California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Office of the University Ombuds
The Office of the University Ombuds, Cal Poly Pomona was established in 2006 to provide an accessible, confidential, neutral, independent and informal resource for expeditious resolution of problems and conflicts to all University constituencies. This agreement defines the privileges and responsibilities of the Office of the University Ombuds.
II. PURPOSE AND SCOPE OF SERVICES
The Ombuds shall provide a neutral, confidential, informal and independent environment to the extent possible based on the laws and policies governing the office. The Ombuds Office shall be a place where members of the University community can seek guidance regarding problems, issues, conflicts or concerns.
The Ombuds shall confidentially receive complaints, concerns or questions. The Ombuds shall explain policies, answer questions, and offer options to the visitor. The response of the Ombuds is tailored to the dynamics of the situation and the visitor’s concerns. The Ombuds shall listen, make informal inquiries or otherwise review matters received, offer resolution options, make referrals, and mediate disputes independently and impartially. The Ombuds shall assist parties in reaching resolutions that are consistent with the ideals and objectives of the University. Services of the Ombuds supplement, but do not replace, other more formal processes available to the University community. The Ombuds also shall provide feedback to the University President with any trends or issues without identifying any parties to those issues. In addition, the Ombuds shall make recommendations to the University President for policy changes, needed training, or other procedures that may enhance the campus climate.
III. STANDARDS OF PRACTICE AND CODE OF ETHICS
The Ombuds shall practice the International Ombudsman Association (“IOA”) Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. These tenets require that the Ombuds shall function independently of their organization, be confidential and neutral, and limit the scope of their services to informal means of dispute resolution. The Ombuds shall be truthful and act with integrity, shall foster respect for all members of the University and shall promote procedural fairness in the content and administration of the University’s practices, processes and policies. The Ombuds shall be a member of the International Ombudsman Association and attend regular trainings and the annual IOA conferences.
The Ombuds shall establish consistent procedures which shall be made available upon request. The Ombuds shall publicize the confidential, independent, neutral and informal nature of his/her services through a website, promotional materials, and a visible wall posting as well as provide a copy of the standards to each visitor.
The Ombuds shall be, and appear to be, free from interference in the performance of his or her duties. This independence is affected primarily through organizational recognition, reporting structure, and neutrality. The Ombuds shall operate independent of ordinary line and staff structures. The Ombuds shall exercise sole discretion over whether and how to act regarding individual matters or systemic concerns.
To fulfill his/her functions, the Ombuds shall have a specific allocated budget, adequate space, and sufficient resources to meet operating needs and pursue continuing professional development. The Ombuds shall have the authority to manage the budget and operations of the Ombuds Office. The Ombuds shall report to the office of the University President for administrative and budgetary matters and trends affecting the University climate.
The Ombuds shall endeavor to maintain the confidentiality of communications to the extent feasible. In order to protect the safety of members of the University community, the Ombuds may not be able to maintain the confidentiality of certain disclosures, including but not limited to, disclosures regarding public safety, harm to self or others, violations of law, discrimination, or sexual harassment.
The Ombuds shall not participate in any formal process inside or outside the University, unless compelled to do so by court order or applicable law.
The Ombuds shall be neutral in his/her activities, and shall not take sides in any conflict, dispute or issue. The Ombuds shall impartially consider the interests and concerns of all parties involved in a situation with the aim of facilitating communication and assisting the parties in reaching mutually acceptable agreements that are fair and equitable, and consistent with the mission and policies of the University. The Ombuds shall avoid involvement in matters where there may be a conflict of interest. (A conflict of interest occurs when the Ombuds’ private interests, real or perceived, supersede or compete with his/her dedication to the neutral and independent role of the Ombuds.) When a conflict of interest exists, the Ombuds shall take all steps necessary to disclose and/or avoid the conflict.
The Ombuds shall be a resource for informal dispute resolution only. The Ombuds shall not formally investigate, arbitrate, adjudicate or in any other way participate in any internal or external formal process or action. Use of the Ombuds shall be voluntary and not a required step in any grievance process or University policy.
