Welcome from the Faculty Ombudsperson
Thank you for visiting! My name is Lisa Phillips. I am honored to serve as the ISU Faculty Ombuds. I joined ISU in 2003 and am currently Associate Professor in the Department of History. My role as faculty ombuds allows me to draw on my experience with faculty governance, my expertise in the history of class, gender, and race, and my interest in ensuring that faculty members have access to all resources available. I am determined to help ISU serve its faculty in the best ways possible.
Please do not hesitate to contact me directly using the information to the right. I am able to communicate via e-mail, schedule phone calls, or set up individual meetings, however best protects your confidentiality. I would also be pleased to visit your college, department, committee, or other group to share information and answer questions about the resources provided by this office. I welcome the opportunity to serve you and the larger ISU community in this capacity.
Please take a moment to explore the information and resources below for more information about the role and functions of an ombuds. In part, you will find that I strive to offer a confidential, impartial, informal, and independent environment in which faculty feel comfortable discussing their questions and concerns. I thank Dr. Carrie Ball, who served as ISU’s first Faculty Ombuds, for setting the example. I will do my best to follow her lead and respond to faculty concerns.
A full description of how this office operates can be found in the Faculty Ombuds Charter document.
What is the role of a faculty ombuds?
My major role is to provide free support and guidance for faculty regarding workplace questions, concerns, or disputes. This includes:
- Confidentially discussing a range of issues, including alleged actions, omissions, improprieties, and/or broader systemic problems
- Listening to concerns, clarifying issues, and proposing a range of options for resolution
- Providing information about University policies, procedures, practices, and resources.
- Helping faculty identify the best course of action in their specific situation
My involvement and guidance in any given situation is tailored to the dynamics of the situation and the needs of the visitor(s).
A second important role of the faculty ombuds is to report general trends throughout the organization without disclosing confidential communications. This includes:
- Providing feedback to the University administration when trends, patterns, policies, or procedures of the University generate concerns or conflicts
- Recommending changes to policies, procedures, and systems when appropriate
- Serving as an information, communication, and dispute resolution resource or consultant to the broader University community when appropriate
What can I expect if I meet with you?
I strive to do the following:
- Confidentially hear and impartially discuss your concerns.
- Help you locate and understand relevant University, College, and Departmental policies and procedures
- Help you identify and evaluate options for resolving your workplace concerns
- Help you locate information or obtain answers to questions that you might feel uncomfortable asking for yourself
- Encourage collegial relationships and effective interpersonal problem-solving
- Facilitate conversations between you and others, if all parties agree it may be beneficial
- Refer you to appropriate University resources, services, or programs
- Empower you to pursue your professional potential
- Monitor trends across the university and advocate for systemic change when needed
What I do not do:
- Provide psychological counseling services
- Offer legal advice
- Establish, change, or enforce policies or procedures
- Make decisions or findings of fact, determine “fault,” or participate in grievance proceedings
Ombuds Ethics and Standards of Practice
As a member of the International Ombudsman Association (IOA), I operate according to four important ethical principles. More information about each can be found below, or by reviewing the IOA Ethical Principles or IOA Standards of Practice Documents.
Communication with the Ombuds is confidential and off-the record. This includes:
- Whether someone has or has not met with the Ombuds
- The identity of a visitor
- The content of a visitor’s concerns in any way that could identify the visitor
The Ombuds may share identifiable information if the visitor gives specific permission to do so and the Ombuds deems the sharing of information to be helpful in resolving a concern. For example, if a visitor wants the Ombuds to facilitate a conversation with a third party, some disclosure of identifiable information may be necessary. In such situations, the Ombuds will exercise discretion and will not disclose information the visitor wishes to keep confidential.
