We assist students, faculty, and staff members with informal conflict resolution and problem-solving, navigating difficult situations, and advocacy for fair processes and fair treatment. If you have a concern, the University Ombuds are here to help.
Ombuds Services during COVID-19 Crisis
The COVID-19 crisis has required many adaptations to policy and practices on our campus. In the midst of change and uncertainty, communication challenges, misunderstandings, and anxiety often increase. We encourage students, staff, and faculty to consult with an ombuds should they encounter situations that make working and/or learning difficult.
To protect the health of the ombuds and their visitors (those who seek the services of an ombuds), UNO ombuds services will be delivered in a remote mode until health officials advise otherwise. Ombuds will meet visitors via Zoom using a unique link with an individualized password for each visitor. If the visitor prefers, the ombuds can contact them by telephone.
UNO ombuds will follow the guidelines of the International Ombuds Association (IOA) in regard to COVID-19 and the standard of confidentiality. The IOA has advised “…the exception to confidentiality is for an imminent threat of serious harm and that may include instances of unreported exposure to or diagnosis of COVID-19… Ombuds may need to invoke the imminent threat of serious harm exception to confidentiality in the event that they learn of information that could expose people to COVID-19.”
What an Ombudsperson (Ombuds) Does
We provide a confidential, neutral space where it is safe to discuss conflicts, problems, or any troubles you might have with the university or its policies or procedures. Our assistance is tailored to your concerns and the dynamics of your situation. We will:
- Answer questions—or help find others who can
- Provide information
- Make informal inquiries
- Analyze difficult situations
- Help people identify and evaluate their options
- Assist with interpreting policies and procedures
- Offer communication and conflict coaching
- Provide mediation and facilitation services
- Act as a go-between to resolve a problem
- Take informal action within the system
- Make referrals for other resources
We also identify trends and emerging types of problems at the university and recommend needed changes in policies and procedures. We report directly to the Senior Vice Chancellor and the Chancellor but do not provide them information on individual cases.
What an Ombuds Does Not Do
As an informal, confidential, neutral, independent resource, the Ombuds do not:
- Receive formal complaints
- Conduct investigations of wrongdoing or impose discipline
- Participate in any formal hearing, appeal, or grievance process
- Change policies, procedures, rules, or administrative decisions
- Supersede the authority of university officials
- Disclose information provided in confidence, except to address an imminent risk of serious harm where there is no other reasonable option
- Act as an agent of “notice” for the university
- Represent or advocate for any individual in a dispute
- Address issues arising under a collective bargaining agreement, unless allowed by specific language in the agreement
The Ombuds are not intended to replace other UNO channels (formal or informal) for the resolution of problems and conflicts. We supplement other resources by providing informal, impartial, off-the-record assistance to any member of the UNO community.
When to Talk with an Ombuds
All UNO employees and students have the right to consult Ombuds Services confidentially and without reprisal. We assist with an unrestricted variety of university-related issues and concerns, no matter how large or small.
The Ombuds may be able to help when:
- You want to discuss a sensitive issue or question in confidence
- You believe you have been treated unfairly
- Your situation requires help with communication or conflict management
- You are unsure what policies or procedures apply in your situation
- You have a complaint about an office or service at UNO
- You have difficulties in a peer relationship (such as classmates, coworkers, colleagues, or roommates)
- You have problems in a relationship of unequal status or power (such as supervisor-employee or faculty-student)
- You are unsure of where to go or what options are open to you
The UNO Ombuds are guided by four principles based on the International Ombudsman Association Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics:
The Ombuds maintain confidentiality concerning all matters that are brought to us. Exceptions occur only when it appears that a visitor to our office or others are at imminent risk of being seriously harmed and there is no other reasonable option.
The Ombuds provide neutral and impartial assistance. We do not take sides nor advocate for any individual. However, we do advocate for fair processes and equitable resolution of conflicts and problems.
The Ombuds help individuals resolve their issues informally. We advise about formal and administrative options, but do not receive formal complaints, conduct investigations, or participate in formal procedures.
The Ombuds act as independently as possible of all other UNO offices. We identify trends and emerging problem types at the university and report them to the UNO leadership in a manner that protects the identity of individuals.