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Our guiding principles

In alignment with Virginia Tech’s Principles of Community the Ombuds Office strives to maintain a climate for work and learning based on respect and fairness. This is what drives the Ombuds Office at the core, that individuals feel that the their inherent dignity and value are recognized by the campus and that they feel they are treated fairly and that we continue to create a climate of civility so that we may all live up to our Virginia Tech motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

The Ombuds Office has adopted, and all Ombuds in the Office, are required to adhere to the Code of Ethics  and Standards of Practice of the International Ombuds Association ("IOA"). The Ombuds will function independently of interference or direction from University administration.  The Office will operate confidentially and impartially and limit the scope of its services to informal means of dispute resolution and problem-solving support. 

The key principles by which Ombuds practice and are expressed in the Ombuds Office Charter are:

A.   Independence

The Ombuds Office will be, and will endeavor to be perceived as, free from interference in the performance of their duties.  The University will not attempt to direct or influence the substantive work of the Ombuds Office, including with whom the Ombuds meets and how they manage any given concern. The University will also not attempt to interfere with or control the substance of any recommendations for University change that the Ombuds might offer. The independence of the Ombuds Office is accomplished through the University's recognition of it, the reporting structure in which the Ombuds reports to the University President, freedom from direction or interference in the substance of its work, and by being distinct from all other organizational entities.  The Ombuds thus holds no other position within the University and has sole discretion over how or whether to address visitors’ concerns. 

B.   Impartiality

The Ombuds will strive for impartiality and fairness in consideration of all visitors to the Office and the issues they raise.  The Ombuds will operate with the aim of supporting all visitors and parties in the most effective way possible and will facilitate communication and problem-solving in a way that does not take sides or favor a particular outcome.

The Ombuds will avoid involvement in any matter in which their private interests, real or perceived, may conflict with their ability to be truly impartial and independent in their role.  To avoid such conflicts in the first place, the Ombuds will not serve as a voting member on University committees, will not participate in adjudication processes, and will not serve in a formal policy making capacity, except with regard to Ombuds Office policies.  If a potential conflict of interest nonetheless exists, the Ombuds will take all steps necessary to disclose the potential conflict and/or remove the conflict. If it is not possible to sufficiently address a conflict of interest in a case, an Ombuds will recuse themselves from involvement in it. 

C.   Confidentiality

Confidentiality is the defining feature of the Ombuds role.  Communications with the Ombuds are confidential to the maximum extent permitted by law.  The Ombuds will hold all communications in strict confidence and will not reveal­-and must not be required to reveal--the identity of visitors to the Ombuds Office.  The Ombuds will not reveal any information disclosed to them in confidence except in accordance with the IOA Standards of Practice, including not disclosing such information without a visitor’s express permission and then only at the discretion of the Ombuds.  The Ombuds may also disclose otherwise confidential information if they determine what might be an imminent risk of serious physical harm.

Because the Office of the Ombuds is a purely voluntary resource that no one is required to use, those who do so will be understood to have agreed to the terms, conditions, and principles upon which it was established and not call on the Ombuds to testify or produce documents relating to confidential communications in any legal, administrative, or other proceedings or matters. 

The University has also agreed to respect the terms, conditions, and principles on which the Office was created and not call on the Ombuds to testify or produce documents relating to confidential communications in any legal, administrative, or other proceedings or matters.

The confidentiality of communications with the Ombuds may not be waived by others.  The Ombuds Office will resist any attempts by visitors or third parties to compel disclosure of confidential communications or documents by invoking the terms, conditions, and principles of our Charter and by asserting a claim of confidentiality under any applicable rule or statute under which confidential communications may be protected including, where applicable, rules or statutes dealing with mediation and other methods of alternative dispute resolution. 

The Ombuds will not keep written records or notes with identifying information on behalf of the organization.  The Ombuds will maintain any and all case-related information (e.g., notes, phone messages, appointment calendars) in a secure location and manner, protected from inspection by others and will have a consistent and standard practice for the regular destruction of such information. The Ombuds will prepare any data or reports to be shared with the University or otherwise made public in ways that protect visitor confidentiality. 

D.   Informality

The Ombuds will be a resource for informal dispute resolution and problem-solving services only.  The Ombuds will not participate in formal investigative or adjudicative procedures, whether internal or external.  The Ombuds will, however, endeavor to provide visitors with information about relevant formal grievance or complaint processes to help educate them about their options.  Use of the Ombuds Office will be voluntary and is not a required step in any grievance process or University policy.