IV. AUTHORITY AND LIMITS OF THE OMBUDS
The authority of the Ombuds derives from the University administration as manifest by the endorsement of the University president.
A. Authority of the Ombuds
- Initiating Informal Inquiries
The Ombuds shall be entitled to inquire informally about any issue concerning the University and affecting any member of the University community. Therefore, the Ombuds may initiate informal inquiries into matters that come to his/her attention without having received a specific complaint from an affected member of the University community.
- Access to Information
The Ombuds may request access to information related to visitors’ concerns, from files and offices of the University, and shall respect the confidentiality of that information. Requests by the Ombuds for information should be handled with reasonable promptness by University departments.
- Ending Involvement in Matters
The Ombuds may withdraw from or decline to look into a matter if he/she believes involvement would be inappropriate for any reason.
- Discussions with Visitors and Others
The Ombuds has the authority to discuss a range of options available to his/her visitors, including both informal and formal processes. The Ombuds may make any recommendations he/she deems appropriate with regard to resolving problems or improving policies, rules or procedures. However, the Ombuds shall have no actual authority to impose remedies or sanctions or to enforce or change any policy, rule or procedure.
- Access to Legal Counsel
On occasion, the Ombuds may require legal advice or representation in order to fulfill his/her required functions. The Ombuds shall be provided with legal counsel separate and independent from the University in the event he/she is asked for documents or testimony related to any litigation or other formal process arising out of Ombuds’ activities.
B. Limitations on the Authority of the Ombuds
- Receiving Notice for the University
Communication to the Ombuds shall not constitute notice to the University. This includes allegations that may be perceived to be violations of laws, regulations or policies, such as sexual harassment, issues covered by whistleblower policy, or incidents subject to reporting under the Clery Act*. Although the Ombuds may receive such allegations, he/she is not a “campus security authority” as defined in the Clery Act, nor is he/she required to report these allegations to the University. In addition, if the visitor discloses such allegations and expresses a desire to make a formal report, the Ombuds shall refer the visitor to the appropriate university office(s) for administrative or formal grievance processes.
- Putting the University on Notice
If a visitor would like to put the University on notice regarding a specific situation, or wishes for information to be provided to the University, the Ombuds shall provide the visitor with information so that the visitor may do so himself/herself. In certain situations, including but not limited to situations that involve public safety, harm to self or others, violations of law, discrimination, or sexual harassment, an Ombuds may have an ethical obligation to put the University on notice in order to protect the safety of members of the University community. If the Ombuds decides to put the University on notice, he or she shall do so in writing to the extent practicable.
- Formal Processes and Investigations
The Ombuds shall not conduct formal investigations of any kind. The Ombuds shall also not participate in the substance of any formal dispute processes, outside agency complaints or lawsuits, either on behalf of a visitor to the Ombuds or on behalf of the University unless compelled to do so by court order or applicable law.
- Collective Bargaining Agreements
The Ombuds may not inquire (informally or otherwise) into the application or interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement, or into the alleged violation of the duty of fair representation against a certified union.
- Record Keeping
The Ombuds shall not keep records for the University, and shall not create or maintain documents or records for the University about individual matters. Notes and any other materials related to a matter shall be maintained in a secure location and manner, and shall be destroyed once the Ombuds concludes its involvement in the matter.
- Advocacy for Parties
The Ombuds shall not act as an advocate for any party in a dispute, nor shall he or she represent management or visitors to the office.
- Adjudication of Issues
The Ombuds shall not have authority to adjudicate, impose remedies or sanctions, or to enforce or change University policies or rules.
V. RETALIATION FOR USING THE OMBUDS OFFICE
Faculty, staff and students shall have the right to consult the Ombuds without reprisal. The Ombuds shall work with the University to create policies to protect visitors from reprisals for using the services of the Ombuds Office.