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Visiting the Office of the Ombuds

Before You Call

Before contacting the ombuds office, you may want to consider some of the following:

Speak directly to the person involved with your concern and try to resolve the issue directly. Some questions to think about include:

  • How can I approach this person?
  • Do they usually schedule appointments, or talk with people informally in the lab, or before or after class?
  • Are they generally more receptive to talking with people in the morning or afternoon? (Some people prefer to get "right to work" in the morning and are more approachable later in the day, or vice versa.)
  • Is there a way to frame my concern so that (s)he will not be defensive?
  • For what part of my concern might I be responsible? Or might (s)he think I am (at least partly) responsible?
  • Are there things I can offer in our discussion to show that I am truly interested in resolving the situation, and not just complaining about it?

If you are uncertain about how to approach the person, you may consider consulting a colleague, friend or other trusted advisor in addition to the ombudsperson about ways in which you can approach and discuss your situation with the person involved.

Be prepared. Whether you decide to speak first to the person directly involved, take the matter to another university official, or come to the ombuds office, it always helps to be as prepared as you can be in explaining the situation. Sometimes it helps to organize thoughts if you write out a brief timeline of events or summary of the situation. Gather all documents related to the situation and bring them with you to your appointment. Similarly, keep good records and notes of conversations that you have with people as you try to resolve your situation.

Do some research. In many situations, there are rules and policies that exist at the university which may govern your concern. Ask questions about what the rules or policies are and spend some time on the web and elsewhere researching them yourself. Be sure to ask about any deadlines that exist for filing appeals or grievances.

If your efforts to resolve your situation have been unsuccessful, or you are having difficulty determining how best to resolve your issue, you can contact the ombuds office to meet with the ombudsperson.

Try to remain optimistic. The good news is that there are almost always several options that can be explored and decisions that you can make to change your situation.

When you go to the Ombuds Office

Informal Process

When you visit the ombuds office, the ombudsperson will explain the role of the office to you. The ombudsperson will explain that the office keeps all information confidential and that the office helps you to find options to resolve your issues. The ombudsperson may discuss both informal as well as more formal options that are available to you; however, should any party in a dispute choose a more formal option, at that point services with the ombuds office will discontinue. The ombuds office does not participate in formal options. Working informally with the ombuds office often results in effective resolution of issues, but you should also be aware that in some situations, you may have formal rights at stake as well.

You will have an opportunity to consult with the ombudsperson and to describe in your own words the situation as you see it. The ombudsperson will provide a safe forum to voice your concerns, evaluate your situation, and help you to organize your thoughts, assess your options, and decide on what is most important and relevant for your specific circumstance.

Some options the ombudsperson may discuss with you include simply talking about your problem, facilitating communication between you and others, beginning informal processes available at UC San Diego, or pursuing a formal grievance proceeding. If appropriate, the ombudsperson may refer you to another office. You will select the options that you prefer. Some issues can be addressed quickly and resolved within a very short period of time within days or a couple of weeks. Other issues may take much longer (up to several months), and require many steps to reach a long-term equitable solution for all parties.

Please be sure to bring any relevant documents with you to your appointment with the ombudsperson.  It also sometimes helps to sketch out a timeline of events if the situation has been going on for a long period of time.  These tools may help you to have a more productive meeting in the ombuds office so your time with us will be well spent.

Formal Process

If all attempts at resolving the situation informally fail, you may choose to participate in a formal grievance or complaint process. Important rights may be affected by the actual date when formal action is initiated and by the actual date when UCSD is informed of the allegedly wrongful behavior, and in some situations, you may wish to consult with an attorney or other resource regarding your rights. Union members will follow the process outlined in their collective bargaining agreements. All other individuals will be subject to the policies and procedures of the University of California and the campus. Since the scope of the office is limited to informal dispute resolution, the ombudsperson does not participate in any formal processes. The ombuds office does not keep records for the university, and the ombuds office is not available for testimony or other activity related to any formal process, including grievances, arbitration, hearings, or litigation.

What can the Ombudsperson do for me?

The ombudsperson helps individuals resolve issues fairly, and if possible, informally. The ombudsperson has been given broad access to information and resources that can be of assistance in developing options to help people resolve their issues. This includes access to University administrators, faculty and staff, and records.

The Ombudsperson:

  • Actively listens to and discusses your questions and concerns
  • Helps you to evaluate options and suggests approaches for addressing concerns
  • Serves as a neutral "third party" in conflict resolution
  • Advocates for a fair resolution process

Some possible outcomes of your meeting may include the Ombudsperson:

  • Coaching and role-playing in order to provide you with some new ways of trying to resolve a problem on your own
  • Providing you with information about policies, procedures, services and programs
  • Facilitating communication between people
  • Referring you to another campus resource
  • Advising you about steps to resolve the problem informally
  • Advising you about formal and administrative options.  Helping you to bring your issues to the attention of those with authority to address your concerns
  • Recommending institutional review or change in policies or procedures that generate conflict
  • Collaborating with other campus offices on issues of general concern

What will the ombudsperson not do?

The services of the campus ombudsperson do not compromise or replace policies or procedures established under collective bargaining agreements. In addition, UC San Diego's campus ombudsperson does not:

  • Provide legal advice
  • Provide psychological counseling
  • Render judgments or make decisions on issues brought to the office
  • Make decisions for administrators or others
  • Determine "guilt" or "innocence" of those accused of wrong-doing
  • Conduct formal investigations
  • Assign sanctions or discipline to individuals
  • Participate in formal hearings (grievance, union, or arbitration), processes or lawsuits
  • Advocate for either party in a dispute
  • Accept notice on behalf of the university

Examples of issues brought to the Ombuds office

Benefits questions

Communication issues with colleagues

Departmental concerns


Discrimination, Harrassment and Bias

Ethical considerations

Grade questions & disputes

Performance evaluations


Research data ownership/usage/authorship

Roommate issues

University policies & procedures