Emory Ombuds Charter

The Emory University Ombuds Office (UOO) was established in 2019 upon recommendations of the Campus Life Compact (2013), University Senate (2014), Faculty Council (2014), Class and Labor II (2016, 2018) now known as Toward Faculty Eminence, and with endorsement by the president, Claire E. Sterk (2019). The office advances our institutional mission of teaching, research, learning, service, and health care. Our office seeks to resolve concerns, questions, misunderstandings, and/or conflict in a spirit of mutual respect through the deliberate practice of community.


The UOO helps to promote mutual respect, civility, and ethical conduct, and to identify ways to prevent conflict by alerting the university leadership to policy issues, identifying themes of concern, and recommending changes in university practices. The UOO is designed to be an accessible entry point for individuals at all levels of the university to bring those concerns about misunderstandings, incivility, or possible wrongdoing; it is a confidential and safe space to discuss issues without fear of retaliation. The UOO is an independent office with an informal approach to listening, addressing, directing, and exploring concerns and complaints that fall outside the scope of existing policies and procedures—providing a resource for people with unusual concerns or those who choose to resolve complaints, issues, or concerns informally.

Scope of Services 

University ombuds are neutral parties who are available to provide independent, confidential resolution assistance to all faculty, staff, and students. He or she listens, provides information and referrals, and offers a flexible range of options for addressing issues and concerns.

The UOO is a place where members of the university community can seek guidance regarding disputes. The UOO is a resource for information and can provide guidance on issues related to university structure, policies, procedures, and practices: it is a confidential space that receives concerns or complaints about allegations and perceptions of interpersonal conflicts, improprieties or unfairness, questions related to policies and procedures, or broader systemic concerns. The UOO serves as a supplement to already existing resources for conflict resolution and fair practice but operates independently and outside of formal procedures.

Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice

The practice of the Emory UOO adheres to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the International Ombudsman Association (IOA). These principles require that the university ombuds function independently, maintain confidentiality and neutrality, and limit the scope of services to informal means of conflict resolution. Emory University expects its ombuds to be active members of IOA and to maintain professional development by participating in IOA continuing-education programs. The UOO is responsible for explaining its standards of practice to all people using the services of the office and for making these practices publicly available. 


The Emory UOO operates independently, free from interference in its duties. This independence is assured through organizational recognition, reporting structure, and neutrality. The UOO is directly accountable only to the president of the university, who has responsibility for the appointment and removal of the chief university ombuds.

To fulfill its duties, the UOO is provided an operating budget and appropriate space to meet operating needs and to pursue continuing professional development. The chief university ombuds has the authority to manage the budget and operations of the office and the discretion to function independently. The UOO will be located in a space that is appropriate to the office’s independence and neutrality and in a location separate from senior decision makers. The space will be discrete yet accessible and secure.


All communication with the UOO is confidential and off-the-record. The UOO does not maintain records or files for the university with individually identifiable information. An ombuds will not identify or confirm the identity of visitors, nor will an ombuds discuss a visitor’s concerns in any identifiable manner without the visitor’s permission, unless, in our judgment, there appears to be imminent risk of serious harm or disclosure is required under local, state, or federal law.

Communication to an ombuds does not constitute notice to the university. This includes allegations that may be perceived to be violations of laws, regulations, or policies. Ombuds will provide information about the appropriate Emory University office(s) for formal reporting and grievance procedures to individuals reporting alleged inconsistencies with policies, rules, regulations, or law. The goal of the UOO is to surface concerns that would benefit from investigation or remedy by appropriate administrators while at the same time protecting individual confidentiality.

The protection of confidentiality is supported in several ways. The UOO makes the confidentiality policy widely known through publications and its website. Each visitor to the office receives a copy of the brochure; every contact with an inquirer begins with a statement from an ombuds that explains the principles of confidentiality, neutrality, independence, and informality.

The university has agreed not to contact an ombuds, in that person’s role as such, to testify or participate in any formal grievance procedure or investigation within the university. On occasion, an ombuds may require legal advice or representation in order to fulfill required duties. The university will provide separate and independent legal counsel and also has committed to asserting a confidentiality privilege for the UOO.


The UOO is a neutral office, and its ombuds advocate for fair processes, will not take sides, and will advise the inquirer about the rights of all parties, including the university.

University ombuds have no personal stake in the outcome of any situation in which they are involved. They are required to disclose any potential conflict of interest to all parties in a conflict-resolution process and recuse themselves when conflict has the potential to compromise the integrity or neutrality of the service.


Regardless of circumstances or permission, an ombuds will not participate in any formal process, will not make decisions or formally investigate, arbitrate, judge, discipline, or reward any member of the university community. An ombuds has no power to make, change, overrule, or set aside administrative decisions, formal process outcomes, or university policy

Authority and Limits of the University Ombuds

Ombuds have the authority to contact senior leaders and all other members of the university community, to gather information in the course of research or seeking solutions to issues, to mediate or negotiate settlements of disputes, to bring concerns to the attention of those in authority, and informally to attempt to expedite and resolve administrative processes.

Ombuds have the responsibility—while protecting the confidentiality of individuals—to provide feedback to the president regarding trends and to make recommendations for constructive change in areas needing improvement.

All members of the university community (faculty, staff, students) have the right to consult with ombuds without fear of retaliation.