://www.ombudsassociation.org/IOA_Main/media/SiteFiles/IOA_Standards_of_Practice_Oct09.pdf ; International Ombudsman Association: Code of Ethics http://www.ombudsassociation.org/IOA_Main/media/SiteFiles/Code_Ethics_1-07.pdf and Ombuds Office, Humboldt State: http://www2.humboldt.edu/ombuds/index.html.

Please direct questions about this policy to the Academic Senate, the Student Academic Senate, Staff Council, and the President’s Office.