USFSP Ombuds Office

The Ombuds Offices at USFSP provide confidential, impartial, independent and informal resources for students and employees (staff, faculty, administration, and temporary) to discuss concerns regarding their experience at USFSP and to explore alternatives for resolving problems or complaints through informal means.

Both Ombuds Offices function under the following standards of practice:
CONFIDENTIALITY
In order to create a space to voice concerns, evaluate issues, and generate options, the Ombuds maintain privacy and hold all communication with those seeking assistance in strict confidence unless given permission to do so and to the extent permitted by law and University policy.

IMPARTIALITY
As an appointed neutral third party, the Ombuds do not side with any individual, the University, or other parties involved and consider the interests and concerns of all parties with the goal of achieving fair and equitable solutions.

INDEPENDENCE
The Ombuds Offices operate independently of administrative authorities.

INFORMALITY
As informal resources, the Ombuds Offices do not participate in any formal adjudicative or administrative procedures or processes, including legal.

USFSP Student Ombuds

Diane McKinstryDIANE McKINSTRY

SLC 1210
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(727) 873-4184
studentombuds@usfsp.edu

USFSP Faculty and Staff Ombuds

Joan ReidJOAN REID

DAV 266
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(727) 873-4798
jareid2@usf.edu

Expressing Concern

Please call the Ombuds for an appointment if you are a USFSP student or employee and

  • can’t figure out where to go to get a problem resolved; or
  • aren’t sure if you want to pursue a formal complaint; or
  • want help dealing with an issue in an informal way; or
  • want to rehearse your plan for dealing with a concern with a confidential, neutral listener.

Active Listening

Using active listening techniques, the Ombuds helps visitors describe their concerns, become aware of USF resources that might be helpful to them, and consider their options for how to address their concerns. The Ombuds works to empower individuals to best advocate for themselves.

Except in the unusual circumstances described below, the Ombuds will not reveal the identity of a visitor.

The Ombuds is not part of any formal complaint process, does not carry forward formal complaints, and does not advocate for any party in a dispute. However, with agreement of all relevant parties, the Ombuds may serve as a neutral participant in conversations including these parties. For example, the Ombuds may attend, but not participate in, a Student Code of Conduct hearing with the reporting student or may accompany a student who wishes to discuss a concern with a professor.

Confidentiality

The Ombuds keeps visits as confidential as is legally possible. During a conversation, the Ombuds may jot down a few notes for the Ombuds’ personal use. If the Ombuds agrees to attend a meeting or hearing with a visitor, that person will be asked to provide a written request that indicates consent. Once the concern is addressed, all notes pertaining to the situation are shredded. The Ombuds keeps records on the number of visits, whether the visitor is a student or an employee, and the nature of concerns, but does not include any identifying information in those records.

As the Ombuds Office protects confidentiality and does not keep identifying information, the Ombuds cannot serve as an “Office of Record,” or an “Office of Notice.” The Ombuds will, however, direct individuals to the appropriate offices to file official complaints.

The only way a visitor’s confidentiality would be broken is if there is imminent threat of serious harm or if required by law. For example, the Ombuds would contact the USFSP police department if the Ombuds believed the life of the visitor or the lives of others were at risk. Another example is that the Ombuds is legally required to report known or suspected child abuse.

Improving our Workplace

In addition, the Ombuds listens for ways that USFSP can become a better place to work and learn for all members of our campus community. The Ombuds discusses policies and procedures with the Regional Chancellor and her designees and makes recommendations for changes. The Ombuds supports and nurtures efforts to sustain a strong community at USFSP.

Categories of Concern

Here are some of the categories of concern that you might want to discuss with the Ombuds:

  • Abuse of power;
  • Conflicts of commitment or interest;
  • Offensive behavior;
  • Neglect of professional duty;
  • Questionable practices in research;
  • Any known or suspected violations of USF policy;
  • General suggestions for USFSP policies and procedures that need attention.

The Ombuds will not:

  • Make judgments regarding allegations of wrongdoing;
  • Take sides in any dispute;
  • Tell anyone about your visit or what you had to say, except in the unusual circumstances described.

The role of the Ombuds is to help visitors get clear about their concerns and help them decide among alternative avenues for resolving them.

If the Ombuds has a potential conflict of interest regarding a concern, an alternate Ombuds will be recommended.