Jane Ellen Reid
University Ombudsman and Director of University Accord
Office Phone: 540-432-4690
Email: Main Campus, Harrisonburg
Office Location: UC 243
Ombudsman role and duties
A university ombudsman has a variety of functions, including:
- Working with individuals and groups to explore options to help resolve conflicts, problematic issues or concerns.
- Bringing systemic concerns to the attention of university administration for resolution.
At EMU, our ombudsman works in tandem with campus ministries, multicultural services, international student services, counseling and academic departments to develop themes for dialogue and coordinate these with program planning.
Our ombudsman also directs the University Accord program, facilitating mediation and restorative justice dialogues and also providing 1:1 coaching to deepen the understanding of conflict and communication strategies.
Our university ombudsman is “a designated neutral who is appointed or employed by an organization to facilitate the informal resolution of concerns of employees, managers, students and, sometimes, external clients of the organization.”
What to expect when working with our university ombudsman
An ombudsman preserves the confidentiality of those seeking services, maintains a neutral/impartial position, works at an informal level of the organizational system, and is independent of formal organizational structures.
The ombudsman doesn’t listen to judge or to decide who is right or wrong. The ombudsman listens to understand the issue from the perspective of the individual. This is a critical step in developing options for resolution.
The university ombudsman does not:
- Participate in formal investigations or play any role in a formal issue resolution process
- Serve in any other organizational role that would compromise the neutrality of the ombudsman role
- Receive notice for the organization
- Make binding decisions or mandate policies
- Create or maintain records or reports for the organization
Additional duties of the ombudsman:
- Assist in reframing issues and developing and helping individuals evaluate options. This helps individuals identify the interests of various parties to the issues and helps focus efforts on potential options to meet those interests.
- Guide or coach individuals to deal directly with other parties, including the use of formal resolution resources of the organization. An ombudsman often seeks to help individuals improve their skill and their confidence in giving voice to their concerns directly.
- Refer individuals formal organizational resources that can potentially resolve the issue.
- Assist in surfacing issues to formal resolution channels. When an individual is unable or unwilling to surface a concern directly, the ombudsman can assist by helping give voice to the concern and /or creating an awareness of the issue among appropriate decision-makers in the organization.
- Identify new issues and opportunities for systemic change for the organization. The unique positioning of the ombudsman serves to provide unfiltered information that can produce insight to issues and resolutions. The ombudsman is a source of detection and early warning of new issues and a source of suggestions of systemic change to improve existing processes.