- What is an Ombudsperson?
- Whom does the WVU Faculty Ombudsperson serve?
What does the Faculty Ombudsperson do?
- When should I contact the Faculty Ombudsperson?
- What kinds of problems can the Faculty Ombudsperson help with?
- What is beyond the scope of what the Faculty Ombudsperson will do?
- What can I expect when visiting the Faculty Ombudsperson for the first time?
- Are my conversations with the Faculty Ombudsperson confidential?
- Does speaking to the Faculty Ombudsperson constitute notice to the University?
- What happens to information provided to the Faculty Ombudsperson Office?
- How is the Faculty Ombudsperson Office different from University resources available for formal conflict resolution?
- What if I decide I would like to use a formal conflict resolution process?
- Is the Faculty Ombudsperson Office accessible?
Answers to FAQs:
There are several types of ombudspeople, and the WVU Faculty Ombudsperson is an organizational ombudsperson. An organizational ombudsperson facilitates the informal resolution of conflicts through methods such as conflict coaching, facilitated communication, and shuttle diplomacy. The services provided are confidential, informal, independent, and neutral (Standards of Practice). An organizational ombudsperson does not take sides in disputes; advocate for individuals, groups, or entities; or play a role in formal University procedures.
WVU faculty members across all WVU campuses are welcome to seek services. The Faculty Ombudsperson is located on the Morgantown campus and will serve faculty members from other WVU campuses by phone and video conferencing.
Faculty Ombudsperson Office services are available to full-time and part-time faculty members, including faculty members with administrative roles, who hold the following positions, as defined by BOG Rule 4.2:
- Tenured assistant, associate, and full professors
- Tenure-track instructor, assistant, associate, and full professors
- Clinical, research, service, and teaching non-tenure track instructor, assistant, associate, and full professors
- Extension tenure-track and non-tenure track instructor, assistant, associate, and full professors
- Librarian-track staff, assistant, and associate university librarians
- Lecturers and senior lecturers
- Visiting instructor, assistant, associate, and full professors
Those with other faculty designations (e.g., adjuncts; information
technology; medical, dental, and pharmacy residents,) are not eligible for
Faculty Ombudsperson Office services. Administrative and staff personnel,
undergraduate and graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows also are not
served by the Faculty Ombudsperson Office. Please call the Faculty
Ombudsperson Office if you are unsure whether you are eligible for services.
The Faculty Ombudsperson Office serves as a resource for the informal resolution of conflicts, problems, and concerns. The Faculty Ombudsperson will listen carefully to visitors' ** concerns and choose appropriate strategies based on the concerns presented, context and dynamics of the situation, and a visitor's goals and preferences.
The Faculty Ombudsperson may assist faculty members by:
- Listening to and discussing concerns.
- Explaining University policies and procedures.
- Helping to identify and reframe issues.
- Aiding in the identification of goals.
- Helping to generate solution options and action plans.
- Assisting with decision making.
- Providing coaching on effective conflict management.
- Coaching visitors to communicate their concerns with others.
- Engaging in shuttle diplomacy.
- Facilitating discussions between parties (informal mediation).
- Communicating with others with the permission of the visitor.
- Making referrals to other, appropriate resources.
No problem is too small to seek input from the Faculty Ombudsperson. If possible, please contact the Faculty Ombudsperson early, before a problem escalates.
Note: Use of the Faculty Ombudsperson Office is entirely voluntary. Faculty members may not be compelled or otherwise pressured to use its services.
The Faculty Ombudsperson Office can help when:
- You don't know where to turn or whom to talk to about a work-related problem.
- You would like to have a confidential discussion about a work-related problem.
- You believe a University policy or procedure has been applied to you unfairly.
- You need information about faculty rights and responsibilities.
- You need information about University policies and procedures affecting your work life.
- You need help resolving a work-related problem and preventing it from escalating.
- You need advice for communicating or negotiating with University administrators, department chairs, colleagues, and direct and indirect reports.
- You need help identifying options for solving a work-related problem.
- You prefer to resolve a conflict or dispute in an informal manner.
- You want to know what University resources are available to you.
The Faculty Ombudsperson can provide information and help with a variety of concerns:
- Interpersonal conflicts and disputes with department chairs or other administrators, colleagues, departments, and University offices or groups
- Relationships and communications with other parties
- Teaching (e.g., course assignments, teaching-related conflicts, SEI concerns)
- Research (e.g., research requirements, ownership of data, authorship disputes)
- Service (e.g., amount and types of service assignments)
- Conflicts of interest
Evaluation, promotion, and tenure
- Leaves of absence and sabbatical leaves
- Workplace incivility, bullying, and harassment
- Equitable treatment
- University, College, and Department policies, procedures, and practices
- Where to go for additional assistance and options available for resolving issues
The Faculty Ombudsperson will not:
- Advocate for or represent faculty members, the University, or other parties.
