Frequently Asked Questions

What is an ombuds and other questions

An ombuds is an independent, neutral, third-party navigator who assists faculty, staff, students, and administrators in resolving issues or concerns through an informal engagement—consultation, negotiation, and/or mediation.

Ombuds are available to all faculty and staff and undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdocs.

When should I contact you?

The sooner you reach out for help, the more options you will have to resolve your concerns effectively. You can speak with us about any concern related to Emory University. 

Here are some examples of when you should contact us:

  • You wish to speak privately about a concern, issue, or situation.
  • You need help communicating with someone within the university.
  • You are unsure of the policies or procedures that apply to your specific concern or issue.
  • You would like to know what resources or options are available.
  • You need an objective perspective on an issue.
  • You want information about how to file a formal complaint, appeal, or grievance.
  • You feel a policy or procedure is not being followed properly.
  • You feel that you have been unfairly or inequitably treated.
  • You are not sure where to turn for help.

What should I expect when I visit?

The ombuds works by appointment. All meetings are scheduled for one hour, regardless of whether you use the full time.

We will spend a brief amount of time explaining our role and then you will have the opportunity to express your concerns. We will provide a comfortable, confidential environment to hear your concerns or complaints; develop a list of options for resolving your concern or complaint; and provide answers to questions you might have regarding a policy or procedure.

You do not need to bring anything, however, if you wish to share documents (email exchanges, course documents, letters of discipline, performance evaluations, etc.), you are welcome to bring those documents along. All documents will be returned to you at the end of the meeting as we do not keep files or records. Follow-up meetings are at your discretion.

Will what I say be confidential?

Any conversation that you have with us will be confidential to the fullest extent possible. There are very few examples when confidentiality cannot be promised—if there is:

  • an imminent risk of serious harm
  • a threat to public safety
  • where additional reporting is required by local, state, or federal law (i.e., an ombuds may have a duty to report an incident of sexual or gender-based harassment or sexual misconduct to the university's Title IX coordinator)

Will you do anything without my permission?

With the exception of the limited circumstances above, we will never do anything without your permission.  You decide how to address your concerns and issues and how you want us to assist.

What kind of records do you keep?

As a matter of policy, we do not retain any information that would identify the individuals involved in a conflict, dispute, or complaint unless required to do so in very limited circumstances. All documents regarding matters are destroyed within one month of no activity. All that we maintain is statistical data related to patterns, trends, or categories of concerns visitors discuss, as well as some general demographic data, which is aggregated.

How does the Ombuds Office differ from other campus offices that address community concerns?

Our setup is informal and designed to help you develop strategies and explore options before you may decide to use one of Emory’s formal administrative processes. The Ombuds Office does not make administrative decisions and does not have the authority to change disciplinary action. You may initiate a formal complaint using another Emory office at any time during a conflict. We are an excellent starting point, though, to talk through your issue and, if you desire, point you in the right direction for a formal complaint. Working with us is off the record, which sometimes makes talking about conflicts or concerns a little less intimidating.

What are the qualifications of an ombuds?

Our ombuds are educated and certified in conflict resolution and trained in mediation; we are also members of the International Ombuds Association (IOA) and conform to its Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice as well as participating in its training programs. An ombuds is a trusted navigator whose goal is to assure that you are able to do your best work while at Emory. He or she is a skilled arbiter with negotiation, interviewing, listening, investigative, and research skills. We understand the importance of confidentiality; promote fairness in the workplace; understand university policies, procedures, and best practices; provide excellent service; assist others with managing conflict proactively; and can serve as a neutral party in resolving conflict. Ombuds understand whistleblower laws, the importance of disclosure agreements, and all legal parameters related to their work. 

To what larger governing body do you adhere?

We are guided by the Code of Ethics of the International Ombuds Association. 

How do you remain neutral?

Given that we are guided by the Code of Ethics for the International Ombudsman Association, impartiality is required of us. This means that visitors can expect to be treated evenhandedly, that we do not serve in an advocacy role for the individual or for the university. The goal is to be fair, neutral, and objective, promoting fair processes and civility.

Our office reports to the university president, yet our charter allows us to remain free from university interference when working to resolve your concerns. We do not report information received from individual visitors to the president, although we will discuss patterns and trends observed on campus (while simultaneously maintaining your confidentiality).

Will you provide me with legal advice?

We do not provide legal advice; however, we will provide you with information regarding your rights within Emory University. 

What types of concerns might come from faculty?

Examples for faculty could include but are not limited to: 

  • Allegations of bullying
  • Allegations of favoritism
  • Challenges for aging faculty and because of aging faculty
  • Conflicts between faculty at different levels regarding work and contributions
  • Diversity and cultural competency
  • Funding cuts and lack of financial support
  • Generational differences and work styles
  • Intellectual property ownership
  • Lack of department cohesion and/or frustration with leadership
  • Leaves of absence
  • Order of authorship
  • Politics and resource allocation
  • Sharing lab space and office space without negotiated expectations
  • Unresolved anger and conflict

What types of concerns might come from administrators or staff?

Examples for administrators and staff could include but are not limited to:

  • Clarification of policies, procedures, and practices
  • Conflict with colleagues and supervisors
  • Ethical dilemmas
  • Perceived discrimination and harassment
  • Performance, dismissal, and resignation
  • Promotion and salary
  • Work-life balance

What types of concerns might come from students?

Examples for students could include but are not limited to:

  • Disability issues
  • Disciplinary matters
  • Discrimination
  • Grade disputes
  • Harassment
  • Housing
  • Interpersonal issues
  • Roommate conflicts
  • Student/instructor misunderstandings
  • Thesis and dissertation concerns