Ombuds offer Brandeis community confidential, impartial support and informal dispute resolution

Brandeis has made the services of a three-person University Ombuds team available to community members.

The ombuds team will be responsible for engaging in impartial dispute resolution, and for providing confidential and informal assistance to university students, staff, faculty, administrators, or anyone associated with an issue involving Brandeis.

Though affiliated with the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the ombuds team will conduct its work with total impartiality and intentionally operate outside traditional compliance with university protocols and Human Resources.

“Our ombuds team will provide confidential, impartial support in the event someone in our community is experiencing harassment, discrimination or other serious issues,” said Chief Diversity Officer Mark Brimhall-Vargas. “Ombuds officers advocate for participant-owned processes that privately provide resolution to a number of potential complaints, including but not limited to, those based on race, gender identity, religion and sexuality.”

The ombuds team will be led by Don Greenstein, a part-time staff member with 29 years of experience in conflict resolution and ombuds roles. He will be assisted by Heller School for Social Policy and Management senior fellow Cathy Burak and Student Support Services director Elena Lewis, who will be engaged exclusively with student-related issues.

University Ombuds are available for:

  • Informal Dispute Resolution. They will engage in helping community members in resolving conflicts between parties through impartial and confidential processes such as mediation, conflict-resolution coaching, or informal problem-solving.
  • Consultation and Referral. They will assist visitors to their office with interpreting university policies and procedures and providing assistance in navigating equity systems, as well as supporting discussion of all options for a self-empowered resolution.
  • Acting as a campus resource. They provide analysis and suggestions for senior administration in formulating and/or modifying policy and procedures that may surface as a result of discrepancies between the stated goals of the institution and actual practice.
  • Training. Ombuds are available to design and conduct training programs for the campus community in conflict management, dispute resolution, negotiation skills and theory, civility and related topics. 

Ombuds officers will not involve any other campus office or administrator without permission.

Additionally, though University Ombuds will periodically meet with the Brandeis administration to discuss trends or offer suggestions, all information discussed in meetings with community members is strictly confidential. Ombuds officers will not record sessions or keep formal notes from any meetings.

“We believe what goes on in here stays in here,” said Greenstein. “Our goal is to allow people to have as deep a conversation as they want without concern of attribution to someone in the university or elsewhere about what they share. Summary annual reports will only be about trends we see so the university can consider and make appropriate changes.”

“My hope is that all at Brandeis will feel comfortable enough to discuss issues and conflicts that may come up in their daily life,” Greenstein added. “We want to help resolve them at the earliest opportunity and in a self-empowered manner. Our goal is to help people working through differences reach closure in ways that work for everyone involved. The Ombuds Office supports an ethical and civil culture encouraging mutual understanding and resolution through respectful dialogue and fair processes.”

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