What is an Ombuds?

Why you can trust the Ombuds Office

The terms "ombuds", "ombudsperson" and "ombudsman" are used interchangeably and carry certain professional and legal responsibilities. An office or individual using these terms should follow 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)

What does an Ombuds do?

The Office of the Ombuds seeks to support more open and effective communication between employees and the university. In doing so, the outcome is to create a work environment of greater satisfaction for all employees.

The W&M Ombuds Office adheres to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the IOA. A common set of ethical principles establishes the foundation of ombuds work:

  • Confidentiality—The Ombuds holds in strictest confidence any communications with those seeking assistance, and does not disclose confidential communications unless given permission to do so. The only exception to this confidentiality is where there appears to be communication about imminent risk of serious harm or the abuse of minors.
  • Independence—The Ombuds is not aligned with any organizational entity and reports to the highest level possible within the organization.
  • Neutrality—The Ombuds advocates for a fair process rather than on behalf of any individual.
  • Informality—The Ombuds supplements, but does not replace, any formal channels for grievance or adjudicative procedures.

At William & Mary, the Ombuds reports directly to the Provost.