About the Ombudsperson
Susanna Peters JD
- University Ombuds
- Academic Office Building 219
What an Ombuds Does
The Ombuds Office provides confidential and informal problem solving for members of the Michigan Tech academic community, including conflict resolution and mediation services. We provide services to help individuals resolve their concerns fairly and informally. Informal conflict resolution services are intended to be employed prior to initiating any formal grievance procedures.
The Ombuds Office can assist you by:
- carefully listening to you and helping you to analyze the situation and evaluate your options;
- researching and explaining relevant University policies, procedures, and problem-solving channels;
- informally mediating disputes between willing members of the Michigan Tech community;
- initiating non-adversarial, problem-solving discussions with other involved parties (only with your permission); and
- making referrals to other campus and community resources.
What is the Definition of Ombuds?
The name “ombudsman” (om budz man) comes from the Swedish language and literally means “representative.” An organizational Ombuds is a designated neutral person who is appointed to facilitate the confidential and informal resolution of concerns of employees, managers, students and sometimes external clients of the organization. As stated by the International Ombudsman Association, "[t]he primary duties of an organizational ombudsman are (1) to work with individuals and groups in an organization to explore and assist them in determining options to help resolve conflicts, problematic issues or concerns, and (2) to bring systemic concerns to the attention of the organization for resolution.”
Confidentiality is essential to the work of The Ombuds Office. The Ombuds Office will not identify you or discuss your concerns with anyone without your permission unless the Ombudsperson determines that there is an imminent risk of serious harm or the Ombudsperson is compelled to do so. (For example, an ombudsperson may be subpoenaed.)
The Ombuds office provides an impartial and objective resource for the employees of Michigan Tech and both undergraduate and graduate students. The ombudsperson looks for ways for individuals and groups to create mutual understanding and benefit. She considers the rights and interests of all parties and does not take sides. The ombudsperson has no decision-making authority and does not judge, discipline or reward anyone.
The Ombuds office officially reports to the President about issues and trends but is independent of any University structure and will not report individually identifiable information. The ombudsperson advocates for fair process and its implementation.
The ombudsperson functions on an informal and off-the-record basis. She listens, receives and provides information, helps to clarify issues and develop a range of responsible options. With the permission of the visitor or caller, and at her discretion, the ombudsperson may seek additional information or clarification to better understand the nature of a problem. However, she does not create files or documentation about the cases her office reviews.
The Ombudsperson is not authorized to accept “legal” notice for Michigan Technological University. The ombudsperson follows no prescribed sequence of steps, and does not participate in any formal grievance process. If you wish to engage in a formal procedure, such as filing a grievance or putting the University on notice, the ombudsperson can give you information about how to do so.
The Ombuds Office
- operates independently as a supplement to existing administrative and formal grievance procedures and has no formal decision-making authority;
- does not act as an advocate for either side in any dispute; and
- operates confidentially, which means we do not acknowledge who has—or has not—used the office or its services, without the permission of the parties requesting services.
The Ombuds Officer will
- Listen carefully to your concerns.
- Inform you of the various options that are available to you to resolve your concerns.
- Answer University-related process and procedure questions or put you in direct contact with others who can advise you.
- Help you to understand the reasons behind various University policies and procedures.
- Facilitate communication between members of the Michigan Tech academic community.
- Help you to determine if other members of the academic community are amenable to informal conflict-resolution mediation efforts.
- Make the appropriate referrals if and when informal options don't work.
- Periodically point out patterns of problems to the University president for purposes of continuous improvement.
The Ombuds Office will not
- Offer legal advice.
- Provide any services to members of the University community in disputes with persons or organizations outside of the University.
- Get involved in any issues specifically addressed by collective bargaining agreements for employees who are represented by unions.
- Formally or informally investigate the validity of any claims or expressions of concern brought to the attention of our office.
- Become involved in any disputes that have been filed in a formal grievance process.
- File your concern or disclose it to any University department or unit. Because of the confidential nature of the ombuds process, bringing a concern to the Ombuds Office does not constitute making formal organization notification to Michigan Technological University of alleged violations of policies, procedures, or laws.
The names of persons consulting with the Ombuds Office are kept confidential. The office does not divulge the names of persons seeking or who have sought ombuds services, nor does it discuss cases with other persons without the expressed permission of the person(s) seeking services. The only exception to this policy is when the ombuds officer feels that he/she has been made aware of situations, conditions, or events that might result in harm to a person or persons.
The office keeps no formal written records and does not "accept notice” of problems for the University. Consulting the Ombuds Office does not, therefore, constitute making formal notification to the University of alleged violations of policy, procedures, or laws.
Faculty, staff, and students seeking to formally notify the University of a concern or a complaint must
- make notice to another unit or office charged with receiving formal notice of complaints or concern, or
- request and grant written permission that the Ombuds Office make the appropriate University office or unit aware of the complaint or concern being raised. The Ombuds Office does not participate in any succeeding formal grievance procedures.
Frequently Asked Questions
We are available to:
- listen to you and discuss your concerns, issues, and questions;
- help you evaluate various options available to address your concerns;
- answer University-related questions or help you to find others who can;
- help you to understand the reasons behind University policies and procedures;
- facilitate communication between members of the Michigan Tech academic community;
- advise you about steps that you might take to resolve problems informally;
- advise you about formal and administrative options for resolving disputes;
- mediate disputes between willing members of the campus community to seek a win-win resolution of problems; and
- make appropriate referrals when informal options don't work.
We encourage you to contact the Ombuds Office if:
- you feel you have been treated unfairly or that an expressed concern has been ignored;
- you have a situation requiring negotiation or help in facilitating communication with another person associated with Michigan Tech;
- you are unsure which policies, procedures, or regulations apply in your situation;
- you would like to discuss a sensitive question or issue; or
- you are unsure of where to go or what options exist to solve a University-related problem you are experiencing.
Practices and Procedures for the Michigan Technological University Ombuds office:
The Ombuds Office follows the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics of The International Ombuds Association. You may also be interested in IOA's Best Practices document. In addition, please find more information on the IOA website. The Ombuds Office is a voluntary program established on IOA's Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. No-one is required to use the Ombuds Office, but if they do, they will be understood to have agreed to abide by these principles, including not calling the Ombuds to testify with respect to confidential communications. The Ombuds Office will make you aware of University policies and procedures, but cannot and does not provide legal advice.
- The Ombuds Office does not address disputes between members of the campus community and any private individual or individuals, companies, or organizations not affiliated with Michigan Tech. Additionally, the Ombuds Office does not handle or participate in any formal grievance procedures or legal issues of any kind.
- The Ombuds Office does not involve itself in issues specifically addressed by collective bargaining agreements for employees who are represented by labor unions.
- Additionally, the Ombuds Office does not handle or participate in any formal grievance procedures or legal issues of any kind
The Ombuds Office:
- periodically suggests changes in University policies and procedures;
- conducts conflict-related workshops; and
- provides conflict-related consultation with supervisors, faculty, departments, etc.