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Columbia University Ombuds Office

University Ombuds Officer: Marsha L. Wagner

Associate University Ombuds Officer: Jennifer McFeely

(212) 854-1234

660 Schermerhorn Extension

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The Ombuds Office offers a safe place for any member of the Columbia community to discuss workplace issues, interpersonal conflict, academic concerns, bureaucratic runarounds, and many other problems. You can speak freely to us because we promise to keep our discussions confidential, and we are not part of any formal University process. We don't take sides in disputes and operate independently of the Columbia administration, reporting only to the president.

Authority of the Ombuds Office
We have the authority to contact senior officers of the University, to gather information in the course of looking into a problem, to mediate or negotiate settlements to disputes, to bring concerns to the attention of those in authority, and to attempt to expedite administrative processes. Also, although we do not have the power to change University rules or policies, we can make recommendations for change to those with the authority to implement them.

Often our recommendations are based on perceived trends. While we do not keep records of specific complaints or problems, we do keep track of general statistical patterns and bring concerns to the attention to those with the authority to make institutional improvements. These data may signal emerging issues, indicate new trends, highlight vulnerable groups of students or employees, or suggest areas of improvement. Our data collection never includes details that could identify individuals' confidential information.

Activities

What We Do
Our responses are tailored to the individual's situation and informed consent, so we may:

  • Listen, which may be all you want
  • Offer information about Columbia University policies and procedures
  • Discuss your concerns and clarify all the issues
  • Help identify and evaluate a range of options for resolving a problem
  • Gather information and offer referrals to other resources
  • Offer coaching, for example, to help you prepare for a difficult conversation
  • Facilitate communication, indirectly or through shuttle diplomacy
  • Work for collaborative agreements through mediation
  • Track perceived issues and trends
  • Make recommendations for institutional improvements
  • We operate under the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the International Ombudsman Association.

The Ombuds Office keeps anonymous aggregate statistics of the types of concerns received in the office and periodically conveys perceived issues and trends to senior administrators.

What We Do Not Do
We will try our best to assist you, but there are some things we do not do:

  • Make decisions or findings of fact
  • Establish, change, or set aside policies
  • Offer legal advice
  • Offer psychological counseling
  • Participate in grievances or other formal processes
  • Serve as an agent of notice for the University
  • Serve as an advocate for any individual
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Columbia University Ombuds Office

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