FAQs

The position of ombudsman was originally created in Sweden in the 1800s. The Swedish Parliament appointed an ombudsman to resolve difficult problems in the absence of the country's abducted king. In more recent times, ombuds programs have been created throughout the world to assist citizens, consumers and employees who wish to address concerns about administrative actions or lack of action. In the United States, the various types of ombuds functions are utilized in state and local governments, nursing homes, the media, colleges and universities, corporations, prisons and agencies of the federal government.

Eastern Montana College was the first educational institution in the United States to appoint an ombudsperson in 1966. In 1967, Michigan State University became the first major U.S. university to establish an ombuds office. During the period of nationwide campus unrest in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a number of universities established ombuds programs in an attempt to respond to demands for a neutral, confidential and safe place to discuss concerns and voice complaints. It is now estimated that more than 200 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada have established ombuds offices. The majority of the University of California campuses have ombuds programs, some of which started as early as 1969. While today's organizational ombudspersons no longer conduct formal investigations, they do work to help employees find constructive ways to resolve work-related conflict, disputes and problems. It is an ombudsperson's role to listen, understand, coach, inform, strategize, problem solve, refer, mediate and provide upward feedback as appropriate.

Ombuds history excerpted from the University and College Ombuds Association handbook.

The Office of Ombuds Services is equally available to all UC Merced students and employees. We are receptive, respectful and welcoming to everyone accessing our services. To that end, the Office actively works to establish, maintain and increase trust with all our campus constituencies.

In our experience, the sooner you contact our office with your concern, the better. You may have tried to remedy the situation on your own or through other resources and the issue persists. While no concern or conflict is too little or too big for us to help you with, the sooner you reach out for assistance with your problem, the more options you'll have to resolve it effectively. You can talk with us in confidence about any concern related to UC Merced. We will listen to your issues and help you brainstorm possible options.

  • Bureaucratic runarounds and red tape
  • Ethical dilemmas
  • Performance feedback (academic or employment related)
  • Tenure and job security
  • Grade disputes
  • Disciplinary matters
  • Interpersonal difficulty
  • Unfair treatment
  • Bullying
  • Academic honesty
  • Workplace conflict with supervisors and/or employees

The first step in getting assistance is to call the Ombuds Office at 209-228-4410. We will ask you a few questions about your situation, and if appropriate, will schedule a confidential appointment with the Ombuds, De Acker. During your meeting with the Ombuds you can discuss any concern that's on your mind.

After your initial meeting, we may decide to schedule another visit. The Ombuds may need to conduct some research on your issue and is available to contact others on your behalf, but only with your prior permission.

The Office of Ombuds Services operates under the Code of Ethics of the International Ombudsman Association. Neutrality is one of the key ethical principles for an ombuds. Neutrality means that visitors to our office can expect that they will be treated even-handedly, that we will not favor one person over another, that we do not have our own interests in the outcome of situations that come to us, and that we strive to be fair and objective in our consideration of information and the range of options we present. We do not serve as an advocate for any party, but instead are advocates for fair processes and civility.

The Office of Ombuds Services is not a replacement or substitute for formal grievances, investigative and appeal processes provided by the university. Conversations with the campus ombuds are confidential and considered “off the record.”

The office functions outside the scope of the formal grievance process and other formal proceedings. We may make informal inquiries but we do not conduct formal investigations. We may refer employees to campus resources with investigatory powers, including Employee and Labor Relations, Judicial Affairs, the Academic Senate or the Whistleblower Locally Designated Official (LDO).

If an employee uses the Office of Ombuds Services, the ombuds will not act as a witness or provide testimony in any type of proceeding, performance review or process. Additionally, the Office does not accept notice on behalf of the University, nor does it keep formal records. While the ombuds can and does make recommendations regarding the establishment and revision of policies, the ombuds plays no formal role in enforcing or implementing policy.

The ombuds does not have the authority to tell others what to do or not do. However, the ombuds does have the authority to negotiate and mediate problems and conflicts. The ombuds also has 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 the Office does not have the power to change university rules or policies, the campus ombuds can make recommendations to those with the authority to make changes.

The Office of Ombuds Services is an independent department reporting to the Office of the Chancellor. This reporting is only for budget and administrative purposes and does not report on or disclose the substance of individual cases or concerns.

The Office of the Ombuds Office is not a "record keeper" for the university. Confidential case notes are regularly and routinely shredded. The ombuds keeps 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. Based on observations from our caseload, the Ombuds provides regular feedback to university officials regarding systemic problems and publishes official biennial reports for the campus community.

No. The  Ombuds does not take sides in a dispute. We do not advocate for individuals nor do we decide who's "right" or "wrong." The interests and rights of each individual involved in the problem are carefully considered with the aim of promoting a fair, balanced and civil process to effectively resolve the issues raised.

Dispute resolution is an umbrella term that covers a wide spectrum of methods for settling cases and managing conflicts. Common to most of these methods is the participation of a disinterested third party, who may serve in a variety of roles. The following are some of the most common dispute resolution methods:

  • Negotiation: The parties to a dispute engage in back-and-forth discussions designed to reach a settlement of a dispute or conflict.
  • Shuttle Diplomacy/Conciliation: A third party seeks to bring disputing parties to agreement by lowering tensions, improving communications, explaining possible solutions, or providing technical assistance.
  • Facilitation: A third party plays no substantive role but provides information on process as parties with various viewpoints seek to collaborate on reaching a goal, completing a task, or settling a conflict.
  • Mediation: A third party, skilled in identifying areas of agreement, assists disputants in identifying common interests, inventing options for mutual gain, clarifying and narrowing differences, and designing settlement terms that will work for all parties.