About the Ombudsman
The Ombudsman's Office assists members of the Penn community in navigating the University, especially when they find that traditional paths have been unhelpful or unsatisfactory. “Ombudsman” is a Swedish word that loosely translates to “representative of the people.” While it is not gender specific, the terms “ombudsperson” or simply “ombuds” are commonly used to describe the position.
Established in 1971 as the result of a Faculty Senate Task Force Report, Penn’s Ombudsman Office is one of the oldest in the United States. It operates independently of the University hierarchy and reports only to the senior administration. The ombudsman has direct access to all levels of the University—the president, provost, deans, chairs, professors, department heads, directors, and others on campus with responsibility for the educational, residential, recreational and work environments of faculty, staff, and students, as well as their general welfare.
What We Do
We are available to listen and inquire into issues or complaints; to explore options for informal resolution of conflicts; to mediate specific disputes; to clarify and examine university policies and procedures; and to connect you with appropriate resources within the University. We also advise and make recommendations to the administration about procedures or policies that need to be revisited, modified or clarified.
What We Don’t Do
It is important to note, however, that we have no authority to impose resolutions on disputes, nor can we serve as advocates on behalf of any party. Rather, we can make inquiries, gather data, try to broaden mutual understandings, and reframe conflicts.