Confidential...  Impartial...  Informal...  Independent...

Frequently Asked Questions:
How do I contact the Ombuds Office and what happens then?

What kinds of issues do Ombuds assist with?

Who are the UW-Madison Ombuds?

What does the Ombuds Office report to campus?

Does the Ombuds Office keep any records?

Will my concerns be kept confidential?

Do Ombuds respond to anonymous complaints?

Do I have to use vacation time to visit your office?

I am a student. Can I use the Ombuds service?

How do I decide whether to contact the Ombuds Office or the Employee Assistance Office?

What is the history behind the UW-Madison program?

 
How do I contact the Ombuds Office and what happens then?

UW-Madison employees who wish to talk to an Ombuds leave a message on the Ombuds' phone (608-265-9992). Although the office is not staffed for drop-in visitors, Ombuds rotate weekly on-call duties, monitoring the phone and email and responding to all contacts. Generally Ombuds meet with individuals or small groups in the Ombuds' conference room in the Lowell Center. Ombuds are also available to meet at other locations when preferred or more convenient.

Employees who contact us are referred to as "Visitors" to emphasize the confidential and impartial nature of the relationship. A Visitor's consultation with the Ombuds Office is considered to be voluntary and not a requirement for any grievance process. Employees may visit with the Ombuds during their normal work hours. Under some circumstances, it may be necessary to receive approval to leave an assigned work area. If an employee wants to access services completely confidentially, the employee may consider the use of approved leave, scheduled break time, or schedule a consultation with the Ombuds outside normal work hours.

 
What kinds of issues do Ombuds assist with?

Our primary purpose is to assist faculty and staff deal with challenges that arise in the work environment. The earlier the consultation the more options may be available to you. We will work with you to sort out complex issues, identify options, and/or decide which university resources are available to support your success in your work and work environment. (See Purpose for examples of issues and challenges.)

 
Who are the UW-Madison Ombuds?

The Ombuds Office employs retired faculty and staff who work part-time as a team of consultants. There are five individuals who share these responsibilities and who report to the Provost.

Important qualifications for Ombuds include:
1. Knowledge of university policies and resources
2. Extensive cross campus experience
3. Strong communication skills
4. Ability to be objective and impartial

(See Current Ombuds for information on individual Ombuds.)


What does the Ombuds Office report to campus?

Each August, the Ombuds submit an Annual Report to the Provost. The report is subsequently distributed to the campus governance groups and made available to the general university community. The report provides general information about visitor demographics, issues and concerns they have experienced, any trends or patterns observed, and recommendations for improving campus climate for employees.

 
Does the Ombuds Office keep any records?

To protect Visitors' confidentiality Ombuds do not create or maintain documents or records for the university about individual matters. The only information retained from contacts by Visitors is that regarding demographics and types of challenges, issues and concerns. These data are not associated with Visitors' names or any other identifying information such as department or school/college/division.


Will my concerns be kept confidential?

Yes. The Visitor (person who sees an Ombuds) decides whether the issue will go beyond the Ombuds office. Please be reminded that the confidentiality of e-mail cannot be guaranteed. Email is fine for setting up an appointment, but please do not include personal or confidential information in email. (See Code of Ethics for more information on confidentiality.)

 
Do Ombuds respond to anonymous complaints?

No. Without the opportunity to discuss the situation or concern with the employee, understand essential details of the concern and potential outcomes the employee seeks, an Ombuds cannot respond with suggestions, options, or strategies for potential action or resolution. The ethical standard of confidentiality and supporting practices for our office and each Visitor (employee) protects identity.


Do I have to use vacation time to visit your office?

No. Employees can request time to visit the Ombuds Office during working hours. Employees who prefer not to notify their supervisors of a visit to the Ombuds Office may arrange to meet after their work hours or may use vacation or leave time for appointments.

 
I am a student. Can I use the Ombuds service?

Yes, if you are an employee at UW-Madison and you wish to discuss a workplace issue. If you are not an employee or if you are simply unsure where to go for assistance, an Ombuds may be able to suggest other campus resources. For example, you may wish to contact the Division of Student Life, (263-5700), about general student life concerns.


How do I decide whether to contact the Ombuds Office or the Employee Assistance Office?

The University of Wisconsin-Madison provides the Ombuds and Employee Assistance Offices as complementary resources to support employees in managing challenges and conflicts in the workplace. (See “Distinguishing the Services of the Employee Assistance Office and the Ombuds Office.”)


What is the history behind the UW-Madison program?

The UW-Madison Ombuds Office is part of the University's efforts to enhance diversity and climate and developed from recommendations of the Committee on Women in the University and the Provost's Campus Climate Network, as well as other governance bodies. The Ombuds Office was established in 2003.