• Frequently Asked Questions

     What is an Ombudsman? 

    The word "ombudsman" is a Swedish term, originally used to describe someone who was charged with representing citizen concerns to the government and ensuring that they were fairly addressed.  In the Swedish language, the word Ombudsman is gender-neutral, and can indicate a person of either sex.  Other terms used to describe the function include "Ombudsperson" and "Ombuds".  Visitors are encouraged to use the term which is most comfortable for them.

    At Hamline, the Ombudsman serves as a confidential, neutral and informal resource for all members of the University community to raise issues and resolve conflict.

     What does an Ombudsman do? 

    What the Ombudsman does depends on the particular issue and on the wishes of the visitor.  Every case is different and, in most circumstances, all action is dependent on how the visitor wants to pursue their issue.  Some of the ways in which an Ombudsman can act include listening impartially, suggesting options for resolution, accepting suggestions from people seeking a confidential channel for surfacing concerns, and acting as a mediator/facilitator for conversations between two or more people.  The Ombudsman can also help visitors prepare for difficult conversations by working with the visitor to plan and practice what they might say.

    Another key responsibility of the Ombudsman is to provide upward feedback to the university about trends and systemic issues that surface.  This reporting is completely confidential and reflects only types and numbers of cases, never identifying the person who raised the issue.

    The Ombudsman can provide resources on everything from how to have an effective conversation with a supervisor or professor to how to file a grievance.  The Ombuds can facilitate group discussions, help clarify policy and conduct informal fact-finding.  The Ombudsman also develops and delivers training and workshops on a variety of conflict and communication-related topics.

     Are all conversations with the Ombudsman confidential? 

    The Hamline Ombuds Office is completely confidential.  The Ombudsman will not discuss who may or may not have visited the office unless they have been given permission by the visitor.  Sometimes this is helpful and can allow for more fact-finding and a quicker resolution.  The Ombuds will take action only with permission of the visitor.  The only exceptions to this are the very unusual situations where the Ombudsman feels that there appears to be no other responsible option except to act without permission.

    These exceptions are:

    • The Ombudsman witnesses a crime or has substantial reason to believe that a crime has occurred or will likely occur;
    • The Ombudsman has substantial reason to believe that a violation of the University's Discrimination and Harassment or Sexual Violence Policies has occurred;
    • The Ombudsman has substantial reason to believe that a risk of serious harm exists.
      (These situations are very rare.  In such cases, the Ombuds will work with the visitor to find an acceptable option for surfacing a delicate problem.  However, it is almost always possible to find options that are acceptable to the visitor and are consistent with professional standards.)

     What can I expect when I meet with the Ombudsman? 

    Most conversations with the Ombudsman start with the visitor telling their story, from their perspective, including the timeline of the issue, other people involved, and why they chose to address the issue.  The ombudsman will ask questions to clarify the issue and to understand the bigger picture, including how the issue arose in the first place.  Depending on the issue, the Ombudsman will then help the visitor identify a variety of options for resolution.  The Ombudsman and the visitor then determine what, if any, action will be taken, and by whom.

     When will the Ombuds decline involvement? 

    There are few instances where the Ombuds will decline involvement, but in these cases can refer visitors to the appropriate resource.

    • Where a formal grievance or complaint has already been presented to the university under its Discrimination and Harassment policy or its Sexual Violence policy, the Ombuds will decline participation.
    • The Ombuds does not address inquiries regarding the application, implementation, or interpretation of any collective bargaining agreement.

     Who can use the services of the Ombuds Office? 

    All students, staff, faculty and alumni are welcome to contact the Ombudsman with any university-related concern.

     When should I see the Ombudsman? 

    • If you want to discuss a situation confidentially to decide whether you should take action and if so, what to do.
    • When you need information about what policies exist at Hamline and how to interpret them.
    • When you have been unable to get a response to your issue or if you feel as though you have not been heard.
    • When you want to know what your alternatives are for resolving a problem.
    • If you would like to learn how to resolve a conflict on your own.

     What kinds of issues are appropriate to take to the Ombudsman? 

    Any university-related issue that is causing confusion, conflict or stress in your working or learning environment is appropriate to bring to the Ombuds.  Some common issues include:

    • communication difficulties
    • working conditions
    • conflict between colleagues
    • conflict between employee and supervisor
    • student employment
    • department politics
    • student/faculty conflict, including classroom and advising issues
    • promotion/compensation and performance evaluation
    • interpersonal issues
    • cultural conflicts

     Is the Ombudsman an advocate? 

    No.  The Ombudsman is charged with being a neutral, independent resource, so is not an advocate for any party in a dispute.  Rather, the Ombudsman advocates for a fair process and serves as a neutral party in all interactions.

     What if I'm not ready to act, but just want to talk about my options? 

    The Ombuds Office is a great place to start.  Conversations with the Ombudsman are confidential, so no one needs to know that you visited the office.  You can explore options for resolving your issue and get information about policies, services and processes that exist at Hamline that may be helpful for you.  Whether or not your pursue the issues discussed is up to you.

     I want to put the university on notice, should I go to the Ombudsman? 

    The Ombuds Office does not accept official "notice" of problems for the university;  talking with the Ombudsman does not constitute "notice" to Hamline.  If a visitor wishes to make a record, or put Hamline on "notice," that is, to make Hamline formally aware of a particular problem, the Ombudsman can provide information on how to do so.  The Ombudsman can refer visitors to offices that can receive notice for and respond on behalf of the university.

    The reson for this is to preserve the confidential, neutral, independent and informal nature of the office, and to therefore continue to provide a unique service to members of the Hamline community.