Office of the President

University of Maryland Ombuds Services

The University of Maryland provides ombuds services for faculty, staff, graduate students and undergraduate students. Each ombuds operates in a different setting and with different reporting responsibilities. However, all of them share a common purpose—to contribute to a respectful, equitable, and healthy work environment where all can achieve excellence in research, teaching, and service to others.

What is a University of Maryland Ombuds?

An ombuds is a person who can be consulted by members of the university community who want information about University policies relating to their activities or who encounter problems that they cannot resolve through ordinary means (e.g., student to faculty member, staff to supervisor, faculty member to department chair). An ombuds listens to concerns, brainstorms strategies to address the concerns, provides resources and information, and tries to assist in addressing the concerns. Sometimes the ombuds simply listens and helps to develop strategies for addressing concerns. At other times, with permission from the visitor, the ombuds contacts other involved parties and attempts to work out mutually satisfactory solutions. The ombuds follow the standards of practice outlined by the International Ombuds Association.

Standards of Practice | Pie chart split into quarters | Yellow represents confidential, Black represents impartial, White represents informal, and Red represents independent

An ombuds is confidential.

Communications with an ombuds are confidential and no information or opinion presented to an ombuds (or even the fact that the ombuds has been contacted) will be shared with other parties without the express permission of the visitor. The only exceptions to confidentiality are when there appears to be imminent risk of serious hard to self or others, or if required by law, litigation, or University policies (e.g., sexual misconduct, research misconduct, child/elder abuse, violence or criminal activity). Moreover, the faculty and staff ombuds consult about cases in a confidential manner.

An ombuds is independent.

The ombuds position is outside of all regular chains of authority and reporting responsibility. An ombuds emphasizes fairness in seeking solutions to problems.

An ombuds is impartial.

An ombuds does not take sides or advocate any particular position. Instead, an ombuds tries to help all parties understand the viewpoint of others, and develop mutually satisfactory ways of resolving conflicts.

An ombuds works informally to address concerns.

The ombuds does not keep formal records of meetings with faculty, staff or students. The ombuds provides an alternate channel of communication outside of any formal process.

What does an Ombuds DO?

An ombuds:

Assists in addressing concerns

  • Listens to the concerns of the visitor and brainstorms possible strategies to address these concerns.
  • Provides information that may be helpful in resolving problems, including an explanation of University policies and procedures, and the availability of other University resources and personnel that might be helpful in dealing with the matter.
  • Opens communication among involved parties, with the permission of the visitor.

Identifies trends in areas of concern

  • Identifies trends in areas of concern across the campus and, usually in collaboration with others, draws administrative and policy-making attention to them.

Advocates for change

  • Provides recommendations for change based on trends in areas of concern.

Educates to improve the work environment

  • Speaks to any appropriate group requesting information about University policies or conflict resolution services.

An ombuds does NOT:

  • Conduct investigations
  • Determine fault or innocence
  • Make decisions for faculty, staff or students
  • Participate in formal grievance processes
  • Keep official records

Additional resources for conflict resolution