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University Ombudsman Office

 

What is an Ombudsman?
The word ombudsman (OM-budz-man) comes from Sweden and literally means "representative". There are many names used, including ombudsman, ombudsperson or ombuds.  A college or university Ombudsman is a confidential and independent resource for all members of the campus community to talk with informally. The Ombuds office provides a safe and neutral place for faculty, staff, students, parents and retirees to discuss conflicts, concerns or problems. 

Role of the University Ombudsman
The Ombudsman is committed to the pursuit of equity and fairness. The Ombudsman facilitates communication and is a safe first step in dealing with a problem, as a last resort, or at any point along the way. It is a good place to visit to evaluate your options when you are unsure how to proceed. It is the Ombudsman’s role to listen, understand, coach, inform, strategize, problem-solve, mediate, refer and provide upward feedback as appropriate.  The mission of the Ombuds Office is to resolve concerns, explore options for resolution and make informed decisions, and to persist in building and preserving collaborative relationships within the campus community. 

Contact the Ombudsman
I will arrange a confidential meeting at a time and place convenient for you. It is helpful if you make an appointment, but you can drop by the office without an appointment. I can be most effective if I meet with you, but if you prefer, I can work with you over the telephone. I generally do not work through e-mail and discourage you from e-mailing any confidential information. 

Marilyn Goellner
(814) 732-1710 or
(814) 440-1482
Alumni House
210 Meadville Street, 2nd Floor
(across the street from Cole Auditorium)
Office Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. By appointment at other times and other locations, if necessary.


Ombudsman principles

Confidentiality
The Ombudsman is confidential. I will not identify you or discuss your particular concerns with anyone unless you give permission and only to the extent that you permit, absent compelling reasons (risk of imminent harm). An Ombudsman typically does not testify in any court or jurisdiction, formal hearing or grievance process. I do not maintain any records and destroy all notes. I can, with your permission and if appropriate, contact the other party and seek additional information or clarification to better understand the nature of the problem.

Informality
All members of the campus community have a right to consult voluntarily with the Ombuds Office. Any communication with me is off-the-record and does not put the university on notice of a problem. If you wish to place the university on notice, I can give you information about how to do so; the Ombuds Office is not a substitute for formal procedures, such as filing a grievance or a formal complaint.

Neutrality and Impartiality
The Ombudsman seeks processes that are fair and equitable to all parties. I am an impartial and objective resource for the university community and have no decision-making authority and do not judge, discipline or reward anyone.

Independence
The Ombudsman is independent and reports to the President for administrative purposes only. I work hard to merit the trust others place in me.

Contact the Ombudsman when you…

  • Have a situation requiring help in communication or negotiation
  • Are unsure which policies or procedures apply
  • Believe a policy or procedure has been applied unfairly or erroneously to you
  • Have a concern about an office or service at Edinboro University
  • Want to discuss a sensitive issue in confidence
  • Are unsure of where to go or what options are open to you    

Frequently Asked Questions

Who does the Ombuds Office serve?
The Ombuds office is equally available to all staff, faculty, students, parents of students, and university retirees. I am receptive, respectful, and welcoming to everyone accessing my services. I actively work to establish, maintain, and increase trust with all our campus constituencies.

When should I contact the Ombuds Office?
The sooner you contact the Ombudsman with your concern, the better. No concern or conflict is too small or too big for me to help, but the sooner you reach out for assistance with your concern, the more options you may have to resolve it effectively. Reaching out may feel intimidating, but it is a key step in getting the situation back on target.

