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What does "ombuds" mean?

"Ombuds" is a Swedish word referring to an official designated to informally resolve complaints.

What does an ombuds do?

An ombuds does:

  • Listen to your concerns
  • Help you clarify your goals and interests
  • Help you develop options
  • Make referrals to other appropriate services on campus
  • Coach you on how to hold a difficult conversation
  • Help you understand UCSB policies and procedures
  • Facilitate conversations as a neutral third-party
  • Recommend changes to make policies and procedures fair

What does an ombuds not do?

An ombuds does not:

  • Provide legal advice
  • Offer psychological counseling or therapy
  • Overturn decisions of a professor or of the University
  • Create formal reports or records
  • "Take sides" or advocate for either side of a concern
  • Accept notice on behalf of the University about violations of policies or unlawful practices
  • Testify on your behalf
  • Tell a professor what to do
  • Have the authority to change your grade

Why go to the Office of the Ombuds?

If you are unsure of what to do next or unsure which office can appropriately address your concerns, the Office of the Ombuds can help you decide. The Office of the Ombuds is uniquely confidential, neutral, informal, and independent. An ombuds can listen to your concerns, help you develop options, and/or refer you to other campus resources.

What does "confidential" really mean?

An ombuds will hold all identities and contents of conversation with you in confidence. The only exception to confidentiality is when there is an imminent risk of serious bodily harm to oneself or to others. The ombuds will take notes only for their own recollection, and shred these notes on a frequent basis. The Office of the Ombuds does not keep any records with names or identifying information. If you and the ombuds both agree, the ombuds may share information with a third party. The ombuds is also not a mandated reporter for purposes of Title IX. If you wish to report a problem or concern or file a complaint regarding sexual harassment or discrimination, the ombuds can direct you to the appropriate person or office so that the University is put on notice.

Ombuds are informal. What does that mean?

Being informal means an ombuds does not participate in formal complaint processes, does not have authority to make administrative or other types of decisions, and does not determine guilt or innocence of anyone accused. If you are coming to us to have a record of your complaint, the Office of the Ombuds is not the right place.

Can an ombuds be an advocate?

An ombuds can help you generate options and point you to resources. An ombuds is not an advocate for any person, or for the University. Instead, an ombuds can help you to advocate for yourself or refer you to an advocate on campus.

Since an ombuds isn’t an advocate, how can they help?

An ombuds can provide a confidential space for you to think aloud and develop options for resolving any University-related concern. An ombuds can also clarify UCSB policies or procedures. If the situation involves another person, an ombuds can help you consider how to communicate with the other person. If you and the other person are willing, the ombuds may bring the two of you together to help you talk through the situation. If your concern involves UCSB bureaucracy (e.g. policies, procedures, administrative decisions), an ombuds can help you navigate the processes and gather appropriate information. The ombuds can talk about what you may expect, and help you consider what those reviewing your situation are likely considering and interested in. Also, with your permission, the ombuds can find out how or why a certain decision has been made.

Will an ombuds tell me what to do?

Instead of telling you what to do, an ombuds will help you clarify your own goals, interests, and options for moving forward. Together, you and the ombuds will consider the pros and cons of each option.

Will an ombuds tell my parents what we discussed?

No. An ombuds will not confirm or deny your visiting the office, and will also hold your conversation in confidence. Even if your parent calls the office requesting information, the ombuds will not share information with them, nor will they even acknowledge that you came to the office.

Will an ombuds talk to my professor to change my grade?

An ombuds does not have the authority to change a grade. An ombuds can help you practice how to have a conversation with a professor about a grade, or help you to evaluate whether your grade was based on non-academic criteria.

My professor accused me of academic dishonesty. If I tell you I cheated or plagiarized, will you tell Judicial Affairs or my professor?

No. Because the Office of the Ombuds is confidential, the ombuds will not report any information about academic dishonesty to any other department. The ombuds can talk with you about what the Judicial Affairs process will include, and what you can do to prepare.

I am a graduate student, and I am not getting along with my advisor. Will an appointment with the ombuds help?

Yes. The health of the advisor/advisee relationship is central to a successful graduate student career. The Office of the Ombuds can help you by listening to your concerns and talking about different options or strategies for your relationship with your advisor. The ombuds may also direct you to other appropriate resources on campus. Because the office is confidential, you can speak freely with the ombuds while knowing they will not share your concerns with your advisor without your permission.

I am a graduate student, and I have concerns about my academic progress in my program. Will the ombuds help?

The office can help you by listening to your concerns and talking about different options or goals for you in your program. The ombuds may also direct you to other appropriate resources on campus.

I am a post doc. Can I still come to the Office of the Ombuds?

Yes. The ombuds is aware that being a post doc comes with its own unique challenges, and an ombuds can help you talk through a complicated issue or navigate any rules or procedures.

Do I have to bring anything to my appointment with the ombuds?

The Office of the Ombuds does not require that you bring anything to your appointment. Some visitors may find it helpful to take notes to organize their thoughts prior to the visit. You may also bring e-mails or documents to share if these documents will help you to explain your concern. However, to maintain confidentiality and informality, the ombuds will not make copies or store records in the office.

I have read all the FAQs, and my question still isn’t answered.

Call us at (805) 893-3285. If the answer is straightforward, the ombuds might be able to answer your question over the phone. If your question is a bit more involved, we can schedule an appointment for you.