MSU Denver Ombuds Team Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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

1. What does the ombuds team do?

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

2. What does the ombuds team not do?

The services provided by the ombuds team do not replace other roles or procedures at MSU Denver. In addition, the ombuds team 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 team does not constitute formal notice to the university about the existence of a problem. The ombuds team will, however, help faculty and staff find resolution or help faculty and staff find the proper channels to provide notice (like HR or senior management) about an issue if necessary.

3. Who can use the ombuds team service?

All faculty and staff of the MSU Denver community with a university-related concern are welcome to contact the ombuds team. Faculty and staff are welcome to contact the ombuds team after hours and we will reply within one business day.

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

Any concern that a faculty and staff 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 a member of the ombuds team?

The ombuds team 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 a member of the ombuds team?

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 or work as a student.

7. What authority does the ombuds team have?

The ombuds team has the authority to contact senior leadership at MSU Denver including the President about problems affecting university faculty and staff; 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 team does not have the power to mandate anyone to do anything they choose not to do.

8. What happens to information provided to a member of the ombuds team?

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

9. Should I contact the ombuds team to give notice to MSU Denver?

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

10. How does the ombuds team remain impartial?

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

11. Will the ombuds team participate in formal meetings?

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

12. How is the ombuds team unique and different from other resources at MSU Denver?

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

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

Yes. If the ombuds team determines that an imminent threat of serious harm exists and/or there is suspicion of abuse of any kind, the ombuds team has the right to disclose this information. This determination will be made at the sole discretion of the ombuds team. In those situations in which the ombuds team 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 team. This confidentiality cannot be “waived” by users of the ombuds service because the privilege of confidentiality belongs to the ombuds team and not to the users of the service. Because confidentiality is so important to the ombuds team, all communications with the ombuds team are made with the understanding that they are confidential, off-the-record, and that the ombuds team 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 team 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 team 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 team will maintain the confidentiality of all dealings and communications and will assert any and all legal protections to maintain that confidentiality. The ombuds team reserves the right to uphold confidentiality even when the person using the services of the ombuds team requests disclosure.

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

Yes, you can remain anonymous. You can call the ombuds team to discuss the issue without giving your name. If you would like to remain anonymous, the ombuds team 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 one of the two MSU Denver Ombuds, at https://www.mwi.org/msu-ombuds, to get your questions answered.