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Ombuds

Information about Administrative Staff (AS) Ombuds

Currently Serving Ombuds:

Tom Gorman, tgorman@bgsu.edu  419-372-8242
Jessica M. Turos,  jmturos@bgsu.edu   419-372-2239

IMPORTANT:  Contacting an Ombuds does not constitute official notice to the university of any issue, nor is it part of any official grievance or appeal process.

The Administrative Staff Ombuds role at Bowling Green State University, as stated in the Administrative Staff Handbook, was affirmed by BGSU Board of Trustees on May 2, 2008.

The Role of Administrative Staff Ombudspersons at BGSU

“BGSU Administrative Staff Ombuds are designated administrative staff employees who serve on-campus as impartial dispute resolution practitioners. Their major function is to provide confidential and informal assistance to BGSU administrative staff in the resolution of workplace issues. Their goal is to help both employees, supervisors, and the institution to succeed.
BGSU administrative staff ombudspersons are a source of information related to the workplace. They aid in answering individual questions about employment policy and procedures, and they assist in the resolution of workplace concerns. Ombudspersons supplement, but do not replace, the university's other existing resources for conflict resolution (Office of Equity and Diversity, Ethics Officer, Human Resources, etc.). “
Staff are highly encouraged to seek the services of these individuals as soon as possible when any workplace conflict arises.

Administrative staff Ombuds serve as sources of information related to the workplace. They aid in answering individual questions about employment policy and procedures, and informally assist in the resolution of workplace concerns.

Ombuds make referrals to other BGSU offices as appropriate. They supplement, not replace, the University’s existing resources to address or frame concerns or for conflict resolution.

“The Ombudsperson at BGSU offers a safe, informal, and confidential environment where administrative staff members may discuss university related concerns conflicts, issues, or disputes.”

“More specifically, an Ombuds… (taken from the University of Arizona Ombuds Program http://ombuds.arizona.edu/):

  • Listens
  • Respects your concerns and is non-judgmental
  • Provides a "safe" place to talk - everything is strictly confidential, to the extent provided by law
  • Answers questions or helps you find someone who can
  • Helps you analyze your situation, and identify and evaluate options
  • Remains impartial to all individuals
  • Facilitates communication between individuals or groups
  • Helps you develop options for resolving problems or conflicts in the workplace
  • Prevents negative conflict through early intervention

An Ombuds Can Also...

  • Provide users with problem-solving skills
  • Coach individuals on communication skills for self-esteem and confidence
  • Speak to your group or department about the services of an Ombuds and early problem resolution

An Ombuds Does Not...

  • Take sides
  • Breach confidentiality
  • Conduct formal investigations
  • Make or change policy
  • Take action without your permission
  • Handle contract negotiation or other legal issues
  • Act as a witness or later testify in a formal grievance or legal proceeding
  • Keep identifying records nor assume a custodial role for formal documentation
  • Due to the confidential, informal, and neutral function of the Ombuds, communication with an Ombuds does not constitute notice to the University”

Do Not Call An Ombuds If...

  • You want legal advice
  • You want someone to advocate for you
  • You are in a formal grievance or termination process, litigation, or represented by an attorney

Important: Confidentiality cannot be promised in matters relating to serious misconduct or a crime, or if there is imminent risk of serious harm.

Ethical Principles under which the BGSU Administrative Staff Ombuds functions: Adapted from the International Ombudsman Association http://www.ombudsassociation.org/about-us/code-ethics.

Independent - The Ombuds is independent in structure, function, and appearance to the highest degree possible within Bowling Green State University.

Neutral and Impartial - The Ombuds, as a designated neutral, remains unaligned and impartial. The Ombudsman strives to promote procedural fairness in the content and administration of BGSU's practices, processes, and policies. The Ombuds does not engage in any situation which could create a conflict of interest.

Confidential - The Ombuds holds the identity and all communications with those seeking assistance in strict confidence, and does not disclose confidential communications unless given permission to do so, except as required by law, or where, in the judgment of the Ombuds, there appears to be imminent risk of serious harm.

Informal - The Ombudsman, as an informal resource, does not participate in any formal adjudicative or administrative procedure related to concerns brought to his/her attention. As an informal resource, the Ombuds is not authorized to accept notice (formal complaints) for Bowling Green State University. Moreover, because the Ombuds holds all communications with those seeking assistance in strict confidence, subject to the limited exceptions detailed above, the Ombuds will not forward information received in confidence.

