The Ombuds Office is independent in structure, function, and appearance to the highest degree possible within the organization.
The Ombuds Officer is not part of line management, does not make management decisions, cannot make anyone take a particular course of action, nor does it take on roles that might compromise independence. The Ombuds Officer has access to all information and all individuals in the university community, as permitted by law.
The Ombuds Office is part of the President's Division and reports directly to the Chief of Staff and Vice President, Dr. John Schell, for budgetary and administrative purposes and functions outside the primary university structure. For example, if you come to the Ombuds Office expecting to get a management decision on a specific issue, that will not happen. The Ombuds Officer cannot compel anyone to take a particular course of action, nor is she under any pressure to act in a certain way because she is part of the President's Division. To further keep from compromising the independence of the office, she does not take on other roles that might compromise, or appear to compromise it.
Identities and concerns discussed with the Ombuds Office will not be shared with anyone else without permission, except to the extent required by law, including without limitation, Chapter 119, Florida Statutes.
Probably the most important thing about the Ombuds Office is the fact that it is a SAFE place for you to visit. We do not keep records, although I may jot down a few cryptic notes while we're discussing your concern to help me put my thoughts in order and start organizing them in such a way that I can be helpful to you. These personal notes are kept while we're dealing with the situation and only for a short time thereafter. Once your concern is addressed, they are shredded periodically. Should others need to be involved, or should I need to gather more information regarding the situation, I can assure you that I will always discuss in detail with you what I plan to do and will not proceed without your permission.
Sometimes an upset individual will call our office and say that they have a complaint and want to make a record of it. Because of the confidential nature of the Ombuds Office and the fact that we do not keep records, the Ombuds Officer cannot serve as an "Office of Record," or an "Office of Notice." We will, however, direct you to an appropriate office for that purpose.
The only way your confidentiality would be broken is if there is imminent threat of serious harm. For example, if the Ombuds Officer feels that your life or the life of others is at risk.
Please remember that e-mail is not appropriate for confidential communication.
The Ombuds Office is an informal resource that considers the interests and concerns of all members of the UCF community.
It is not a place where you give notice of wrong-doing, although it can direct you to the appropriate office. It encourages people to resolve problems at the lowest effective level before they escalate. If they become formal, its involvement stops. The Ombuds Office will not participate in any formal grievance or appeal process.
An Ombuds Officer encourages people to resolve problems at the lowest possible level, rather than let them escalate. For example, if you have a concern about how the information you may have been given by a staff member in a particular department affects your situation, I would not recommend that you contact the vice president of the division where that particular department resides. Instead, I would encourage you to start at the level where your concern can be properly addressed and fixed, if need be.
Sometimes a visitor will discuss a problem or a situation with me hoping that it can be resolved informally. After discussing options, the case may be that the only way it can be resolved is through a formal process. I will explain what formal avenues are available to you, but once you decide to go that route, my involvement stops. The Ombuds Officer will not participate in a formal process, even if the visitor gives permission to do so.
The Ombuds Officer does not take sides, but considers the rights and interests of all parties involved in searching for a fair resolution to the problem.
The Ombuds Officer is a designated neutral. She neither advocates for the person that calls or visits the office, nor does she advocate for the institution. She has no stake in the outcome.
As an Ombuds Officer, my main goal is to look at both sides of an issue, consider the rights and interests of both parties and advocate for fairness. Often I ask my visitors to focus on the issues rather than the personalities. Many times, we are so upset about what is happening to us, that we stand in our own light. We look at the problem only through one lens.
When you come to the Ombuds Office, I will do my best to help you imagine other outcomes. I will try to help you break down the problem into a manageable size, discuss options, and talk about the pros and cons of each. I will try to open avenues of communications and facilitate conversations. I will do my best to help you gain perspective on your particular situation, so you can make the best possible choice on how to proceed. Should you want to proceed formally, I will not be able to participate in that process. I cannot arbitrate, adjudicate, or be part of a grievance process.