Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about the work of the ombuds:
- Who do you serve?
- The ombuds is available to all faculty and staff of ACC, from hourly employees to part-time classified to full-time faculty. If you work for ACC, the ombuds is here for you.
- How can people make an appointment?
- Employees may book appointments through Calendly. There are options for different locations as well as phone appointments. You can call the Office of the Ombudsperson at 512-223-1070. Email is discouraged as it creates a record and confidentiality cannot be guaranteed.
- Who do you report to?
- The Office of the Ombuds reports administratively to the executive vice chancellor of Finance and Administration, Neil Vickers. The ombuds is accountable to, and works in service of all members of the ACC community.
- Are you really confidential?
- The ombuds is the one and only confidential resource for faculty and staff. Exceptions to confidentiality are imminent threat of harm to self or others and abuse and neglect of a minor. As of January 1, 2020 in alignment with state law, the ombuds also is required to report incidents of sexual assault, sexual harrassment, dating violence, and/or stalking that occurs in the workplace to the Compliance Office.
- How is the ombuds different from HR?
- The primary differences between HR and ombuds are confidentiality and informality. While there are exceptions to confidentiality, the priority of the ombuds is to be a safe, confidential space to discuss all challenges or concerns an employee is facing. The ombuds office is not an office of report or record. HR has more obligations to report incidents and concerns. HR is an office of notice and record. HR also is the office for formal processes such as grievances or progressive discipline. The ombuds office is an informal office and does not participate in these formal processes.
- What kind of data do you keep?
- The ombuds keeps basic demographic information. One of the goals of the office is to track informal reporting on types of conflict and basic trends. At the start of a visit, the ombuds will ask how long you have been with ACC and what type of employee you are (faculty / prof-tech / classified). All data kept will be published in annual reports which will be presented to the cabinet, the board, and made public. NO identifying information is kept by the ombuds.
- What does a visit to your office look like?
- All visits to the ombuds office are voluntary. The ombuds is a trained, neutral party who, after asking basic intro questions as listed above and providing the visitor with a confidentiality statement, will invite you to share your story. The visit is a private one-on-one conversation where you’re welcome to think and process out loud. The ombuds will engage in the conversations in ways that are intended to help gain clarity, perspective, and inform you about possible options. The next steps are up to you.
- If you are not an advocate, what do you do?
- The ombuds for staff and faculty serves as an organizational ombuds and practices to the standards set forth by the International Ombudsman Association. This type of ombuds, standard in higher education, serves as a neutral and not as an advocate. The ombuds is still here to serve the visitor in the room. The ombuds helps visitors to clarify goals, identify options, connect to resources, and be empowered in their next steps.
The ombuds also serves as a signal boost for top issues facing our community. The more the challenges the ombuds is aware of the more the ombuds can help to magnify those issues to leadership.