Handbook of Operating Procedures 9-1310-PM
Office of the Student Ombuds
The University of Texas at Austin
Executive Sponsor: Office of the President
May 10, 2011
The mission of the Office of the Student Ombuds is to provide a neutral, impartial, and confidential environment for students to voice concerns related to life at The University of Texas at Austin, and to provide information and assistance to students who have University-related questions or complaints. The Student Ombuds functions in an independent and informal manner to help students discover options for effective problem solving and conflict resolution. The office provides recommendations to the University regarding systemic issues.
The credibility of the office rests on its reputation for independence, impartiality, fairness, objectivity, tact, and respectful concern for the welfare of all members of the University community and the well-being of the University. The Student Ombuds is an advocate for fair and equitably administered processes and does not side with individuals or the University. The office helps the University uphold the institutional core values and the honor code.
- Scope and Duties
- The scope of the Ombuds' duties extends to all aspects of University life affecting students, both academic and nonacademic. The Student Ombuds:
- Provides students with information, referrals, and assistance with appropriate processes for addressing University-related concerns.
- Helps students receive expeditious, fair, and impartial treatment.
- Provides students with voluntary conflict management for disputes and concerns related to student life at the University, both academic and nonacademic. This may include identification of options, policy clarification, conflict coaching, mediation, training, and other conflict resolution or consultative services, as appropriate.
- To the extent permitted by state, regental, and University policy, the office adheres to the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice and follows the principles of independence, neutrality, confidentiality, and informality.
- The Student Ombuds is authorized to act independently.
- The Student Ombuds shall have access to all records ordinarily available to University administrators. University officials and employees shall cooperate with the Student Ombuds in good faith and in a timely manner.
- In order to create a safe place to voice concerns, evaluate issues, and identify options, the Student Ombuds shall respect the confidentiality and privacy of all persons except with expressed permission, or as required by law, or when there is a perceived imminent risk of serious harm.
- The Office of the Student Ombuds does not maintain identifying records, and it asserts privilege with regard to the identity of visitors and their concerns. The privilege belongs to the Office of the Student Ombuds rather than to any party in an issue.
- The Student Ombuds makes periodic reports to the President regarding the operation of the office. In addition, Student Ombuds may report to the President or other University officers any concerns about systemic issues, policies, procedures and make appropriate recommendations.
- Disciplinary action or retaliation against anyone for using the Office of the Student Ombuds is prohibited.
- Service exclusions:
- The Office of the Student Ombuds does not offer legal advice, therapy services, or make binding decisions.
- The Office does not testify, participate, or replace any formal complaint, grievance, appeals process. The Student Ombuds may, however, assist a student in accessing formal grievance or appeal procedures.
- The Office is not an agent of notice and does not receive notice for the University.
- The Student Ombuds may decline to deal with any case which he or she considers inappropriate for the Office.
- Selection and Appointment
- When a vacancy occurs, a search committee composed of three students, one faculty member, and one staff member shall be appointed by the President. The President shall appoint the chair of the search committee from the members of the committee.
- The Student Ombuds should not hold another position at the University or have another role that could compromise the International Ombudsman Association's (IOA) Code of Ethics or Standards of Practice, including the principles of independence, neutrality, confidentiality, and informality. Staff of the Office of the Student Ombuds should not be involved in formal or informal processes that would compromise IOA principles.
- The Student Ombuds shall hold an administrative and professional appointment, subject to the conditions of such an appointment. Students will be consulted as part of the annual performance evaluation of the Student Ombuds.
- Structure and Organization
- To ensure independence in the fulfillment of the Ombud's duties, the Student Ombuds shall report to the President of the University.
- The Office of the Student Ombuds shall have a budget for operating expenses, staff, professional development and training, and other necessary expenses. Funding will come from allocations of the Student Services Budget Committee and other appropriate university sources.
- The Student Ombuds may employ staff, student employees, and interns to fulfill the mission of the office.
- The University shall provide appropriate space for the office to conduct business.
*This revision amends this Policy Memorandum last reviewed on August 1,2005.
Previously PM 4.140