What can the Ombuds Office do to help me?
Individuals often choose to meet with the Ombudsman because it is informal, assures confidentiality, and is independent from University administration. My responses are based on each individual situation and informed consent, so I may:

  • Listen, which may be all you want
  • Offer information about Edinboro University policies and procedures
  • Discuss your concerns and clarify all the issues
  • Help identify and evaluate a range of options for resolving a problem
  • Gather information and offer referrals to other resources
  • Offer coaching, for example, to help you prepare for a difficult conversation
  • Facilitate communication, indirectly or through shuttle diplomacy
  • Work for collaborative agreements through mediation
  • Track perceived issues and trends
  • Make recommendations for continuous improvement

What can’t the Ombuds Office do?
I will do my best to provide the assistance you need. However, there are some things I cannot do:

  • Discuss your concern or conflict with anyone else without your explicit permission
  • Take sides
  • Make management decisions
  • Offer legal advice or provide psychological counseling
  • Act as an advocate or representative for anyone
  • Maintain records or accept notice for the university
  • Participate in or administer any formal grievance or proceeding
  • Mandate, order, or enforce behaviors or rules
  • Sanction anyone
  • Conduct formal investigations
  • Meet with anyone who doesn’t want to meet with the Ombudsman

How does the Ombudsman remain neutral?
The Ombuds Office operates under the Code of Ethics of the International Ombudsman Association. Neutrality is one of the key ethical principals and means that visitors to my office can expect that they will be treated even-handedly, that I will not favor one person over another, and I do not have any interest in the outcome of situations. I strive to be fair and objective in my consideration of information and the range of options I present.

What authority does the Ombudsman have?
The Ombudsman is authorized to confidentially receive complaints, concerns or inquiries and to informally negotiate and mediate resolution of campus-related issues. I do not have the authority to tell others what to do or not do. I have the authority to contact managers and senior officers of the university, to gather information in the course of looking into a problem, to bring concerns to the attention of those in authority, and to attempt to expedite administrative processes. Although I do not have the power to change university rules or policies, I can make recommendation to those with the authority to make changes.

What is mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary conflict resolution process where the participants together with the assistance of the Ombudsman, sit together and discuss issues of mutual concern to develop options, consider alternatives, and try to reach an agreement that addresses both participants’ needs and interests.

To whom does the Ombudsman report and what exactly is reported?
The Ombuds Office is an independent department of the Office of the President. I report directly to the President for administrative purposes only and do not report on or disclose the substance of individual cases, concerns or conversations. The Ombuds Office is not a record keeper and confidential case notes are shredded regularly and routinely. I maintain anonymous, aggregate demographic data for statistical purposes only. The data is retained in order to identify emerging trends, highlight issues and areas of concern, and to make recommendations to senior leaders on campus. The statistics have no identifying links to any visitor.

Is the Ombudsman an advocate for those who use the office?
No. The Ombudsman does not take sides in a dispute. I do not advocate for individuals or decide who’s right or wrong. The interests and rights of each individual involved in the conflict are carefully considered with the goal of promoting a fair, balanced and civil process to effectively resolve the issues raised.

What if a matter is brought to the attention of the Ombudsman and it cannot be resolved informally?
I will refer the visitor to an appropriate office. It is up to the individual to determine if a formal complaint will be filed.

Can I use the Ombudsman when I have filed a grievance or retained an attorney or union representative?
No. The office is an informal resource designed to resolve complaints, concerns or problems before a grievance has been filed or an attorney or union representative has been retained.

If I have a dispute or conflict when there is a power imbalance, how can the office help?
The role of an Ombudsman is to remain impartial, to listen to and acknowledge all parties’ concerns and interests, to gather facts and ask appropriate questions as an informal means to help parties identify acceptable outcomes.

How does the Ombudsman add value to the University?

  • Provides a safe place for employees and students to discuss their concerns without fear of retaliation or escalation to formal proceedings
  • Supports and empowers individuals to more effectively manage and/or resolve campus-related problems and conflicts
  • Facilitates informal, two-way communication and mediates complaints to resolve allegations and other issues that could otherwise escalate to costly and time consuming formal grievances and litigation
  • Improves staff productivity and efficiency by decreasing time spent handling workplace conflicts, disputes, and problems
  • Improves staff satisfaction, morale, and retention by providing an informal, comfortable and accessible resource for concerns to be heard and addressed


University Policy Manual
 


Student Handbook
 


Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice 

The Office follows the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the International Ombudsman Association.