The University Ombuds serves the University of Mississippi Community by providing a confidential and off-the-record place for faculty, non-faculty employees, and graduate students to discuss and obtain assistance with a wide range of concerns that affect the campus environment. We are dedicated to promoting a positive and harmonious campus environment, serving as an advocate for campus-wide fairness, and providing assistance to all members of the University Community so that we may all live up to the ideals set forth in the Creed. To this end, and operating in accordance with the standards of practice and code of ethics set forth by the International Ombudsman Association, the University Ombuds provides the following services:
If you need a place to talk about a campus-related issue or concern, we are here to listen. The University Ombuds’ Office is not part of any formal process, we are not part of any chain of command, and we have no authority to take any actions against anyone. What we can do is provide a safe, confidential, and off-the-record place for you to talk about campus-related concerns or issues. If you are interested in receiving help in generating options for addressing your concerns or campus-related issues, we can do that too.
Individual Assessments and Referrals:
The University of Mississippi has many offices and resources available to employees and graduate students, such as the online University Policy Manual, the Equal Opportunity & Regulatory Compliance Office, the Graduate Student Council , the Counseling Center, the Department of Human Resources , and many more. Knowing where to turn for assistance can sometimes be daunting. We can help you navigate the various systems and departments that are here to assist you.
When visitors (“visitor” is the term for people who seek services from an ombuds) come to the University Ombuds’ Office, we listen to what they say so that we can understand the visitor’s issue or concern and assess the situation facing the visitor. We then help the visitor identify options for addressing their issue or concern, and, when appropriate, we make referrals to other on-campus or off-campus resources.
Individual Communication and Conflict Coaching:
The University Ombuds is available to assist visitors identify underlying concerns, develop communication and conflict resolution skills and strategies, and develop a plan for exploring the next steps towards addressing their issue or concern.
Workplace-Focused Psychometric Instrument Administration and Interpretation:
University Ombuds Paul Caffera is certified to administer and interpret several workplace-focused psychometric instruments, including: Leadership Circle Profile®, Conflict Dynamics Profile®, Hogan Personality Inventory®, Hogan Development Survey®, and Hogan Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory®.
The University Ombuds is available to mediate disputes between individuals and between groups. Mediation is often useful for creating an environment in which constructive dialog and problem solving may occur. Mediation, like all the services offered by the University Ombuds’ Office, is a confidential and voluntary process in which the University Ombuds assists two or more people gain a better understanding of their respective positions in order to allow the parties to find a mutually-agreeable solution to the issues that confront them. The mediator has no authority to force any party to enter into mediation. The mediator has no authority to make any party participating in mediation take any action or reach any agreement. The parties to a mediation maintain full control of their own situation and are not obligated to agree to any proposed solution unless it meets their needs.
Facilitate conversation between individuals:
At times, and with the permission of the visitor to the University Ombuds’ Office, the University Ombuds may act as a go-between the visitor and another person. Such facilitated conversations are especially beneficial when people are involved in conflict but communication has broken down between the parties.
Facilitation is a process in which the University Ombuds helps a group of people who have agreed to meet — in order to a resolve an issue or concern — by keeping the group on task and moving productively towards achieving their goal, while ensuring that all participants have an opportunity to offer input into the process and the proposed solution.
We meet with various campus groups and departments, and conduct informational presentations across campus, to increase awareness of the role performed by and the services offered by the University Ombuds’ Office.
The University Ombuds is developing a library of dispute resolution and personal development resources for use by the campus community.
The University Ombuds is available to provide training for University employees on a range of conflict resolution, workplace communication, and workplace bullying topics. University Ombuds Paul Caffera is also UM’s Certified Crucial Conversations® Trainer.
Providing University Leadership with Feedback about Trends and Issues of Concern:
The University Ombuds’ Office serves to identify systemic issues by tracking trends in issues brought to the Office. The University Ombuds consults on an ongoing basis with key administrators, faculty, staff, and graduate student organizations, as well as other leaders on campus, in order to bring systemic concerns to the attention of those who are able to make positive changes on campus. Each year, the University Ombuds provides University Leadership with an annual report that summarizes the types of issues brought to the Office.
The Ombuds Addresses Issues Such As:
- Interpersonal conflicts
- Disciplinary actions
- Performance evaluations
- Workplace health and safety concerns
- Personal and sick leave concerns
- Understanding University policies and procedures
- Claims against reputation
- Ethical dilemmas
- Understanding formal grievance options and procedures
- Policy violations
- Unprofessional conduct
- Cultural misunderstandings
- Retaliation or threats of retaliation
- Departmental conflict
- Other workplace-related concerns
The Ombuds Does:
- Listen attentively to concerns and recommendations
- Keep your visit confidential, unless there is a danger if imminent harm or required by law
- Help identify a range of resolution options
- Explain University policies and procedures
- Facilitate communication between people
- Mediate between parties
- Serve as a facilitator in group problem-solving
- Make referrals to other sources of assistance
- Provide information about formal and informal reporting options
- Suggest the redirection of matters to formal channels when appropriate
- Advocate for fairness, equity, inclusion, and a healthy campus environment
- Consult with University units and departments on options for conflict resolution
- Assist in achieving outcomes consistent with fairness, established policies, and the law
- Provide confidential guidance, information and individual coaching to help prepare for difficult conversations
- Point out patterns of problems/complaints to administrators
- Identify trends and make recommendations for improvement to prevent issues from recurring
- Make recommendations regarding changes in policy and procedures
The Ombuds Does NOT:
- Tell anyone what they should do
- Take sides in a dispute
- Serve as an advocate or represent any individual or group
- Determine guilt or innocence
- Provide legal advice or representation
- Provide counseling services
- Make or overturn management decisions
- Make, change, or set aside established policies
- Participate in any formal grievance process
- Testify in any formal process inside or outside the University
- Serve as a judge or arbitrator in a dispute, or otherwise make determinations about the outcome of the case
- Serve as an office of record (the University Ombuds’ Office does not keep formal records)
- Accept notice for the University (although members of the University of Mississippi Community are welcome to meet with the University Ombudsperson to discuss where and how to file a formal grievance or put the University on notice)
- Handle academic complaints, such as grade appeals
- Breach confidentiality
- Conduct formal or in-depth investigations
- Replace existing resources
Not an office of notice:
All communication with the University Ombuds and the University Ombuds’ Office is informal and “off the record.” Neither the University Ombuds nor the University Ombuds’ Office act as an agent of “notice” for the University. Neither the University Ombuds nor the University Ombuds’ Office accept notice on behalf of the University of Mississippi. Consulting with the University Ombuds will not initiate any formal complaint process; however, members of the University of Mississippi Community are welcome to meet with the University Ombuds to discuss where and how to file a formal grievance or how to put the University on notice. In the alternative, members of the University of Mississippi Community are welcome to contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Regulatory Compliance (662) 915-7735, the Title IX Office, Telephone (662) 915-7045, TDD:(662) 915-1570, or the Office of General Counsel located at 209 Lyceum, Telephone (662) 915-7014, Fax 662-915-5640 in order to provide the University with formal notice of an issue.