Frequently Asked Questions

Confidentiality

You say the process is confidential – really, how confidential is it?

Very.  As in: no notes (or notes destroyed post meeting(s)), no use of your name, no reporting to another office or individual, no retained email, a separate phone line, and a safe and private meeting space.  There are only two instances where this changes and you would be aware of each.  1) If you are a danger to yourself or other(s), and 2) if you give explicit permission for your Ombuds to speak with someone.  Those really are the only instances where strict confidentiality changes.

I already know you or have seen you on campus.  How will you address my coming to see you in these other situations?

If I don’t already know you and I pass you on campus I will not stop to say “hi” or initiate a conversation with you.  It will be up to you to initiate contact in this situation, and even then I would not reveal the circumstances under which we met.  If I already know you from other Brandeis contexts I will continue to interact with you as I already have in the past.  However, I will not, under any circumstances, reference your visit to the Ombuds office.

Do these confidentiality rules apply equally to faculty, staff, and students?

Yes.  They are the same for any Brandeis employee or student regardless of rank, role, title, job, or length of time at the institution.

Does anything get reported back to the university?

Yes.  Ombuds are charged with reporting trends and other information that helps the university create a supportive and effective working and learning environment.  These trends and information could include something as simple as noting the need for a campus bus route to be altered, to pointing out that a campus policy is consistently misinterpreted.  However, in no instance will the individuals raising these issues be identified or named.

My director/professor/dean may be coming in to see you too.  Will you tell him/her about my visit?

No.  The Ombuds works with each person individually, even under circumstances where two people might be coming in about the same issue.  The Ombuds is required to act with impartiality and to apply the rules about confidentiality equally with each person who visits the office.

Brandeis Policies

What is the relationship between the Ombuds and various grievance and/or appeal procedures?

There is not a formal relationship between Ombuds and University grievance and or appeal procedures.  Ombuds are in a position to know about all of the policies and procedures that are available to you to resolve a particular issue.  Your Ombuds can help you think through various strategies, formal and informal, for resolving an issue.  

Is going to see the Ombuds the first step in a university grievance procedure?

No.  The Ombuds Office operates independently of university grievance procedures.  However, meeting with the Ombuds might be helpful as a place to get support, information, and think through options before starting a formal grievance.

I want to talk with an Ombuds about a situation that involves sex discrimination.  Is the Ombuds a mandated reporter at Brandeis for possible Title IX cases?

The Brandeis Ombuds in not a mandated reporter for Title IX cases.  The Ombuds will work with you to figure out the next best step, which might involve talking with a mandated reporter.  Our conversation is confidential.

Why would Brandeis support an office where people can go to complain about Brandeis?

Brandeis is committed to social justice and to ensuring that all members of the Brandeis community are working and learning in an environment that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.  The two roles of the Ombuds support Brandeis’ commitment to social justice.  These roles are to support all students and employees in addressing issues that impede their ability to work and learn; and to serve as a centralized resource for the university on the extent to which campus policies and practices are equitable and effective.

Ombuds Office

What happens in a visit?

The Ombuds will open the visit with a description of what the office does, and the principles of confidentiality, independence, informality, and impartiality to ensure that you are aware of what the office can and cannot do.  S/he will then ask you to describe the issue you wish to discuss.  You are free to disclose as much or as little as you want, although we find that the more information one can provide the better we are at helping to support you in finding a solution(s).

What should I bring with me to visit?

There is nothing that you are required to bring.  However, you are welcome to bring documentation that helps you explain the issue you wish to discuss.  The Ombuds will not keep any of the documents you bring with you.

How long is a visit?  How many will there be?

We generally schedule a visit for one hour.  Often an issue can be resolved in one visit, but we are happy to schedule additional visits as needed.

Can I choose which Ombuds I want to see?

Yes.  You can learn more about the Brandeis Ombuds by reading their bios online.

Where do you meet with people?

Our office is located In a private space in Shapiro Campus Center room 316. We are willing to meet  in other locations by request.  We strive to protect your privacy and take this into account when we set a meeting time and place. We are willing to meet you in a place where you feel safe and meets the need for confidentiality, informality, neutrality and independence.

Where can I get more information on what an Ombuds office does?

This office and its staff follow the principles and practices of the International Ombudsman Association.  

For more about the Ombuds role at colleges and universities see:

Claussen C.L. (2014) “The Evolving Role of the ‘Ombuds’ in American Higher Education”. In: Li Q., Gerstl-Pepin C. (eds) Survival of the Fittest. New Frontiers of Educational Research. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg