An ombuds is an individual who serves as a designated neutral within a specific organization and provides conflict resolution and problem-solving services to members of the community. There are ombuds in all sectors (corporate, academic, governmental, non-governmental and non-profit). Some may serve both internal and external constituencies.
The word "ombuds" or "ombudsperson" refers to "ombudsman," which is Scandinavian and means "representative" or "proxy." The term is gender-neutral in origin and is used by the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) to communicate to the widest possible community. Variations of the term exist (i.e. ombuds, ombudsperson) and are common among those practicing in the ombudsman field.
All communication with the ombuds is held in strict confidence and is considered "off the record." There are limited exceptions to that confidentiality that are related to sexual misconduct, felony criminal activity and an imminent risk of harm. The ombuds may be required to report information that falls within those exceptions. However, all other information is not disclosed nor are records of the conversation kept.
Visitors can discreetly enter the Ombuds Office through a private door in the stairwell of Eaton Center North. This door is easily accessed by entering the green backdoor near the parking lot. If confidentiality is still a concern, the ombuds can arrange to meet you at a different location, on or off campus.
Anytime you are looking for neutral assistance with a difficult or sensitive issue; need someone to listen to your concerns without judgement; want guidance on how to resolve a conflict on your own; are not sure where else to go; or need help identifying options.
Any member of the College community can talk with the ombuds, including students, faculty and staff. You can contact the office as a first step, a last resort or anywhere along the way.
The ombuds will provide a comfortable and confidential environment for you to air your problems, concerns or issues; listen without judgment; help you identify your options; and provide feedback and coaching, if wanted. The ombuds will not take any action or initiate any follow-up conversations without your express permission. All ombuds services are voluntary for all visitors.
No. All communication with the ombuds is "off the record" with limited exceptions. However, if you want to make a record or file a formal complaint, the ombuds can help you figure out how to do that.
Most concerns center around interpersonal and group conflicts. However, the ombuds also hears concerns about preparing for a difficult conversation; how to deal with a difficult situation or situation; confusion about what to do next; questions about policies; and workplace bullying.
An ombuds cannot make binding decisions or determine guilt; serve as an advocate for any individual; participate in formal investigations; or offer legal advice or psychological counseling.
The Kenyon College Ombudsperson is a trained and experienced mediator and a member of the International Ombudsman Association (IOA). She has completed multiple training courses with the IOA and continues to train in dispute resolution and ombudsry.