III. Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics

The Ombuds Office acts in accordance with the IOA Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics (attached as Appendices A and B).  These tenets require that Ombuds Offices shall function independently within the structure of the organization, shall be confidential and neutral, and shall limit the scope of their services to informal means of dispute resolution.  The IOA Standards and Code delineate minimum standards, and the Ombuds Office shall always strive to operate to “best practices” and to manage the Ombuds Office in a way that serves the best interests of the University of Kansas community.  The Ombuds Office shall take appropriate steps to make this document and the tenets of best practices of the Ombuds profession available to the University community.

A.  Independence

The Ombuds Office shall be, and shall appear to be, free from interference in the legitimate performance of its duties.  This independence is achieved primarily through organizational recognition, reporting structure, and neutrality.  To ensure objectivity, the Ombuds Office shall operate independently of ordinary line and staff structures.  An Ombuds will not disclose confidential information about matters discussed in the Ombuds Office with anyone in the organization, including the person to whom the Ombuds Office reports, except as clearly delineated in Section III. B.  The Ombuds Office should report administratively to the Provost Office and to University Senate (see “VI.  Office Structure”).  In all cases, the Ombuds Office shall have unobstructed access to the Chancellor and the Provost of the University.

B. Confidentiality

The Ombuds Office shall not disclose or be required to disclose any information provided in confidence, unless given permission to do so by the visitor.  An exception to maintaining any such confidentiality would include if the University or Faculty Ombuds had a reasonable concern regarding imminent risk of violence or physical harm or where disclosure is required by law. The Ombuds Office asserts that there is a privilege with respect to the identity of visitors and their issues, though Kansas does not recognize this privilege by statute. The Ombuds Office shall not confirm communicating with any party or parties, or disclose any confidential information without the party’s or parties’ express permission provided in the course of discussions with the Ombuds Office, and at the discretion of the Ombuds Office.  An Ombuds shall not participate as a witness with respect to any confidential communication, nor shall he/she participate in any formal process inside or outside of the University, unless compelled to do so by judicial subpoena or court order.  The Ombuds Office considers communication with the Ombuds Office to be privileged. The privilege belongs to an Ombuds and the Ombuds Office, rather than to any party in an issue. The Ombuds Office considers that others cannot waive this privilege.

C.  Neutrality

An Ombuds is a designated neutral, operating independently in the structure of the University.  An Ombuds shall not take sides in any conflict, dispute or issue.  An Ombuds advocates for fair and equitably administered processes and not on behalf of a specific individual.  An Ombuds is neutral, impartial, and unaligned.  An Ombuds should not serve in any additional role, including participation on committees within the University which would compromise the neutrality of an Ombuds.  The Ombuds Office should not report to nor be affiliated with any compliance function of the university.

  D. Informality

The Ombuds Office shall be a resource for informal dispute resolution. The Ombuds Office shall not investigate, arbitrate, adjudicate or in any other way participate in any internal or external formal process or action. The Ombuds Office does not keep records for the University, and shall not create or maintain documents or records for the University about individual cases.  Notes, if any, taken during the course of working on a case should be routinely destroyed at regular intervals.  Use of the Ombuds Office is strictly voluntary and is not a required step in any grievance process.

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