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University Manual on the Ombud


Sections of the University Manual

2.39.10 The Ombud shall investigate complaints from members of the University community -- students, faculty, and administrative personnel -- that they have been unfairly dealt with in the normal channels of administrative process. The Ombud's office is not intended to replace those normal channels. The services of the Ombud are an exceptional administrative procedure to be used only when the normal channels do not adequately respond.

2.39.11 The Provost and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee shall jointly nominate a full-time, tenured faculty or an emeritus faculty for the post of Ombud and shall submit the name of a nominee to the Faculty Senate for confirmation, no later than May 1st of the year in which the Ombud's term is to begin.

2.39.12 The Ombud shall serve for a period beginning the day after Commencement following his/her election and ending one week before registration, approximately 27 months later. There shall be no limitation on the number of times a person is elected to the office. The Ombud shall serve on a year round basis during his/her term of office. An Ombud who is on academic-year appointment shall recontract for the summer under the terms governing department chairpersons. During the transition between the confirmation of his/her successor in May and his/her termination, the outgoing Ombud will be responsible for processing cases originating before Commencement in his/her terminal year. His/her successor will be responsible for processing cases which originate after Commencement and those cases which remain unresolved as of one week before registration. Close cooperation between the outgoing and succeeding Ombud during the period of transition is expected.

2.39.13 The Areas of Responsibility of the Ombud are Equity,Critical Review, and Recommendations and Report.

Equity

To help individuals or groups in specific cases to get just and equitable treatment. In securing equity, the Ombud shall: afford full opportunity for presentation in confidence of any complaint or grievance from any student, faculty member,or member of the administrative staff alleging unfairness,discourtesy, undue delay, or other malfunctioning in any and all processes at the University of Rhode Island; investigate, in confidence, to determine the degree of validity of the complaint; and mediate or otherwise resolve the problem, arriving in confidence at what appears to him/her to be a just resolution (in the dismissal of the complaint, or in recommended action based on the verified complaint). (The Ombud will not be expected to concern him/herself with the normal operations of established grievance processes or disciplinary procedures contained the The University Manual, except that s/he may, on the basis solely of his/her own judgment, inquire into possible bias or malfunction in any of those proceedings, and make a confidential report thereon to the office of the President and to the Chairperson of the Faculty Senate).

Critical Review

To help administrative functionaries (whether connected with Student Government or with faculty or administrative offices) to improve their processes, not only correct a particular inequity or injustice but also to prevent its recurrence. In carrying out this function the Ombud shall: be receptive to all suggestions, comments and criticism regarding the general functioning of University processes and procedures (as distinguished from individual grievances or complaints of inequity); make appropriate inquiries; make recommendations in confidence to the administrative officer who heads the particular unit involved; and report to the office of the President and to the Chairperson of the Faculty Senate as to the disposition of the recommendation.

Recommendation and Report

On the basis of inquiry and experience to recommend such changes in procedure and practices may seem to him/her to be appropriate, and to make final public report of his/her actions. In fulfilling this function,the Ombud shall: in addition to any recommendations submitted in connection with the foregoing functions, from time to time,make such reports and recommendations as s/he deems wise,directly to the office of the President and to the Chairperson of the Faculty Senate, with such substantiation as may be appropriate and prepare an annual report reviewing and evaluating the activities of his/her office during the year, the report to be distributed to the general faculty, the members of the Student Senate, and deans, directors and department heads.In addition to the annual report, the Ombud shall periodically publish in appropriate campus media information on University regulations and suggestions regarding their application.

2.39.14 The Primary Task of the Ombud shall be to serve as a confidential investigator in any specific case of alleged inequity, unfairness or maladministration. In carrying out this task, s/he shall be an impartial spokesperson, both to the person making the complaint and to the person(s) against whose performance the allegation is brought. The Ombud may inquire at the office or other location where the offense is alleged to have been committed, shall be given access to all relevant guidelines, principles, rules, regulations and similar data, and shall be given access to all relevant facts in the case. S/he shall enjoy the complete cooperation of the faculty,administrators or students against whom complaints have been brought. S/he shall receive complete and courteous cooperation from any complainant. S/he shall carry out his/her work in privacy, and with full respect for the rights and immunities of all parties. All records, correspondence, and communications in the office of the Ombud shall be kept in a locked file under sole control of the Ombud.

