Four principles guide the work of the ombudspersons: confidentiality, impartiality, informality, and independence. These principles also are described in the International Ombuds Association Code of Ethics.
The Office of the Ombudsperson maintains strict confidentiality. The ombudspersons will not discuss a visitor's concerns with anyone on or off campus without his/her permission. The only exceptions to this are:
- If we learn that there is a risk of physical harm to anyone.
- If we are ordered by a court or required by law to disclose information.
Our office is in the Jefferson Building, which provides anonymity for visitors through the number of other unrelated offices and departments in the building and its location away from university administration. In addition, visitors can request meetings with an Ombudsperson offsite and outside of regular business hours.
The office does not serve as an office of notice. Speaking with an ombudsperson about a problem does not constitute formal notice to The University of Iowa, and the office does not keep records. However, consulting with an ombudsperson is a good way to learn of official policies, where to go to file a formal complaint, or how to notify university officials of a problem. The office keeps minimal information about a situation until our involvement ends, at which point the information is immediately shredded. No one outside our office has access to this information. Because of our confidentiality and informality, the office will not provide notes and/or testimony in a formal process even if requested to do so by a visitor.
Although we report to the President of the University, we do not provide any information to the President about individual cases. As with any administrator, if we report trends to the President, we do it in a way that maintains the confidentiality of our visitors.
The Ombuds Office is impartial and does not represent individuals on either side of a conflict, though the office does advocate for fairness throughout the university.
The services of the Office of the Ombudsperson are informal. The office tries to help visitors resolve conflicts as early as possible and at the lowest possible level. The office does NOT:
- Maintain formal written records.
- Conduct formal investigations.
- Play any role in formal hearing, grievance, complaint, appeal, or legal proceedings.
Because of our confidentiality and informality, the office will not provide notes and/or testimony in a formal process even if requested to do so by a visitor.
The Office of the Ombudsperson is independent from other university departments. The office reports to the President but does not provide information on individual visitors’ cases to the President.