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Conflict Management in Higher Ed Report
Volume 4, Number 1, Oct. 2003

A Composite Campus
Ombuds Profile

Ombudsing presents many challenges. It is tough at times to not favor one side or another and remain neutral/impartial. The campus ombuds finds it difficult at times to leave work at work and not take things home. It can be frustrating cutting through red tape, dealing with close-minded and difficult clients, and encountering individuals committed to "winning" or "being right". Additionally, the work may leave one feeling isolated, and emotionally drained.

Important tools found in the ombuds toolkit include: listening, patience, persistence, balancing creative and analytical problem solving skills, and debriefing with colleagues.

The campus ombuds is also a visionary. On the horizon she/he sees an ombuds office in every university and college. Ombudsing has gained legitimacy in higher education as a useful and important alternative for managing and resolving conflicts and promoting justice within institutions. A continuum of experience exists in the office. One year terms have been extended, and the appropriate staffing provided in order to optimize the campus benefits from ombudsing. The office is respected, well known, and is a "first thought" for the campus community when seeking assistance in resolving a problem.

The ombuds knowledge base has increased, and more specialization among the skill sets has occurred. Ombuds have effectively met the challenges of increased enrollment, budget cuts, and an increase in the complexity of issues, both legal and moral. The ombuds concept has evolved, is readily understood by the public, and very few individuals have difficulty pronouncing the word. Clear boundaries are defined between the different categories of ombuds, types of ombuds, their primary function, and roles.

Many research and special interest projects have been finished and new projects have begun. State wide shield laws legally guaranteeing ombuds confidentiality have been created. The areas of disagreement between ombuds working in different categories (classical/executive/organizational/quasi/specialty/advocate) have been resolved and a common "language" has been created that enables ombuds scholars to make legitimate comparisons of ombudsmanship in different institutions. The Ombuds Profile Project, The Case Study Project, and The Ombuds Oral History project have expanded as research resources to include the work of all categories and types of ombudsing.

The California Caucus of College and University Ombuds continues to meet at Asilomar. The conferences are well document and select transcripts are available online as learning resources. The Caucus Journal has published an anthology which is found in the library of every major university. It has also been made available online. Alternative Dispute Resolution has become a field of study within Political Science Departments and an emphasis in ombudsing is offered. Peer ombuds groups join the efforts of peer mediators in high schools. An international ombuds is appointed and joins a team of international alternative dispute resolution practitioners to problem solve for acts of injustice and unfair processes. Progress is made toward problem solving for world peace.

This is what a campus ombuds looks like in 2002.

Misa Kelly is the Assistant Ombusperson at the University of California - Santa Barbara Ombuds Office. She can be reached at (805) 893-3285 or by email at


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Page last updated 04/27/2004

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