Office of the Ombudsperson
The ombudsperson role has a long and honorable history in Europe and North America as a means of protecting against improper treatment, unfairness and bias. The Ombudsperson role for the LSU School of Medicine Campuses strives to provide neutral, confidential and informal complaint handling services for members of its community to include all of its learners, both undergraduate and graduate. The Ombudsperson practices in accordance with ethical standards prescribed by The International Ombudsman Association.
The Ombudsperson specifically assists visitors to the office by listening with objectivity and providing a confidential ear to any concern related to professional work or study at the school as well as any personal situations that may arise while in school. The office is set up to provide a visitor with a “safe” place to discuss a problem with the assurance that no action will be taken nor will the fact of the visit or anything the visitor says be disclosed to anyone unless permission is granted by the visitor.
The responsibilities of the Office of the Ombudsperson include:
- Providing neutral safe and confidential environment to talk
- Listening and discussing questions, concerns and complaints
- Explanation of University and School policies and procedures
- Helping to evaluate options
- Coaching for individuals to resolve problems on their own
- Mediating conflicts, convene meetings, and engage in “shuttle diplomacy.”
- Referring students to appropriate campus or community resources
- Providing information about campus or community resources
Confidentiality is one of the most important aspects of the work of the ombudsperson. Confidentiality means that the fact of your visit and everything you say to the ombudsperson is kept confidential unless you, the visitor, wish to give the ombudsperson permission to disclose specific matters to specific individuals in an attempt to resolve the issues.
Conversations with individuals involved are also kept confidential. In other words, every contact with the ombuds office is maintained as confidential unless the ombudsperson is given permission to convey information to a specific person.
The privilege of confidentiality can only be waived by the ombudsperson.
The only time the ombudsperson will breach the promise of confidentiality is when imminent bodily harm is threatened by the visitor to another or to him or herself. This rule is in accordance with the Code of Ethics of The Ombudsman Association.
The office often is one of a few places where individuals may discuss concerns without fear of any untoward consequences. One of the most important aspects of the office is that matters involving potential legal duties on the part of managers such as the duty to investigate an issue involving sexual harassment can be fully discussed without the ombudsperson having to act. The ombudsperson is independent and is not considered a manager or University officer. Indeed, the office was established to provide a place where there can be no “downside” to discussing difficult issues.
In short, consistent with the neutrality of the Ombudsperson and the confidential nature of the process, communication to the Ombudsperson does not place University Hospital and Clinics, the Lafayette General Health System or the School of Medicine on notice of the content of that communication. If you wish to report a problem or concern or file a complaint or grievance, the Ombudsperson can direct you to the appropriate person, office or procedure.
Due to the delicate nature of the ombudsperson’s role, a few activities and functions are prohibited from its scope of duties. The ombudsperson will not:
- Make binding decisions
- Provide legal advice
- Compel any person or department to implement recommendations
- Participate in a formal investigation or a formal resolution process
- Maintain official files on behalf the organization
- Take action without expressed permission from the student
Concerns Commonly Discussed with the Ombudsperson
- Conflicts with or grievances about faculty, staff, or other students
- Factors affecting enrollment or academic success
- Physical/Mental Health issues
- Academic policy
- Grade appeals
- Academic integrity topics
- Financial concerns
The Ombudsperson is available at any stage for advice or assistance in resolving academic complaints. Should you need help, please do not hesitate to contact Kristi Anderson, Lafayette Ombudsperson for the LSU School of Medicine, Lafayette Branch.