Before this past October, I had never heard the word “ombud” before, but when I got called to participate in the national search for ombudsmen, I jumped right in!
In the wake of a series of institutional crises, USC recognized the need for a neutral, safe place for Trojans to express their concerns or workplace challenges. Thus, President Wanda Austin and Vice Provost Varun Soni established the Office of the Ombuds as a way to move our university forward and mitigate future disputes. Because ombuds are independent from any other school, department, or office, they do not take sides and are familiar with existing University resources and avenues that may help resolve conflicts. Kathie Greenwood will be the primary ombud for UPC, and Tom Kosakowski will serve on HSC.
The main pillars of an organizational ombudsperson, or more commonly known as an ombud, are informality, independence, neutrality, and confidentiality (except if there is imminent risk of serious harm). Any student, staff, or faculty can head into the office and discuss a conflict or problem freely. The ombud will listen and then walk through possible solutions while talking through the risks, rewards, costs, and benefits.
One point of clarity is that they do not directly resolve issues for you. While they will listen and discuss potential options, they will not serve as your advocate since they are impartial. However, if your concern is a part of a larger trend, they do have the authority to escalate systemic problems to the appropriate parties as high up as the President or the Board of Trustees.
The new Office of the Ombuds is an important resource on campus because visitors will leave better informed and empowered to resolve their own issues, and the university will have improved awareness and decision-making. If you are experiencing any problems within the context of USC and your education or work, make sure to set up an appointment with an ombud! They are the office of first-resort, and their information can be found at provost.usc.edu/office-of-the-ombuds.
Published on February 20th, 2019
Last updated on April 1st, 2021