Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. However, if it is necessary for the Ombuds and an individual to speak in person, health concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic require that individuals be advised that social distancing and face masks will be required to enter the office. For your convenience and well-being disposable masks and hand sanitizer will be available. The Ombuds Office also cleans the office space and surfaces between appointments.
Also, should either the individual or the Ombuds subsequently test positive for the COVID-19, visitors should be aware that either they or the Ombuds may be contacted by local health officials as part of a contact tracing effort and the identity of the Ombuds and the individual may be disclosed in that process. While neither the substance of any confidential communications nor the nature of how the contact occurred would be disclosed, individuals should be aware that due to the contact tracing process an in-person consultation with the Ombuds at the present time may not be as confidential as would be the case under normal times.
Individuals are also reminded that if information is disclosed in a consultation with the Ombuds concerning COVID-19 exposure that presents an imminent risk of serious harm to others, the Ombuds would be obligated to make a disclosure of that information as an exception to confidentiality under the Ombuds’ Standards of Practice.
In short, anything you’re struggling with. Don’t hesitate to reach out because no question, situation, challenge or conflict is necessarily off-limits. We don’t ever want someone to avoid reaching out thinking they are reaching out to the wrong office. If we can’t help we’ll refer you to the appropriate office.
Some of the typical issues we see are:
Staff: Conflicts with supervisors or co-workers; concerns about performance evaluations; career growth and team dynamics.
Faculty: Challenges with other colleagues or administrators; concerns about promotion/tenure; issues with teaching and/or research
Students: Disagreements with other students; problems navigating policies and/or academic requirements; concerns with staff and/or faculty
Again, here’s the bottom line: If something is happening that is getting in your way of growing and contributing at Virginia Tech then don’t hesitate to reach out.
No. We advocate for progress and change at a systemic level but in individual situations we can’t take sides simply because an Ombuds is impartial and adheres to the professional and ethical standards of practice as prescribed by The International Ombudsman Association.
No. In order to maintain the confidentiality of your situation VOICE is not an office of record. Short-term, we do keep working notes to keep track of on-going interactions and follow up activities but these are purged periodically. Additionally, we do make note of limited, non-identifiable information so we can keep track of trends and patterns and be able to provide upward feedback to leaders about opportunities for improvement at Virginia Tech.
No. We are not an “office of notice”. What this means is that if you want to obligate the University to respond to your concern you must put the University “on-notice” by filing a formal complaint with the appropriate office. VOICE recognizes that there is sometimes a need by a community member to officially report discrimination, a crime or allegations of violations of law (such as a Title IX violation or an ADA violation) and so we can work with you to identify the proper office but you must initiate that formal process with them.
VOICE will hear from hundreds of Hokie community members and so patterns emerge about systemic opportunities for improvement. For example, perhaps there is a policy or practice that impacts community members in a specific way and there’s a need for improvement. Though VOICE does not create a specific policy we can provide general feedback and suggest to the appropriate decision-makers the need for change.
Often, between someone taking (or not taking) some sort of action in reaction to a situation there is a space where people struggle to understand how they could respond. VOICE can help people decide for themselves, by exploring options, how to better respond to the inevitable challenges that come up in any institute of higher education.