Principles

Autumn leaves color the campus.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is the foundation of the Office of the Ombudsman and is a fundamental principle in our professional Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. As a visitor to the Office, you can expect that conversations with the Ombudsman are confidential and off the record. Confidentiality does not apply: a) when there is imminent risk of serious harm to yourself or anyone; that includes disclosures of child or elder abuse; b) during the course of your communications with the Ombudsman, you give him/her permission to make disclosures and the Ombudsman agrees to do so.

  • The agreement to maintain confidentiality is what allows the office to be an alternative channel of communication. The Ombudsman will not disclose the identity of a visitor who uses the office nor disclose any information regarding a voiced concern without the visitor’s expressed permission.
  • The Office of the Ombudsman provides an alternative resource for a visitor to explore and consider options in order to make informed decisions.

Informality

Use of the Office is voluntary. The Office is not a replacement or substitute for any formal processes provided by the University, investigative and appeal processes provided by the university. Conversations with the Ombudsman are confidential and considered off the record.

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 issue
  • Discuss and assist the visitor in evaluating available options
  • Facilitate constructive dialogue
  • While maintaining confidentiality, provide feedback to the administration (or others in authority) about recurring and/or systemic issues

Neutrality/Impartiality

The Ombuds Office operates under the Code of Ethics of the International Ombudsman Association. Impartiality is one of the key ethical principles for an Ombudsman. Impartiality, or neutrality, means that visitors to our office can expect that they will be treated in a non-judgmental way.

The Ombudsman does not serve as an advocate for any particular party (including you or GMU) in any situation. The Ombudsman will avoid involvement in matters where the Ombudsman may have a conflict of interest.

Independence

The Ombudsman follows the same rules as other George Mason University employees as to vacation, job duties, behaving in a professional manner, etc., but is not part of the University administration. The Ombudsman is free from any influence in addressing issues and assisting students with informal problem solving. The fact that the Ombudsman works outside of the formal channels means a person can raise a concern without bringing it as a formal complaint or going on record.

For more information on the Ombudsman principles and answers to specific questions, visit Q&A.