Frequently Asked Questions
What is an Ombudsman?
An ombudsman is an individual to whom community members may speak regarding a problem, conflict or concern. The office is neutral and independent of the administration. Its function can be described less as advocacy and more as achieving fairness. The Ombudsman is easily accessible as a confidential sounding board and source of assistance.
Where can I find the Ombudsman?
The office is centrally located at 118 Stimson Hall (on East Avenue between Day Hall and Goldwin Smith Hall).
Appointments are strongly encouraged. Business hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Appointments can also be arranged outside of regular business hours.
Office of the University Ombudsman
118 Stimson Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-7101
Telephone: (607) 255-4321
Please note that email is not appropriate for confidential communications.
Who can use the office?
The Office of the University Ombudsman is available to all students, faculty and staff affiliated with all units of Cornell University, excluding the Weill Cornell Medical College.
Who will know if I contact the Ombudsman?
The Ombudsman holds the identity and all communications with those seeking assistance in strict confidence, and does not disclose confidential communications unless given permission to do so, except as required by law, or where, in the judgment of the Ombudsman, there appears to be imminent risk of serious harm.
When should I contact the Ombudsman?
Anytime. You may speak to the Ombudsman before, during or after formal action is taken. Individuals often find it helpful to explore positions, options and strategies with the Ombudsman confidentially before taking more formal steps. You do not need to exhaust other resources before approaching the Ombudsman.
Why would a community member contact the Ombudsman office?
The Ombudsman may be helpful in a variety of situations. An individual may seek assistance when he or she:
- Needs a confidential sounding board to discuss a problem
- Thinks there is unfair treatment
- Has a question about a policy or protocol related to a situation
- Becomes engaged in a workplace (or other) conflict
What are some concerns with which the Ombudsman may assist?
The Ombudsman assists Cornellians with both academic and non-academic matters that affect an individual’s workplace and personal well being. While by no means an exhaustive list, the Ombudsman helps individuals manage problems related to:
- Employment issues
- Tenure or reappointment of faculty
- Fees and fines
- Graduate committee and field actions
- Ethical issues or concerns
- Interpersonal disputes
How does the Ombudsman assist a visitor?
By operating informally, the Ombudsman can assist visitors in several ways. The Ombudsman can:
- Provide information on University policies and practices
- Provide information on how to make the University aware of a particular problem
- Discuss and assist the visitor in evaluating available options
- Refer the visitor to the proper authority to resolve the situation
- Facilitate constructive dialogue
- While maintaining confidentiality, provide upward feedback to the administration (or others in authority) when a systemic issue or trend occurs
The Ombudsman assists visitors in a variety of ways consistent with our mission. Overall, the Ombudsman advocates for fairness and equity.
The Ombudsman operates according to the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
What can’t the Ombudsman do?
The Ombudsman offers assistance through informal means only, and is not an advocate in grievance procedures, judicial procedures or any other formal process. Additionally, the Ombudsman does not conduct investigations or overrule decisions made by another University official. Finally, as an informal resource, the Ombudsman is not authorized to accept formal complaints for Cornell University. If you want to make the University aware of a particular problem, the Ombudsman can refer you to the appropriate office or individual.
Does the Ombudsman ever participate in formal processes?
No, the Ombudsman operates informally. The office does not duplicate existing processes such as grievance procedures, judicial hearings, or other formal procedures. The Ombudsman may look into whether proper procedures were followed, and bring to the attention of those in authority gaps and inadequacies in existing procedures.