Impartial – The Ombuds does not take sides in a dispute and does not advocate for any particular person nor outcome.

  • Classified Staff Council appoints their own Ombudspersons for use by classified staff.
  • The BGSU Faculty Association or the Faculty Senate are avenues for faculty concerns.  
  • Student concerns are addressed through the Office of the Dean of Students.

Information about serving as an Administrative Staff (AS) Ombuds

Essential Individual Qualities and Skills for Successful Service (BGSU Ombuds Proposal 2007)

  • Outstanding Communication Skills
  • Ability to Listen Without Judgment
  • Problem-Solving Ability
  • Decision-Making/Strategic Thinking Skills
  • Conflict Resolution Skills
  • Organization Knowledge and Networking Skills
  • Sensitivity to Diversity Issues
  • Composure and Presentation Skills
  • Integrity/Fairness
  • Ability to operate with near absolute confidentiality and live with knowledge that may not be comfortable.
  • Established reputation of trust and respect within the university community
  • Strong Interpersonal Skills

An Ombuds applicant must have been administrative staff for five years prior to applying and possess the above individual qualities and skills.

Due to the nature of Ombuds interactions, if feasible, individuals from each campus should serve as Ombuds.  At minimum, one individual from the Firelands campus and two individuals at the Bowling Green campus should be serving concurrently as Ombuds. It is highly desirable, however, to have 2 individuals at Firelands and 3-4 individuals on the BG campus. In order to provide a range of Ombuds from which to choose, it is also highly desirable to have a diverse representation among Ombuds.
It is important for clients to have choices of persons and be comfortable with the person they choose.

The Ombuds does not provide information, other than statistical information (number of occurring cases), to anyone. The administrative staff handbook calls for a designated senior administrator to be a liaison to the University administration. The Ombuds will meet periodically with the ASC Executive Committee.

The ASC Executive Committee will annually review the number and terms of the current Ombuds.  Upon receiving notice of an Ombuds resignation or notice of non-renewal, the Executive Committee will decide if a call for Ombuds applications should be made.  

The Executive committee will direct the Secretary to call for applications from the entire administrative staff via regular communications processes.  The call will include a link to the administrative staff Ombuds information.   The ASC Chair or Co-Chair will notify Human Resources of the need for training of a new Ombuds.

After the call for Ombuds, letters of application should be submitted to the ASC secretary.
Letters of application should include:

  • Examples of several Essential Individual Qualities and Skills listed earlier on this webpage
  • Two letters of reference speaking to essential individual qualities and skills of the applicant.

Selection Review Committee

  • The selection review committee comprises
    • the ASC Secretary
    • one other member of the Executive Committee
    • one current Ombuds.
  • The committee will review the applications and invite selected applicants to discuss the Ombuds role, qualities, and skills.
  • Final selection will be based on a variety of factors including but not limited to:
    • The applicant’s qualifications
    • Serving and representing a diverse population
    • Campus
    • Familiarity with policies and procedures on campus

Appointment

  • Selection of applicants will be communicated to the executive committee
  • After discussion, individual applicants will be notified of the results by the ASC Secretary.

Ombuds, a volunteer position, serve a term of three years with the possibility of up to three renewals. Appointment years will be listed on the ASC website in the Ombuds section.

A request for a three-year renewal must be proposed in writing 30 days before the end of a three-year term by the individual Ombuds to the ASC Chair or Secretary.  Should an Ombuds decide not to request a renewal, 60-day written notice of the decision should be provided to the ASC Chair or Secretary to enable a replacement process to begin.

  • Current Ombuds will introduce the new Ombuds to the BGSU processes and will orient the new Ombuds to common issues, and advice. Ombuds will meet quarterly to discuss processes – not individual cases.
  • Human Resources will secure appropriate training for the individual and fund the training. Webinars are available periodically via the IOA http://www.ombudsassociation.org/conferences-professional-development

If an Ombuds fails to serve satisfactorily, the ASC Executive Committee may ask the individual to step down.   If an Ombuds resigns, he/she should submit written notice to the ASC Chair.  

In either case if the Executive Committee determines that a need exists for another Ombuds, a call for applications will be made by the Executive Committee to all administrative staff. 

Acknowledgement: Many of the descriptions and statements rely heavily on the Ombuds programs as stated on their respective websites from the University of Arizona and Cornell University.