Table of Contents
The Ombuds office entered its 4th year of service at Bellevue College. During this academic year, many members in the Bellevue College community helped deliver the Ombuds services to those who needed services. They sometimes referred individuals to the Ombuds office for assistance, and at the other times, they took care of those referred to them. Due to confidentiality, these individuals cannot be named. However, please know that your efforts in collaborating to seek out the best options for those who needed assistance are deeply appreciated.
Finally, special thanks to faculty members who shared their insights in three mini-luncheon seminars for student success designed to reduce misunderstanding between faculty and student interaction in fall 2010.
This annual report is to provide a summary of services provided by the Ombuds Office from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011. The report contains the following components:
- Section 1: Overview of the Ombuds Office
- Section 2: Utilization Analysis
The report is intended as a resource to college administrators, faculty, staff, and students to better understand the role of the Ombudsperson. It is hoped that the report will stimulate positive reflections contributing to on-going improvement through trend discussions and suggestions contained herein.
The Ombuds Office of Bellevue College was established in April 2007 to promote the rights and interests of individuals in the community of Bellevue College. Currently, the office is staffed by a part-time Ombuds reporting to the president of the college. The goals of the Ombuds Office are to foster equity, fairness, pluralism, and institutional values. The office provides a safe place for students, staff members, faculty members, and/or community members to confidentially voice their concerns and also to receive impartial consultation on these issues. The services, operations, and foundation are based on the principles, best practices, and code of ethics of the International Ombuds Association (IOA): confidentiality, impartiality, informality, and independence.
Individuals in the campus community can contact the office in person, by phone, or via email. Once contacted, the ombuds will meet an initiating visitor individually to learn his/her situation in detail. During the one-on-one meeting, the Ombuds empathically listens to whatever concern is being expressed and then provides a “reality check” by discussing the situation in light of what is common practice on campus. Applicable laws, policies and procedures are identified to assist in this process and to help develop available options to address the situation or resolve the concern. Available options usually include both informal and formal actions designed specifically to address the unique situation and individual(s) involved. If options involve making contact with others, the Ombuds will provide names, titles, and contact information for those individuals and/or offices.
Community members who consult with the Ombuds can do so with assurance that their contact will remain confidential. The Ombuds Office is not an “office of notice.” No one will know they contacted the office unless the following three conditions are met:
- When the ombuds believes there is an imminent threat of physical harm,
- When federal and/or state laws mandate the disclosure of details that identify a client, and
- When there is a legal proceeding with a subpoena.
With an eye toward improving institutional effectiveness, the Ombudsman informs college administrators and governance bodies of broad trends in the types of issues and concerns raised within the community and also recommends changes in institutional practices, policies and procedures.
The ombuds office uses the term “visitor” to describe an individual who receives and participates in ombuds services in person or via telephone since the term “client” commonly implies advocacy which contradicts the neutral role of the office.
Visitors can be:
- initiators who contact the office to request help in resolving their issues of concern
- participants who are directly involved in a situation with an initiator and whom the ombuds contacts with the permission of initiators
- information contacts whom the ombuds contacts to obtain information pertaining to a situation.
In this reporting period, 418 individuals have contacted the office requesting help to resolve their issues of concern. These individuals contacted the Ombuds office either after unsuccessful attempts to resolve their concerns on their own or before deciding whether to take action regarding their situations. Among 418 visitors, 328 (78%) of them were students, 40 (10 %) were faculty members, 34 (8%) were staff members, 11 (3%) were parents, and 5 (1%) were members affiliated with Bellevue College community.
Of 418 self initiating-visitors, 147 (35.16%) were Caucasians, 63(14.35%) were Asian Pacific, 21 (5%) were African Americans, and 32 (7.6 %) were Hispanics/Latinos. One hundred fifty- five (37 %) of these self initiating-visitors did not identify their ethnic backgrounds.
With permission from the visitors, the ombuds contacted 38 individuals who were directly involved in a situation. During the problem solving process, 24 individuals have provided the ombuds with information relevant to a situation.
Figure 1-2 shows the number of initiating visitors by constituent group in the past four reporting cycles. The number of student visitors has a significant increase every year while the number of visitors from different constituent groups is fluctuating.
Figure 1-3: portrays the number of three types of visitors in the past four reporting cycles. The number of initiating visitors is increasing every year while the number of participating visitors fluctuates between 32 and 54. The disproportionate ratio between initiating and participating visitors might result from the power distance between initiating visitors and potential participating visitors since a majority of initiating visitors are students. The Ombuds would serve as a problem consultant or a sounding board for an initiating visitor when another party involved in a situation was not contacted. Information contacts listed above tend to be college administrators who can provide the Ombuds with the objective data and information relevant to a specific situation.