Ombuds Standards of Practice
The Office of the Ombudsperson is a safe place where members of the Georgia State University community can go for impartial, confidential assistance in resolving conflicts, disputes, or complaints on an informal basis. The University Office of the Ombudsperson adheres to the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. These standards were developed in accordance with commonly understood principles within the ombuds profession: confidential, neutral, independent, and informal.
Confidentiality describes communications, or a source of communications, which are intended to be held in secret. In an Ombuds’ work, confidentiality is often accomplished by providing anonymity to the source of communications. When the source of a communication is unknown, or kept secret or completely private, this is known as an anonymous communication.
GSU Ombudspersons and their staff hold communications in strict confidence. We do not answer questions about people with whom we may have spoken, or disclose an individual’s name or specific issue, with anyone outside of the Ombuds Office, unless during the course of their discussions with a visitor, they are given permission to do so for the purpose of informal conflict resolution, and if the Ombuds also agrees to attempt informal resolution. The only exception to this pledge of confidentiality is where the Ombuds determines that there is an imminent risk of serious harm.
Communication with the Office of the Ombudsperson does not constitute notice to the University.
The Office of the Ombudsperson at Georgia State University makes every attempt to maintain confidentiality for its visitors and for those who work with us to resolve issues. This means we do not report to others any information that you bring to us, including your identity and whether or not you have come to the office. Only with your permission do we make exceptions, and we only reveal information that you instruct us to with others. If you tell others that you have consulted with us, we will still maintain confidentiality. Sometimes, visitors later seek to make formal complaints in other arenas within the university or outside. The Ombuds does not give witness or offer information in any of these proceedings. Because such participation would undermine the confidentiality generally offered by Office of the Ombudsperson, we ask that you never seek to draw us into formal proceedings of any kind. This also implies that when you consult with the Ombudsperson, the university is not on official record for your having reported an incident or made a complaint. There is one situation where the Ombudsperson remains duty-bound to break confidentiality: when we believe there is an imminent threat to someone’s well-being.
While the Office strives to maintain confidentiality, the Office is also subject to state and federal laws and may be required to disclose information it receives after subpoena.
Ombuds do not serve as advocates for any party to a dispute, including management. However, Ombuds do advocate for fair processes and fair administration of those processes by organizations. When making recommendations, Ombuds have the responsibility to suggest actions or policies that will be as equitable as possible for all parties involved.
GSU Ombuds, as designated neutrals, remain unaligned and impartial. The Ombuds do not engage in situations that could create a conflict of interest.
The Ombuds Office is independent in structure, function, and appearance. The Ombudsperson functions independently and reports directly to the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.
An Ombuds functions on an informal and off-the-record basis by such means as listening to visitors or callers, providing and receiving information, identifying and reframing issues, developing and suggesting a range of options, and (with permission from visitors or callers and at the Ombuds’ discretion) making informal inquiries.
GSU Ombuds provide an informal resource to the campus community. They do not participate in any formal adjudicative or administrative procedure related to concerns brought to their attention.
We do not conduct formal investigations, adjudicate, arbitrate, or serve as witnesses in any administrative or legal proceedings either on campus or externally. As a matter of policy, Ombuds do not disclose confidential communications or serve as witnesses. Since the Office is made available to all members of the campus community as a purely voluntary and “alternate” channel for communication, it is not appropriate for anyone to seek to compel the Ombuds or their staff to disclose confidential communication. Accordingly, people who use the program will be considered to have agreed to abide by these principles and not to seek to compel the Ombuds or their staff to testify with respect to confidential communications.
Refer to IOA Standards of Practice for more information.