Faculty Ombudsperson

Current Ombudsperson
Dr. Sara K. Bridges
Email: Ombudsperson@memphis.edu
[To maintain your privacy, please consider limiting the personal information included in your initial email.]
Phone: 901-878-9739

The University of Memphis Faculty Ombudsperson is an independent, confidential, impartial (neutral), and informal resource, chosen from the University of Memphis faculty, who is available to all members of the University faculty, including all tenured, tenure-track, clinical, research, and one-year instructors, to facilitate dispute resolution through cooperation, consensus, education and mediation. The Ombudsperson reports to the University President. The major function of the Ombudsperson is to provide confidential and informal assistance to faculty of the institution. Serving as an independent, impartial neutral, the Ombudsperson is neither an advocate, attorney, or officer of formal notice, for any individual nor the University, but rather, serves as an advocate for fairness, equity, and compliance with policies and due process. The Ombudsperson acts as a source of information and referral, aids in answering questions, and assists in the resolution of concerns and critical situations. More specifically, the Ombudsperson engenders awareness and skill development in the areas of conflict resolution, communication, team building and civility.

Ombudsperson's activities assist the faculty to resolve complaints that have not risen to the level of formal grievances, with the goal of promoting alternatives to adversarial processes. The office supplements, but does not replace, the university's existing resources for conflict resolution. Staff and student conflicts should be directed to the Department of Human Resources and Student Academic Success respectively.

The Ombudsperson maintains collaborative relationships with other University offices (e.g., Academic Affairs, Human Resources, Institutional Equity, Student Affairs) in the conduct of her/his functions.

The Ombudsperson may NOT disclose specific identifying confidential information that does not involve a significant risk of physical harm, without the consent of the faculty member communicating with the Ombudsperson.

Dispute Resolution/Consultation and Referral Responsibilities

  • Provide impartial and confidential consultation to members of the college/university faculty community who are aggrieved or concerned about an Issue
  • Remain independent, neutral and impartial, and exercise good judgment
  • Assist inquirers in interpreting college/university policies and procedures, seeking input from appropriate offices when needed
  • Provide assistance to inquirers by clarifying issues and generating options for resolution
  • Facilitate the inquirer's assessment of the pros and cons of possible options
  • If direct action by the ombudsperson may be an appropriate option, obtain the inquirer's agreement and permission before proceeding
  • If necessary, and while maintaining confidentiality, conduct appropriate informal fact-finding in order to better understand an issue from all perspectives
  • Consult with faculty to develop cooperative strategies for complaint resolution
  • With the inquirer's permission, consult with all parties to clarify and analyze problems, focus discussions, and develop a mutually-satisfactory process for resolution
  • When appropriate, facilitate group meetings, use shuttle diplomacy, or negotiation skills to facilitate communication among parties in conflict.
  • When legal and/or disciplinary issues arise, the Ombudsperson refers the case to the appropriate unit of the University

Policy Analysis and Feedback Responsibilities

  • Serve as a campus resource for officials in formulating or modifying policy and procedures, raising issues that may surface as a result of a gap between the stated goals of the institution and actual practice
  • Based on anonymous aggregate data, prepare an annual report to the Faculty Senate, Provost and President that discusses trends in the reporting of grievances and concerns, identifies patterns or problem areas in university/college policies and practices, and recommends revisions and improvements, where appropriate.
  • Act as a liaison between individuals or groups and the campus administrative structure, serving as a communicator or informal facilitator, as appropriate
  • Function as a sensor within the campus community to identify problems or trends that affect the faculty.
  • Provide early warning of new areas of organizational concern, upward feedback, critical analysis of systemic need for improvement, and recommendations of systemic changes

Community Outreach and Education Responsibility
The Ombudsperson is responsible for on-going education and communication about the office's role to all potential inquirers as well as to university leadership

Procedure for Selection
Nominations for Ombudsperson will be solicited 90 days before the end of the current Ombudspersons term. The Faculty Ombudsperson has been chosen by a six person selection committee composed of three members appointed by the Faculty Senate and three members appointed by the President. The Committee's nominee was subject to the approval of the Faculty Senate and the President.

Ombudsperson Selection Process Timeline >

The information presented on this page should be considered a guide and does not supersede or replace policies and procedures outlined in the University of Memphis Faculty Handbook.