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What are Ombuds?

Organizational ombudspersons are conflict resolution practitioners who provide members of their organizations a venue to safely discuss concerns and sensitive issues. They do so by upholding four standards of practice:

Ombuds are Confidential

Ombuds do not keep any permanent records about you or the information that you share, and will not share any information you give with anyone outside the ombuds office without your permission. The only exception to maintaining such confidentiality is where the ombudsperson has determined that an imminent threat of serious harm exists.

Learn more about confidentiality here.

Ombuds are Neutral

Ombuds do not take sides in any conflict, dispute or issue, and will consider the interests and concerns of all parties involved with the aim of achieving a fair and equitable resolution to the issues presented.

Learn more about neutrality here.

Ombuds are Informal

Ombuds facilitate communication when conflict arises and provides the opportunity for informal dispute resolution. We do not arbitrate, adjudicate, formally investigate or participate in any internal or external formal process. The office supplements but does not replace other resources at the university.

Ombuds are Independent

To ensure objectivity and effectiveness, the office functions independently with respect to case handling and issue management.  The ombuds office reports to the Chancellor's office for administrative and budgetary purposes but not regarding the substance of matters discussed in the office.

History

The position of ombudsman was originally created in Sweden in 1809. The Swedish Parliament appointed an ombudsman to resolve difficult problems in the absence of the country's abducted king. In more recent times, ombuds programs have been created throughout the world to assist citizens, consumers and employees who wish to address concerns about administrative actions or lack of action. In the United States, the various types of ombuds functions are utilized in state and local governments, nursing homes, the media, colleges and universities, corporations, prisons and agencies of the federal government.

Eastern Montana College was the first educational institution in the United States to appoint an ombudsperson in 1966. In 1967, Michigan State University became the first major U.S. University to establish an ombuds office. During the period of nationwide campus unrest in the late 1960's and early 1970's, a number of universities established ombuds programs in an attempt to respond to demands for a neutral, confidential and "safe" place to discuss concerns and voice complaints. It is now estimated that more than 200 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada have established ombuds offices. The majority of the University of California campuses have ombuds programs, some of which started as early as 1969. The UC San Diego Office of the Ombuds was established on April 22, 2002 by Chancellor Robert C. Dynes as an organizational ombuds office to serve as an alternative channel for communication and issue resolution and was established as part of a comprehensive plan to increase communication and feedback at UC San Diego.

International Ombudsman* Association

The International Ombudsman Association (IOA) promulgates the professions' Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, and is a valuable resource for practicing and aspiring organizational ombuds.  

https://ombudsassociation.org

* Please note, per the IOA website, "the word “ombudsman” is Scandinavian and means “representative” or “proxy.”  The term is used by the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) to communicate to the widest possible community. Variations of the term exist (i.e., ombuds, ombud, ombudsperson) and are commonly used, including by the IOA."  At UCSD, we prefer using the gender-neutral terms "ombuds" or "ombudsperson."

1Ombuds history excerpted from the University and College Ombuds Association handbook.