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What we do

The University Ombuds supports effective communication between faculty, employees and the university, working with groups and individuals alike. The ombuds advocates for fair treatment for all members of the W&M campus.

Frequently Asked Questions:
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What can the Ombuds Office do for me?
  • Listen to complaints or issues
  • Serve as a neutral party in resolving conflict
  • Present resources and options
  • Offer communication coaching
  • Recommend changes in policies & procedures to appropriate campus unit
  • Report trends and patterns to administration
What can't the Ombuds Office do for me?
  • Replace or supersede existing channels for grievances, complaints, or appeals
  • Offer legal advice 
  • Breach confidentiality or anonymity without permission*
  • Testify in any formal or adjudicative process
  • Conduct formal investigations
  • Serve as an agent of notice for the University
  • Change or overturn institutional decisions
When should the Ombuds office be contacted?
  • To discuss a situation with a neutral party; or
  • When other organizational channels have not provided satisfaction
How do I set up an appointment?

You can set up an appointment here. You can either send us an email or call us, but be aware that emails are not confidential. 

How does an Ombuds differ from an Employee Relations professional?

Employee Relations professionals:

  • formally assist managers and employees of the organization in establishing, following and applying HR-related policies and procedures.
  • conduct formal investigations as a basis for management action and they can make or modify policy.
  • accept formal notice of a claim on behalf of the organization and may be called upon to testify in formal proceedings.

As a result, Employee Relations professionals cannot always extend complete confidentiality to individuals who come forward with issues. While they seek to ensure fair application of policy, their role is not completely neutral because they are part of the management structure and must directly represent and protect the interests of the organization.

Ombuds officers:

  • provide informal assistance in surfacing and resolving issues.
  • recommend that an organization consider establishing or revising policy, but play no formal role in enforcing or deciding to implement policy.
  • act as a neutral party and advocate for fair process for all members of the organization.
  • do not conduct formal investigations. However, they do assist in identifying or creating options for resolution including referrals to formal channels with investigatory powers and gathering information to support more informed decisions.
  • do not accept notice for the organization or make decisions on behalf of the organization.
What other resources are available to me?

The Office of Compliance & Equity is responsible for all discrimination complaints that are specific to protected classes (age, sex/gender, race, veteran’s status, national origin, sexual orientation, political belief, disability, or any category protected by the Commonwealth or federal law) and makes sure William & Mary adheres to anti-discrimination laws. Office staff accept reports and grievances and conduct internal investigations.

The Office of Diversity & Inclusion spearheads the university's affirmative action and diversity efforts. As a part of that mission, it helps to prevent discrimination and harassment and is committed to creating a W&M community that is representative and inclusive of individuals with different backgrounds, talents, and skills. The office works to ensure that William & Mary is a community where all faculty, staff, and students feel supported and affirmed.

The regulatory and compliance nature of these professionals require formality and notice, which contradict the principles of the Ombuds.

Why can I trust the Ombuds Office?

Being an ombudsperson carries certain professional and legal responsibilities. The office follows the professional tenets outlined in International Ombudsman Association (IOA) standards.

William & Mary supports the role of the Ombuds as outlined in the following documents:

Terms of Reference (pdf)
Statement of Best Practices (pdf)

Can I meet with the ombuds remotely?

Yes! You can meet over Zoom or on the phone. Click here to set up an appointment.

Who can request an appointment with the Ombuds Office?

The Ombuds Office supports all William & Mary faculty and staff. 

There is also a faculty member who also serves as the Graduate (Arts & Sciences) Ombuds for graduate students in Arts & Sciences. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science also sponsors a VIMS Graduate Student Ombuds Team. The University Ombuds can also be contacted if individuals would prefer an ombuds outside those organizations.

The Dean of Students Office addresses student concerns, even in their roles as employees.

Where can I find university policies to help me navigate my concern?

You can find university policies in the policy library. 



*Confidentiality and anonymity are not possible when imminent harm is threatened.