Office of the Ombuds
The Office of the Ombuds welcomes any member of the Penn community who is experiencing difficulty, conflict, or confusion at work, within their studies, or throughout their life at the University more broadly.
We offer an accessible and safe place to resolve differences, mediate disputes, explore matters of concern, improve communication, and generate and evaluate options.
Our mission is to ameliorate conditions that interfere with a person’s ability to find satisfaction as a member of the Penn community. Our door is open to students, staff, and faculty. We encourage people to contact us at the earliest stages of a problem so that we can assist before it escalates.
The Office of the Ombuds conducts its business in accordance with four principles, outlined below. Each visitor to our office is provided with a handout reflecting these principles.
Visitors we meet with virtually are provided with a link to this “Principles” page and are instructed to read it in advance of the meeting.
Penn’s Office of the Ombuds does not accept formal complaints or notice for the University. If a visitor wishes to make a record or put the University “on notice,” that is, to make the University formally aware of a particular problem, we can provide information on how to do so.
Visitor engagement with the Office of the Ombuds is entirely voluntary; no one is required to use the resource, but those who do understand and agree to abide by the principles upon which it was established (confidentiality, impartiality, informality, and independence, as set forth below). As a condition to accessing the services of the Office of the Ombuds, visitors understand and agree that they will not call anyone on the Office of the Ombuds staff to testify or produce documents with respect to confidential communications in any formal, legal, administrative, or other proceeding.
The Office of the Ombuds is a confidential resource available to all members of the Penn community. “Confidentiality” means that we will not disclose any information you share with us, unless you have given us permission to do so. The exception to this confidentiality if you disclose information that gives reasonable cause to believe that there is an imminent risk of serious harm to you or someone else.
We do recognize that some members of the University community may be hesitant to discuss concerns due to fear of retaliation by persons about whom issues have been raised, or others. The University’s Policy Against Retaliation is clear that the retaliation against one who makes a bona fide disclosure of an issue of concern is strictly prohibited.
The Office of the Ombuds doesn't take a side in a dispute, nor advocate for an individual, a particular point of view, office, school, center, department, or any other party. Our role is to be an objective third party who is available to assist with the resolution of the matter.
The Office of the Ombuds operates informally. We do not keep the names of individuals who visit the office, or any documents or materials. We keep no records. If you would like us to review documents (e.g., a transcript, performance evaluation, email, or any other material), we will do so but will either return the materials to you or shred them upon completion of the engagement. Any such documentation should be delivered to the Ombuds Office in hard copy and not electronically. Any personal notes we take will also be destroyed upon the conclusion of the engagement.
Electronic communications with the office are strongly discouraged. Emails and voicemail messages are not stored, and are promptly deleted.
The Office operates independently of the University hierarchy and reports only to the President or a designee from the President’s Center, so that we can avoid the risk of undue influence, conflict of interest, or appearance of conflict of interest by other members of the University hierarchy.
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS REGARDING OUR STANDARDS OF PRACTICE, PLEASE RAISE THEM AT THE OUTSET OF OUR CONSULTATION.