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About Neutrality

"The International Ombudsman Association Code of Ethics describes ombuds as "designated neutral[s]" who are "unaligned and impartial" (See the IOA Code of Ethics).  The Ombuds Office aspires to be an open, safe, and accessible resource to all members of the University community.  To work towards that goal, we as practitioners strive to understand and acknowledge our own individual implicit biases and how those biases may impact our interactions with individuals and groups.  Additionally, we work to help our visitors identify their own implicit biases, how these biases can contribute to interpersonal conflict.  

In the case of underrepresented or vulnerable populations/oppressed groups, the very term "neutrality" can be triggering.  Past and continuing racial injustices, for example, can cast doubt on the existence or attainability of truly neutral processes.  Furthermore, in the face of manifest injustice, overemphasis on neutrality could result in silence when there is a need for difficult (even painful) discourse.  Although the Ombuds Office does not (and cannot) have a stake in any outcome, and cannot take sides in any conflict, our Standards of Practice do mandate that we "strive[] for impartiality, fairness and objectivity in the treatment of people and the consideration of issues. The Ombudsman advocates for fair and equitably administered processes" (See the IOA Standards of Practice).   When considering practices, policies, or processes, some questions we may explore are:

  • Is the policy/process equally administered to everyone?
  • Is the policy/process open and transparent?
  • Does the policy/process disadvantage any vulnerable or oppressed group or individual?
  • Are there accessible ways to revisit a problematic policy or seek a reasonable and appropriate exception to the policy?

Feel free to speak with the Ombuds if you have further questions about our role as neutrals.