About

Overview

Located in Cambridge and Longwood, the Harvard Ombuds Office is a confidential resource available to anyone from the Harvard community, including faculty, trainees, staff, students and those with a Harvard appointment at an affiliate institution.  A discussion with an Ombuds can help a visitor voice concerns, clarify goals and consider options so that they can make their own best decisions about next steps in addressing their concerns.  Any issue affecting one’s work or studies may be brought to an Ombuds. 

Principles of Practice

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Confidentiality

Confidentiality is essential to the Ombuds function and helps create a safe place in which visitors can talk through their concerns.  Information shared by any visitor will not be disclosed without the visitor’s permission except when the Ombuds determines there may be an imminent risk of serious harm or when required by law.  The Ombuds Office does not maintain records that identify visitors to the office. 

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Impartiality

An Ombuds does not serve as an advocate for any party to a dispute.  However, an Ombuds does advocate for productive communication and fair processes and their implementation. 

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Independence

Except for administrative and budgetary purposes, the Ombuds Office is independent in structure and appearance and functions outside of the university’s existing departmental structure. 

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Informality

The Ombuds Office does not record or act upon any notice of complaint and an Ombuds does not conduct formal investigations or participate in formal actions.  If a visitor wishes to make a formal complaint, the Ombuds can educate the visitor about those procedures.   

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Visits the Office?

The Harvard Ombuds Office is open to all Harvard ID holders including faculty, staff, students, trainees and appointees at Harvard’s affiliate institutions. 

Why Visit the Ombuds Office?

The combined elements of confidentiality, impartiality, independence and informality make the Ombuds Office a unique resource within the University.  Visitors to the Ombuds Office are able to informally discuss any issue affecting their work or studies.  They come seeking a private forum in which to gain clarity about their situation so they can make their own best decision about next steps—if any—to take in addressing their concerns.   

What is the Ombuds Role?

The fundamental role of the Ombuds is to listen without judgment and to help visitors identify their issues and goals.  They also help visitors to consider the range of options available to them and support visitors in making their own decisions about their next steps.  Additionally, an Ombuds may bring systemic issues and concerns to leadership for their consideration.

What are the limits to an Ombuds role and services?

An Ombuds is not an advisor or advocate for any individual who comes to their office.  They are impartial and don’t pass judgment on what is shared with them.  If a visitor is seeking an advocate, the Ombuds can help them think through who might serve in this capacity.  Additionally, an Ombuds does not investigate complaints or participate in investigations carried out by others.    

How to find Your Ombuds?

Those seeking to make an appointment with an Ombuds may call or email the Cambridge or Longwood office.  Appointments are available via zoom, phone or in person.  Contact information for the office can be found on the Staff page.

Charter

The Harvard Ombuds Office is currently guided by two (almost identical) charters developed and approved by University leadership in 2011—one each for Cambridge and Longwood.  These charters outline the structure and standards of practice of the two locations.  A revised charter serving both sites will be developed and updated here when complete.

Meet our Cambridge and Longwood Staff