University Ombuds

Guiding Principles

Confidential, Informal, Neutral, and Independent

The Brown University Ombuds Office operates under the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics of the International Ombudsman Association (IOA), to the extent permitted by law. Services are provided based on the following guiding principles:

Confidential

Confidentiality is essential to the work of the Ombuds Office. Confidentiality helps create a safe space for visitors to voice concerns, discuss goals, and identify and evaluate options.

The Ombuds Office holds the identity and all communications with those seeking assistance in strict confidence unless:

  • The visitor gives the University Ombuds explicit permission to make a disclosure and the University Ombuds determines, in their sole discretion, that it is appropriate to do so; or
  • The University Ombuds determines that there is an imminent risk of serious harm; or
  • If there is a report of child abuse; or
  • The University Ombuds is expressly required by law to make disclosure.

Because the Ombuds Office is a purely voluntary resource established on the basis of the principles of confidentiality, informality, neutrality, and independence, those people using the Ombuds Office will be understood to have agreed to abide by these principles and the University Ombuds Office Charter, and not call the University Ombuds or anyone from the Ombuds Office to testify or produce documents relating to confidential communications in any legal, administrative, or other proceeding. The University has also agreed not to call the University Ombuds or anyone from the Ombuds Office to testify or produce documents relating to confidential communications in any such proceedings.  

Informal

Regardless of permission, the Ombuds Office functions on an informal and off-the-record basis. The Ombuds Office is not allowed to make decisions or policy, investigate, arbitrate, judge, discipline, award, or in any other way participate in any formal investigation or formal process concerning University matters. The Ombuds Office also does not give legal advice. The Ombuds Office follows no prescribed sequence of steps and is not a required step in any formal University policy or process. If a visitor wishes to engage in a formal procedure, such as filling a grievance or putting the University on notice, the Ombuds Office may inform the visitor about how to do so.  

The Ombuds Office also has no authority to make, change, overrule, or set aside University decisions or policy.

The Ombuds Office is not authorized to accept legal notice on behalf of the University, and is not a mandatory reporter under either Title IX or the Clery Act.

Neutral

The Office is neutral and unaligned. The Office is not an advocate or representative for any party to a dispute, conflict, or issue; it does not take sides. Instead, the Office advocates for fair process. It considers the rights and interests of all parties involved with the goal of facilitating mutually agreeable resolutions that are fair, equitable, and in keeping with University policies and the law.

Independent

The Ombuds Office is independent in structure, function, and appearance to the highest degree possible within the organization. The Ombuds Office reports directly to the President in a manner that is independent of ordinary line and staff structure. This independence means that the Ombuds Office exercises sole discretion regarding whether to become involved in a matter and what steps to undertake regarding the matter.

The University Ombuds Charter defines the role of the ombuds and scope of their duties, and establishes a shared understanding of how the Ombuds Office will function within Brown University.
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The mission of the Ombuds Office is to help foster and support a respectful, ethical, and equitable working, learning, and living environment for the diverse members of the Brown community.
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