»Faculty Ombudsperson

The purpose of the Chapman University Ombudsperson is to support a culture and environment which is ethical, civil, and fair, and in which mutual understanding can be reached and differences resolved through respectful dialogue and fair processes. The Ombudsperson seeks to promote accountability and fair treatment while providing faculty members of the Chapman University community with the opportunity to discuss complaints, concerns, and problems in an informal, confidential, independent, and impartial environment.

How might the Ombudsperson help?

  • The Ombudsperson is an impartial dispute resolver who strives to see that faculty, and other members of the Chapman community with whom they interact, are treated fairly and equitably.
  • The Ombudsperson listens and works to resolve problems by clarifying concerns, gathering information, and identifying options.
  • The Ombudsperson serves as a neutral mediator who seeks fairness, equitable solutions and connections to university policies.
  • The Ombudsperson is independent of the university administration, and does not replace, substitute, or participate in any formal grievance process.
  • The Ombudsperson may provide information about university policies and provide referrals to university services and programs.
  • The Ombudsperson adheres to the ethics and standards of practice of the International Ombudsman Association.

+-Responsibilities

The Ombudsperson provides a respectful and confidential opportunity for faculty members or University administrators to: discuss matters, clarify issues, identify goals, develop and consider a range of options, consider relevant University policies and practices, and identify appropriate offices and services which may provide further information.

The Ombudsperson may assist by gathering data and the perspectives of others, by assisting in the resolution of interpersonal conflicts, by engaging in ‘shuttle diplomacy’, by facilitating one-on-one and group discussions, and by undertaking other measures consistent with his/her purpose. The Ombudsperson considers the legitimate concerns and interests of all affected individuals and constituencies.

The Ombudsperson does not keep case records for the University; does not assess wrongdoing or innocence; does not determine sanctions; does not make, change, interpret or set aside any rule, policy or decision; and does not act as an advocate in any controversy, investigation, or grievance, either inside or outside the University, will not testify in any University grievance proceeding; and may testify in a legal or administrative proceeding only to the extent required by law.

The Ombudsperson’s role and function are defined by the International Ombudsperson Association Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.

+-Independence

The Office of the Ombudsperson is a voluntary resource, independent of the University. The Ombudsperson communicates directly with the Chancellor, and therefore has direct access to key decision makers, but the Ombudsperson does not advocate on behalf of any individual within the University. The Ombudsperson has access to University administrators, officials, and to review relevant non-privileged, non-confidential records as may be needed to carry out its responsibilities.

The Ombudsperson exercises sole discretion over whether or how to act regarding an individual matter, a trend, or concerns of multiple individuals over time. The Ombudsperson can also initiate action on a concern identified through the Ombudsperson’s direct observation.

+-Impartiality

The Ombudsperson is neutral and has the primary function of advocating for fairness and equity. The Ombudsperson but does not serve as a representative of either the university or the individual.

+-Dispute Resolution

The Ombudsperson seeks to assist individuals in developing new ways to solve problems. At the Ombudsperson’s sole discretion, and with the prior permission of all affected parties, the Ombudsperson may assist in finding an informal resolution through mediation, diplomacy, third party intervention or other means. The Ombudsperson does not conduct formal investigations or participate in formal actions inside or outside of the University.

+-Confidentiality

All information, including communications (written and oral) and documents provided to the Ombudsperson will be kept in the strictest possible confidence. All communications between a faculty member and an Ombudsperson acting in that capacity are considered privileged. Such privilege belongs to the Ombudsperson rather to any party to an issue and cannot be waived. Permanent records of the Ombudsperson include only anonymous, aggregate data such as number of consultations, academic units represented, and areas of concern. Formal records are not created, nor are personally identifiable documents preserved. Any informal notes are routinely destroyed. The Ombudsperson will not disclose any such information to any person or any office without prior express permission of all persons identified directly or indirectly.

The Ombudsperson will not disclose information or take any action that might risk revealing the identity of an individual, without such individual’s prior express written consent. The only exceptions to confidentiality are disclosures of child or elder abuse, harassment, imminent risk of serious harm to self, another person, or the general public, or as otherwise may be expressly required by law. The Ombudsperson asserts that there is a privilege of confidentiality and non-disclosure (including California Evidence Code Section 1119) with respect to the identity of visitors and their issues, and therefore cannot be required to disclose confidential communications.

The Ombudsperson (including any staff members of the office of the Ombudsperson) may not be deposed or subpoenaed by or on behalf of the University or any administrator, staff member or faculty member or their respective, nor shall such parties attempt to obtain any documents or records maintained by the Ombudsperson. Without limiting the foregoing, the Ombudsperson may require that any individual using the services of the Ombudsperson agree as a condition of receiving such services that he or she will not attempt to depose or subpoena the Ombudsperson or any staff member of the office of the Ombudsperson. Faculty may consult with the Ombudsperson without fear of retaliation or reprisal.

+-Alternative Resource

The main purpose of formal faculty grievance procedures is to adjudicate alleged violations of the Faculty Manual. The Ombudsperson offers faculty the opportunity to:

  1. Address alleged violations prior to the initiation of formal grievance proceedings.
  2. Resolve matters which may not constitute violations of the Faculty Manual.

The Ombudsperson provides a resource to address conflicts between faculty and between faculty and administrators over issues such as compensation and benefits, career progression and development, communication, fairness, office space, and the like. Confidentiality is ensured as the Ombudsperson endeavors to provide information, explore options, and assist faculty members in making informed decisions. The Ombudsperson does not replace, substitute or participate in any formal grievance process. The Ombudsperson does not have authority to make decisions or enact policy. Seeking the assistance of the Ombudsperson is not required prior to filing a formal grievance, utilizing the Ombudsperson does not prevent a faculty member from later filing a formal grievance and utilization of the Ombudsperson does not extend any deadlines established by the Faculty Manual or other University policies. The Ombudsperson does not provide legal or psychological assistance.

+-Notice

The Ombudsperson is authorized to provide informal assistance only, and it is not authorized to accept notice of claims against the University; to establish, change, or set aside a University rule or policy; or to override the decision of any University administrator.

Communication to the Office of the Ombudsperson shall not constitute notice to the University. The Office of the Ombudsperson shall publicize its non-notice role. This includes allegations that may be perceived to be violations of laws, regulations or policies. Because the Ombudsperson does not function as part of the administration of the University, even if the Ombudsperson become aware of such allegations, the Ombudsperson is not required to report it to the University.

If a user of the Office of the Ombudsperson would like to put the University on notice regarding a specific situation, or wishes for information to be provided to the University, the Ombudsperson will provide that person with information so that the person may do so himself/herself. If the Ombudsperson refers an individual with a complaint or concern to another office within the University, it is the individual’s sole decision whether to pursue such referral. In extremely rare situations, the Office of the Ombudsperson may have an ethical obligation to put the University on notice. This will take place only when there is no other reasonable option.

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Contact the Ombudsperson

Jim Brown
Reeves Hall 202
(714) 997-6884
jbrown@chapman.edu