2.39.15 Having completed his/her inquiries s/he shall make such disposition of each case as, in his/her sole judgment, is best. S/he may dismiss the charges as without foundation or merit. S/he may recommend corrective action to achieve justice or equity in the particular case. S/he shall determine the question of equity and fairness not on the basis of opinion or bias or preference, but on the basis of whether or not the rules, guidelines and other governing statutes have been followed honestly and fairly without undue delay. If s/he finds that a particular rule or regulation or statute is itself unfair or makes for inequity, s/he shall convey that finding to the office of the President and to the Chairperson of the Faculty Senate; but s/he shall not at the same time make a finding against an individual who has faithfully adhered to the guidelines then governing the case. Should the Ombud arrive at conclusions which are critical of the operations and practices of the office of the President, or of the Presidential disposition of cases duly reported by the Ombud to the President, s/he shall so inform the President; and if there is no resolution of the problem which is satisfactory to him/her or directly to the Chairperson of the Faculty Senate.

2.39.16 Powers of the Ombud shall include: access to all records pertinent to any allegation of inequity or injustice or other grievance coming under his/her jurisdiction; the right to inquire of any officer of instruction or of administration, or of any member of the clerical and custodial staffs, or of any student, in connection with his/her proper inquiries and to receive full and complete answers; the right to mediate or otherwise arrive at a compromise or to arrive at his/her own proposal for solution of the problem at hand; the right to present his/her recommendations for solution to the parties involved and to report such recommendations to the supervisory officers of the person(s) involved and to the office of the President and to the Chairperson of the Faculty Senate; and having completed the foregoing process in confidence the right to make a final public report on the matter.

2.39.17 The Ombud shall be provided with office facilities by the Provost including part-time secretarial help.

2.39.18 Compensation and Release Time. If the nominee is a full-time faculty member, his/her teaching and/or research load shall be adjusted in consultation with his/her departmental chairperson, his/her dean, and the Provost. Every effort shall be made to reduce his/her teaching and research load appropriately and professional expectations for accomplishment in these areas shall reflect this commitment to the position of Ombud. S/he shall be free of all committee assignments, student advising and other similar duties, during his/her term of office. The faculty member's department shall be provided with replacement funding from the Provost to the extent of one course per semester. Any additional released time for a full-time faculty member, shall be negotiated by the nominee with the Provost before Faculty Senate confirmation. The summer retainer and any compensation for an emeritus faculty member shall be provided by the Provost.

2.39.19 Student Assistant. The Ombud shall be assisted by a student appointed by the President by July 1 each year in accordance with the procedure outlined below. In March of each academic year, the Student Senate and Graduate Student Association shall conduct searches for their nominees to the position of Student Assistant to the Ombud. The searches shall be conducted in a manner established by each organization. The names of no more than three nominees from each group shall be forwarded to the current Ombud by April 15. Finalists for the position shall be interviewed by a committee composed of the Ombud and a representative of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. The committee shall be convened by the Ombud and shall make its recommendation to the President no later than June 15. The Ombud's Student Assistant shall perform his/her duties in consultation with and under the direction of the Ombud, shall serve a one-year term, and shall be eligible to succeed himself/herself without a search. The Ombud's Student Assistant shall receive a stipend of $1000 per semester, to be paid by the University.

2.39.20 Conflict of Interest. If a complaint to the Ombud in any way compromises the objectivity of the Ombud in handling the case; a past Ombud may be called upon to serve on an ad hoc basis. This arrangement will be mutually agreed upon by the Ombud, the Chairperson of the Faculty Senate and the past Ombud concerned.

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