The Ombuds is required to disclose confidential information if and when there is, as judged by the Ombuds:
- An imminent risk of serious harm to any person
- Suspected maltreatment of a child or endangered adult
- A court order requiring such disclosure
The Ombuds advocates for fairness, equity, and objectivity in the treatment of all persons and issues. Thus, the Ombuds:
- Impartially considers the rights and interests of all parties
- Seeks equitable and mutually agreeable resolutions
- Avoids taking sides by representing or advocating for any one party
- Avoids involvement and refers visitors elsewhere in situations in which there may be a real or perceived conflict of interest
The Ombuds operates independently from other organizational entities and is not part of the formal reporting structure of the University. This means that the Ombuds:
- Has sole discretion about whether and how to become involved in a matter
- Operates without concern for interference, retaliation, or the control of individuals outside the office
- Has access to all individuals and information necessary to resolve a matter (except where prohibited by law or University policy)
For administrative purposes and evaluation of the Ombuds Office, the Ombuds reports jointly to the Provost and the Chairperson of Faculty Senate; however, even those individuals do not control or interfere in operations of the Office and do not have access to information that is confidentially disclosed to the Ombuds.
The Ombuds is meant to supplement—not replace—formal channels within the University. This means that:
- Meeting with the Ombuds is completely voluntary and cannot be required as part of, or a pre-requisite to, any other process (e.g., prior to filing a grievance)
- The Ombuds does not investigate, arbitrate, or participate in any formal process
- The Ombuds has no authority to make findings of fact or fault, and cannot make, change, set aside, or enforce policies or administrative decisions.
The Ombuds does not maintain formal records other than basic information used to identify patterns and trends within the University. Any notes taken about specific situations are routinely destroyed.
FAQ’s about the Ombuds Office
What should I expect if I meet with you?
On your first visit, I will generally ask to set aside 60-90 minutes. I will first give a very brief overview of the purpose of the Ombuds and the four Standards of Practice and answer any questions you have about the office. Next, I will ask you to voluntarily give me some basic information about yourself that I can use to keep track of patterns and trends. You are free to decline sharing this information if you wish.
Thereafter, I strive to create a safe environment in which you feel comfortable discussing your questions and concerns. My goal is for you to feel heard, understood, and helped at the conclusion of our meeting, whether or not your problem has been solved. I aim to offer you the resources and information that will be most helpful for you in pursuing your chosen course of action. In addition, you are welcome to return or follow up with me as needed until your problem has been resolved to the extent possible.
What kinds of things could we discuss?
I am willing to discuss any question or concern that affects your work as a faculty member. Some common issues that arise include:
- Workplace bullying, incivility, and interpersonal conflict
- Reappointment, promotion, and tenure proceedings at the Department, College, and University levels
- Conditions and processes for teaching (e.g., re-appointment of temporary part-time faculty) and non-teaching (e.g., appointment of program coordinators) appointment decisions
- Policies and procedures for resource allocation (e.g., travel money, graduate assistants)
- Questions about filing grievances at the College or University levels
Is what I tell you confidential?
Yes. Even my direct reports do not have access to the identity of those who meet with me or to any identifiable information we discuss. Whether or not you have met with me and anything we might discuss will be held in confidence unless you give me specific permission to share it.
There are three important situations in which I cannot keep information confidential:
- When I believe there is an imminent risk of serious harm to an individual
- When I suspect maltreatment of a child or endangered adult
- When compelled by court order
Can you help me file a grievance?
I can help you:
- Decide whether filing a grievance is the right decision for you (e.g., discuss pros/cons/alternatives)
- Understand what elements are necessary to include, should you choose to file a grievance
- Locate the appropriate forms and policies and answer questions as you prepare your initial grievance
- Read what you write and offer feedback as a neutral observer
- Help you make a stronger argument
- Make any guarantees about what will happen in a grievance process
- Participate in a formal process at any stage, such as by being a witness or formal mediator
- Advocate on your behalf or offer guidance once you have initiated a formal grievance
Do you work for the University? Who do you report to?
I am employed and appointed to this position by the University. For administrative purposes, I report jointly to the Provost and the Chairperson of Faculty Senate; however, even they do not control or interfere with how I fulfill my responsibilities or have access to information that is confidentially shared with me.