ISU Ombuds Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The following information is designed to inform you about ISU’s ombuds program.

1. What does an ombuds do?

An ombuds (or ombudsman or ombudsperson) identifies and helps resolve employee concerns. In addition, the ombuds is available to serve as a neutral third party to help manage conflict and help employees find fair and equitable solutions to problems. The ombuds also provides information about company policies, procedures, services, and programs, and makes referrals to other company resources with permission of the employee. The ombuds also offers recommendations to senior management about policy and systemic changes.

2. What does an ombuds not do?

The services provided by the ombuds do not replace other roles or procedures at ISU. In addition, the ombuds does not provide legal advice or psychological counseling and does not render judgments or make decisions on the issues brought to the office. Discussing an issue with the ombuds does not constitute formal notice to the company about the existence of a problem. The ombuds will, however, help employees find resolution or help the employee find the proper channels to provide notice (like HR or senior management) about an issue if necessary.

3. Who can use the ombuds service?

All members of the ISU community with a university-related concern including: staff, faculty, and members of the graduate community are welcome to contact the ombuds. All visitors are welcome to contact the ombuds from ISU or during off hours.

4. What types of concerns are brought to the ombuds?

Any concern that an employee is unsure how to handle including conflicts with colleagues and supervisors, concerns about departmental politics, communication issues, ethical considerations, disciplinary matters, perceived harassment and discrimination, among other concerns.

5. What happens when you contact the ombuds?

The ombuds will: provide you with enough time and space to air your concerns in private; listen carefully to your concern or complaints; help you develop a list of options for resolving your concern; provide answers to questions you have regarding a policy or procedure; and work with you to develop a strategy for resolution.

6. What might I gain by contacting the ombuds?

Insight into a complicated situation; a clearer perspective on an issue or concern; enhanced ability to effectively deal with a problem; identification and clarification of options; develop an effective communication plan to resolve interpersonal issues; find a resolution of an ongoing problem that is impacting your ability to do your job.

7. What authority does the ombuds have?

The ombuds has the authority to contact senior management at ISU including the CEO and Board about problems affecting ISU employees, bring issues to the attention of those with authority to address concerns, and to make recommendations for a change in policy or practice when appropriate. The ombuds does not have the power to mandate anyone (staff or management) to do anything they choose not to do.

8. What happens to information provided to the ombuds?

As a matter of policy, the ombuds destroys all information regarding a matter when that matter is resolved or within one month of no activity. The ombuds does not retain any information that would identify the individuals involved in a conflict, dispute or complaint. The ombuds keeps aggregate statistics and periodically reports general problem areas to senior administrators. The ombuds does not keep information that would identify individuals who have contacted the ombuds. The ombuds will review data with an eye towards highlighting emerging issues, identifying trends, highlighting vulnerable groups, and suggesting areas of improvement with upper management.

9. Should I contact the ombuds to give notice to ISU?

No. Discussions with the ombuds are off-the-record and do not constitute formal notice to ISU. The ombuds cannot accept notice for the ISU or initiate a formal process. If you have a complaint and want to pursue a formal remedy, the ombuds can refer you to the appropriate person at ISU. You can still contact the ombuds to discuss the problem that you would like addressed, with the goal of resolving the matter.

10. How does the ombuds remain neutral?

The ombuds’ effectiveness and credibility is based on a commitment to being fair and supportive of each employee who contacts the ombuds. The ombuds is not part of any one department at ISU and are independent subcontractors to ISU, which allows the ombuds to be neutral.  The ombuds’ job is to help employees make informed decisions for themselves with the ombuds’ assistance and support.

11. Will the ombuds participate in formal meetings?

No. The ombuds cannot serve as a witness and does not participate in any formal grievance process. The ombuds will not testify in formal judicial or administrative hearings. However, the ombuds is available to facilitate informal discussions with the consent of the other participants. If the ombuds is asked to serve on a committee, it will be done in an advisory or ex-officio capacity only.

12. How is the ombuds unique and different than other resources at ISU?

The goal of the ombuds is to proactively seek to educate and inform ISU employees about conflict management options to address and resolve concerns. In addition, the ombuds offers a confidential, independent and informal resource for ISU employees, unlike other resources at ISU. This means that employees can speak with the ombuds with the assurance that the ombuds will not report what was told unless someone would be harmed if nothing was reported. Also the ombuds is a change agent who identifies patterns and causes of conflict and brings those issues to the attention of senior management for implementation.

13. Are there some things that will not be kept confidential?

Yes. If the ombuds determines that an imminent threat of serious harm exists and/or there is suspicion of abuse of any kind, the ombuds has to right to disclose this information. This determination will be made at the sole discretion of the ombuds. In those situations in which the ombuds believes that talking with other individuals may help, and there is not a risk of harm to self or other, the employee will be asked for permission before any disclosures are made. If you have particular concerns about confidentiality, please be sure to raise the issue when you talk with the ombuds. This confidentiality cannot be “waived” by users of the ombuds service because the privilege of confidentiality belongs to the ombuds and not to the users of the service. Because confidentiality is so important to the ombuds, all communications with the ombuds are made with the understanding that they are confidential, off-the-record, and that the ombuds will not be called to testify as a witness in any formal or legal proceeding to reveal confidential and/or privileged communications.

14. Will the ombuds talk to my attorney or testify for me or for the university if I choose to file a grievance or lawsuit?

No. Once a matter is in a formal process, including legal action, the ombuds does not have any further involvement, unless the parties want to try mediation or other confidential services of the ombuds in an attempt to resolve the issue. The ombuds will maintain the confidentiality of all dealings and communications and will assert any and all legal protections to maintain that confidentiality. The ombuds reserves the right to uphold confidentiality even when the person using the services of the ombuds requests disclosure.

15. Can the user of the ombuds services remain anonymous?

Yes, you can remain anonymous. You can call the ombuds to discuss the issue without giving your name. If you would like to remain anonymous, the ombuds will work with you to find a way to address your concern in a way that does not reveal your identity.

16. What if my question is not listed here?

Please contact any of the ISU Ombuds, at https://www.mwi.org/isu-ombuds to get your questions answered.