- Engage in informal conflict resolution strategies without consent.
- Conduct or otherwise participate in formal investigations or WVU procedures (e.g., will not act as a witness or otherwise intervene in a formal grievance procedure).
- Serve as a witness in legal proceedings or disclose confidential communications, unless compelled by court order.
- Maintain permanent identifying records.
- Violate University policy.
- Render formal decisions.
- Change University policy.
- Offer legal advice.
- Provide mental health counseling.
- Accept legal notice on behalf of the University. **
What can I expect when visiting the Faculty Ombudsperson for the first time?
The Faculty Ombudsperson will describe the confidential, informal, neutral, and independent nature of the services provided (Standards of Practice) and what this means in practice. The Faculty Ombudsperson will explain that communications with the Faculty Ombudsperson do not constitute notice on behalf of the University of an issue, except when the Faculty Ombudsperson believes there is an imminent risk of serious harm or when the Faculty Ombudsperson is informed of child abuse (see BOG Rule 1.7) .
The Faculty Ombudsperson will provide a comfortable, confidential environment to voice your concerns; will listen to you and ask questions to gain a good understanding of the matter at hand, how it is affecting you, and your goals; help develop a list of options for resolving your problem; and provide answers to questions you have regarding policies, procedures, and available options.
Are my conversations with the Faculty Ombudsperson confidential?
Conversations with the Faculty Ombudsperson Office are considered confidential and normally will not be disclosed without your permission. However, the Faculty Ombudsperson is required to report child abuse (see BOG Rule 1.7) and imminent risks of serious harm.
Confidentiality also cannot be promised if the Faculty Ombudsperson is compelled
to report by court order. The Faculty Ombudsperson Office will resist
being called to testify as a witness in any formal or legal proceedings or
to reveal confidential communications. The office does not maintain
permanent records of individual matters.
Speaking with the Faculty Ombudsperson does not constitute legal notice to the University of complaints, problems, or concerns. The Faculty Ombudsperson has no duty or responsibility to report incidents to any person or authority, except when she believes there is an imminent risk of serious harm and when informed of child abuse (see BOG Rule 1.7). Formal channels must be used by those wishing to put the University on notice and obligate the University to investigate or otherwise respond. The Faculty Ombudsperson can provide information on how to do so through proper formal channels.
The Faculty Ombudsperson Office does not maintain permanent records related to individual cases. Notes may be taken, as deemed necessary to assist a visitor.** As a matter of policy, records will be destroyed when the matter is resolved or otherwise closed by the Faculty Ombudsperson or the visitor or after one-month of inactivity. Records on open matters will be kept in a secure location, protected from inspection by others, including University leaders. Only anonymous data needed to produce annual reports will be maintained long-term.
The Faculty Ombudsperson prepares and delivers yearly reports to the Provost
and Faculty Senate Executive Committee. The reports communicate general
trends and systemic issues of concern; identify opportunities to improve
policies, procedures, and practices; and highlight possible future concerns.
Information is reported in aggregate form, in a manner that protects confidentiality
and safeguards the identity of individuals.
** The International Ombudsman Association refers to people who seek assistance from an ombudsperson as “visitors.”
The Faculty Ombudsperson Office is a voluntary, faculty member-initiated, informal
option. It supplements, but does not replace, the University’s existing
resources for formal conflict resolution. The Faculty Ombudsperson Office
is independent of other University offices and decision-making practices.
It does not investigate, arbitrate, adjudicate, or otherwise participate
in internal or external formal proceedings or actions, unless required by
court order. It does not make binding decisions, mandate policies,
or formally resolve issues for the University or any other party. However,
the Faculty Ombudsperson is required to report child abuse (see
BOG Rule 1.7) and imminent risks of serious harm. If you unsure
where to take your concern, the Faculty Ombudsperson is a safe place to start.
Use of the Faculty Ombudsperson Office is strictly voluntary and is not a required
step in grievance or other formal procedures or University policies.
Also, use of the Faculty Ombudsperson Office does not preclude pursuing formal
remedies. If you choose to see the Faculty Ombudsperson, she will listen
to your concerns and provide information about formal and informal options
The Faculty Ombudsperson Office is located in office 200 of Morgan House, on the downtown campus. The office is on the third floor, and the building does not have an elevator. If you have a mobility concern, please inform the Faculty Ombudsperson, and she will arrange for an accessible meeting place. Other accessibility concerns also will be accommodated as needed.