Ombuds Office

Introduction

The Ombuds Office at Gettysburg College serves as a resource for all categories of employees and faculty seeking assistance with workplace issues and concerns. The mission of the Ombuds Office is to ensure that employees have access to a resource for informally addressing workplace concerns in a fair and equitable manner.

Chartered in spring 2019, the Ombuds Office provides assistance in resolving problems and conflicts. It is an independent, neutral, confidential, and informal resource. The Ombuds will assist visitors in resolving disputes; inform visitors of College policies and procedures; and refer visitors to appropriate resources and processes.

Scheduling a consultation

Individuals requesting a consultation may contact the office to schedule a visit.

  • To schedule a consultation, email ombuds@gettysburg.edu, or call 717-337-7099 and leave a voicemail.
  • All requests for a consultation are promptly replied to and visits are scheduled.
  • All consultations with the Office of the Ombuds must occur face to face unless circumstances make it impossible for the visitor to come to the office.

Purpose

The College Ombuds will strengthen existing campus communication and administrative processes by acting as a designated neutral referral resource and dispute resolution practitioner. The Ombuds’ major function is to provide confidential and informal assistance to faculty and staff in the College community by listening to concerns, clarifying issues, proposing options for resolution, providing information and referrals, and if all parties agree, facilitating informal, nonbinding mediation. The Ombuds only keeps records necessary to report anonymous trend data to the President.

Serving as a designated neutral, the Ombuds is not an advocate for any individual or for the College, but rather acts as an advocate for fairness and healthy campus conflict resolution. The Ombuds does not have the power to make any decisions as to ultimate resolution, nor does the Ombuds have the power to reverse any decisions made or actions taken by the regularly constituted College authorities. The Ombuds does not provide legal advice or psychological counseling. This position supplements, but does not replace, the College’s existing resources for conflict resolution.

To preserve independence and neutrality, the Ombuds will report directly to the President. The Ombuds will not accept legal notice on behalf of the College, and information provided to the Ombuds will not constitute such notice to the College.

Standards of Practice

The Ombuds Office operates according to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the International Ombudsman Association (IOA). The Ombuds Office has four essential characteristics: independent, neutral, confidential, and informal.

Every visitor to the office is advised of the standards by which the Office of the Ombuds operates, and these standards inform the specific procedures to which the office adheres.

Independent

The Ombuds Office is independent from existing administrative structures, and reports directly to the President of the College, protecting it from the risk of undue influence from other members of the College hierarchy. The ombuds exercises total discretion regarding their responsibilities. The ombuds is not part of and does not take part in any administrative or formal complaint processes.

Neutral

The Ombuds Office is neutral. The Office of the Ombuds advocates for fairness, and does not advocate on behalf of any individual. The ombuds role is to be an objective third party who is available to assist with resolution of the matter. Ombuds have no personal interest or stake in and incur no personal gain or loss from the outcome of any disputes. Ombuds avoid situations that may cause or result in conflicts of interest, either actual or perceived.

Confidential

The Ombuds Office is a confidential resource. The Ombuds maintains the privacy of the identity of visitors to the office as well as the content of their conversations. The only exceptions to this privilege of confidentiality are where there appears to be imminent risk of serious harm to the visitor or someone else, or if required by law.

With a visitor’s permission, the Ombuds Office may contact individuals within the institution whose help is necessary to resolve a problem. Ombuds Office staff do not testify in formal proceedings.

To protect confidentiality, the ombuds will keep no records regarding specific visitors or visits, except temporarily, as needed for follow-up. Email is used only to set up appointments, or to convey requested information to a visitor. Voicemail is used only to set up appointments. Any and all notes, emails, and voicemails are deleted as soon as possible.

The ombuds will maintain a log of cases brought to the office, using reporting categories to indicate the types of issues brought to the office, employee affiliation (ie, faculty, staff), and engagement with visitor (such as exploration of options, or referral to internal resource). The identity of the visitor will always be protected. The ombuds will make a report to the president annually or semi-annually, including only the anonymized data described above.

Informal

The Ombuds Office is an informal resource, operating outside of all formal processes. The office has no authority to make decisions on behalf of the institution and maintains no official College records. It does not keep the names of individuals who visit the office, or any documents or materials related to visitors. The Ombuds will assist visitors with exploring options for both informal and formal processes to address their concerns, and is familiar with or will research as needed the resources available to a visitor to help with a concern. The ombuds will not accept legal notice on behalf of the College, and information provided to the ombuds will not constitute such notice to the College.

Staff

The Gettysburg College Ombuds is a trained Organizational Ombudsman Practitioner and a member of the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) practicing in accordance with the IOA Code of Ethics (PDF) and IOA Standards of Practice (PDF).