Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is an "Ombudsman?"
The practice of ombudsing started with 19th century Scandinavian public officials who were appointed to investigate citizen complaints against governmental agencies. Today, organizational ombudsmen are often referred to as "designated neutrals." As such, they do not advocate for any individual or cause, but for fairness and equity.
Ombudsmen provide confidential, informal assistance to individuals and groups, and help identify problems and facilitate the fair resolution of problems that arise in their organizations. They serve as an information and communication resource, upward feedback channel, dispute resolution practitioner, and change agent.
Ombudsmen encourage the airing and resolution of both individual and systematic problems. They help ensure fairness in process so that any kind of problem can receive a fair and impartial review.
What exactly does the Ombudsman do?
The Ombudsman is a source of confidential advice, information about University policies and procedures, and, where appropriate, mediation and conflict management.
The Ombudsman helps individuals and groups resolve problems and conflicts and develop positive strategies for change.
The Ombudsman is authorized by the President of the University to investigate and to make recommendations, but has no authority to make or reverse a decision or policy.
Who can use the services of this office?
Any member of the campus community–student, faculty, administrator, or staff–can contact the Office free of charge. University Medical Center patients will be referred to a hospital-based advocate.
How does the Ombudsman Office differ from other University offices that help people?
The Ombudsman Office does not replace other offices or functions at the University, but rather works collaboratively with other individuals and offices of the University as a particular problem or situation requires.
The Ombudsman Office provides conflict resolution approaches to workplace issues and related policies and practices. For assistance with personal issues such as stress, health concerns, substance abuse, or family concerns that may be affecting job performance, employees can contact the EAP Office and students may contact the Counseling Center.
How can the Ombudsman Office help me?
We have knowledge and experience about ways to work successfully within and through Stony Brook’s complex structure. We know how to use this knowledge and experience to help individuals solve problems.
Specifically we can:
• Explain University policies and procedure and help you use them.
• Advise you of options and help you pursue them.
• Refer you to the right person and arrange a meeting.
• Follow up to make sure your concern is resolved.
• Recommend changes to the University to correct problem areas.
How confidential is this office?
Ombuds professionals are obligated to keep contacts and conversations confidential unless given permission otherwise. In almost all cases, it is the decision of the visitor whether the Ombudsman will do anything other than listen. The essential value of assistance is based on the visitor’s trust that s/he will be able to speak without fear of disclosure or reprisal.
Can I come to the Ombudsman Office to file an official complaint, or if I want something "on the record?"
No, this is not an "office of record" at the University. The staff of the Ombudsman Office are "designated neutrals" who function independently of regular University administration and management. If you wish to pursue formal channels, we will be happy to refer you to the appropriate University office(s).