Frequently Asked Questions
The most frequently asked questions about the Office of the University Faculty O
- What is an “ombuds”?
The word ombuds, pronounced (ahm-budz), originated when the Swedish Parliament instituted an Ombudsman in 1809 to be an independent observer of the government to safeguard citizens’ rights. Now, the term is defined more broadly as persons who, acting in an impartial capacity, are appointed to help address concerns and resolve complaints of their constituencies using informal means. The University of Texas at Austin has an Office of the University Faculty Ombuds, an Office of the Staff Ombuds, and an Office of the Student Ombuds. All of these offices provide problem-solving resources for the campus consistent with the Code of Ethics and IOA Standards of Practice of the International Ombudsman Association.
Who can use the Office of the University Faculty Ombuds?
The faculty ombuds is available to all members of the University with faculty and post-doctoral appointments. The term “faculty member” includes all tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenured track faculty (including visiting faculty). Individuals with graduate student titles such as assistant instructors and teaching assistants should contact Student Ombuds Services.
What kinds of concerns are commonly brought to the faculty ombuds?
- Clarification of a policy or process
- Perceived inequities in work or pay
- Perceived unethical or inappropriate behavior
- Interpersonal conflicts and problems with workplace climate
- Concerns about career advancement and job satisfaction or security
- Advice on having a difficult conversation
- Problems of institutional non-responsiveness and red tape
- Concerns about procedural fairness or due process
- Requests for structured mediations and facilitated conversations
- Is this office really confidential?
The faculty ombuds will keep confidential the fact of your visit and everything you share unless you give permission to reveal specific issues with specific persons for the purpose of resolving the conflict. Any notes taken are seen only by the ombuds and will be destroyed when the issue is resolved or if the file is inactive for 30 days. The only exception to the promise of confidentiality is when the ombuds has a reasonable concern about possible violence or physical harm.
- I may want to file a formal complaint. Can I talk to the faculty ombuds first?
Yes. The ombuds can help you better understand processes and potential outcomes before you decide whether to file a complaint. The ombuds can also help identify alternatives to formal grievance procedures and direct you to the appropriate procedures and office, should you wish to file a formal complaint.
- When should I contact the Office of the University Faculty Ombuds?
The scope of the faculty ombuds’ concern extends to all aspects of University life, both academic and nonacademic, which affect faculty and post-docs.
You might want to contact the ombuds when you:
- Need an impartial and confidential sounding board
- Believe you have been treated unfairly
- Have been unsuccessful in resolving a problem
- Want to report a problem, but you want to get a sense of possible outcomes first
- Are not sure how to interpret a University policy or procedure
- Are not sure which University policy applies to your situation
- Believe a University policy or practice is unfair or confusing
- Have been through a formal grievance in which it appears procedural errors were made
- Need a mediator or help facilitating communication
- Have a question or a complaint about an office, service, or decision at the University
- Are not sure where else to turn for help
- Does the faculty ombuds offer psychotherapy?
No. Although the current ombuds is a psychotherapist, she does not practice psychotherapy in this role. Psychotherapy is available for faculty on campus by contacting the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
- If I contact the faculty ombuds about a concern, is that putting the University on notice?
No. Consistent with the confidentiality, neutrality, and informality of the office, communications with the Office of the University Faculty Ombuds do not put the University on notice. If you wish to report a problem or concern, the ombuds can direct you to the appropriate person or office. You may also refer to the resources list on this website.