Ombuds Office: FAQ
What happens when you go to the Ombuds Office?
The Ombudsperson will provide a comfortable, confidential environment to discuss problems, concerns, or complaints. She will review basic information about the office and you will be able to discuss your issue(s) and review your options, working to develop strategies for pursuing resolution.
What happens to information provided to the Ombuds Office?
The Ombuds Office does not keep records with identifying information. Data is kept about the type of visitor (undergraduate, graduate, etc.) and the nature of the situation, but the records do not include any names or specific identifying information. The data are used to prepare the Annual Report, which is available to the Berkeley campus community and the public.
How is the Ombuds Office different from the Student Advocate's Office?
The Ombuds Office supplements existing conflict management systems on campus, such as formal grievance procedures. The Ombuds Office is uniquely INFORMAL, NEUTRAL, INDEPENDENT, and CONFIDENTIAL*. This allows the Ombudsperson to address concerns before they become disputes requiring formal interventions or grievances. The Ombudsperson offers confidentiality* for those who fear retaliation or fear being perceived as a "troublemaker" and for those who want to avoid the loss of confidentiality and control typically associated with a formal process.
*The only exception to the confidentiality of Ombuds Office communications is where there appears to be imminent risk of harm or danger.
The Ombuds Office does not represent or advocate for any individual or group. The Ombuds Office does advocate for fair policies and procedures, justice, equity and inclusion, and a healthy, welcoming, University environment.
The Student Advocate's Office (SAO) offers students and student groups "representation" during their disputes with the University. Please refer to the Student Advocate's Website for additional information: http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~advocate/
What kinds of issues do you help with?
Issues that students and postdocs have brought to the Ombudsperson include grade disputes, thesis or dissertation issues, unfair treatment, unclear agreements, admissions, housing, billing disputes, dismissals, authorship issues, etc. The Ombudsperson can help with almost any academic and administrative issue confronting students and postdoctoral appointees.
What doesn't the Ombuds Office do?
The Ombuds Office does not offer legal advice or mental health counseling, does not have any formal authority to render decisions about issues brought to the office, and does not participate in formal hearings or other formal processes. The Ombudsperson does not record formal complaints on behalf of the University, and the Ombudsperson is not designated by the University as an individual authorized to receive reports of any violations of University policy. Communications made to the Ombudsperson regarding possible violations of University policies or of unlawful practices do not constitute notice to the University. This allows the Ombudsperson to preserve the confidential and impartial nature of the office. If you need or want to file a formal complaint, the Ombudsperson will refer you to the appropriate office and/or policy.