Four key principles guide our exercise of integrity and ethical behavior: confidentiality, independence, informality and neutrality. The Ombuds fosters respect for all members of the Medical College of Wisconsin community and promotes fairness in the content and administration of College practices, processes and policies.
We are confidential
We will not identify you or discuss your concerns with anyone without your permission. The only exceptions to this pledge of confidentiality are when the Ombuds determines that there is an imminent threat of harm or in the rare instance that the Ombuds is legally compelled to report the situation.
We are independent
We are independent of central administration and are not aligned with any campus department or group. We work hard to merit the trust others place in us.
We are informal
Any communication with us is “off the record” and does not put MCW on formal notice.
We are neutral
We do not take sides. We consider the rights and interests of all parties. We are advocates for good communication and fair process.
The Medical College of Wisconsin Ombuds Office functions according to the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) Standards of Practice (PDF) and the core values of independence, impartiality/neutrality, confidentiality and informality.
These Standards of Practice are based upon and derived from the ethical principles stated in the IOA Code of Ethics (PDF) and govern the way in which our office receives complaints, works to resolve issues and makes recommendations for the general improvement of the Medical College of Wisconsin.
For many individuals, the Office of the Ombuds is often a safe first step in addressing a problem. For others, contacting the office may occur later in the evolution of a concern. Speaking with the Ombuds should help increase your awareness of available alternatives for resolving work-related problems and will enhance your ability to deal more effectively on your own with troubling situations.
Common issues brought to the Office of the Ombuds include:
• Academic integrity
• Advisor-advisee or supervisor-supervisee relations
• Compensation and benefits
• Conflicts of interest
• Disciplinary action
• Educational integrity
• Ethics / Whistle-blowing
• Fear of coming forward or of acting to stop unacceptable behavior
• Fear of retaliation or actual retaliation
• Harassment, discrimination, abuse of power, bullying, unfair treatment
• Help in writing a reference, evaluation, commendation, a letter of concern, or help in writing responses
• Intellectual property disputes
• Interpersonal relationships
• Performance appraisals
• Personality conflicts
• Policy issues
• Racism or other forms of discrimination
• Research-related issues
• Safety issues
• Scientific misconduct
• Suggestions for improvement at the Medical College of Wisconsin
• Working conditions
Research-related concerns are a common reason to consult with the Office of the Ombuds. Individuals may pursue these informal inquires for numerous reasons: they may try to gather information; determine whether their perception has any validity; reflect on their respective situations; seek and discuss interpretations of school policies; brainstorm approaches to discuss these topics with a decision-maker; or learn about procedures if a formal complaint were to be made by or against them.
Queries in this category may include:
- animal care and use
- authorship (order and inclusion)
- attribution of credit
- disposition of research products (what is mine and what can I take with me when I leave)
- human research protection
- integrity in science issues (e.g., conflict of interest, professional misconduct, misrepresentation of data, protocol errors, plagiarism, etc.)
You can contact the Office of the Ombuds for individualized appointments tailored to your specific concerns.
To contact the Office, call us any time at (414) 266-8776. You may provide information and also tell us how to reach you – or you may choose to remain anonymous. You may make a telephone appointment or you may meet with us in person. If you would like an appointment, and we are not immediately available, leave a message and we will contact you as soon as possible. We also try to schedule appointments as quickly as possible, depending on the schedule of the visitor.
We will listen to your workplace concerns or suggestions and will try to brainstorm issues, options and possible outcomes with you. You may decide that you would like just to think things over. You may decide to handle a concern on your own or you might ask us to make an informal telephone call about the issue of concern. If we agree to make a phone call, we would discuss with you whether this seems like an effective option. The Ombuds and his staff will not answer questions about people with whom they may have spoken, nor disclose an individual’s name or specific issue, with anyone outside of the Ombuds Office – unless during discussions with a visitor they are given permission to do so for the purpose of informal conflict resolution, and if the Ombuds also agrees to attempt informal resolution. The exceptions to this pledge of confidentiality are described above.
We can help you bring information to the attention of appropriate individuals. We would be happy to talk with you about Medical College policies, to refer you to relevant line and staff managers and to discuss formal options for resolving complaints.
The Ombuds does not conduct formal investigations, adjudicate, arbitrate or serve as a witness voluntarily in any administrative or legal proceedings either at the Medical College or elsewhere. Since the Office is made available to faculty, staff and administrators as a purely voluntary and “alternate” channel of communication, those people who use the program also will be considered to have agreed to abide by these principles of confidentiality.
The Ombuds will provide you with a safe forum to voice your workplace concerns, evaluate your situation, organize your thoughts, assess your feelings and decide what is important and relevant according to your specific circumstances.
Working together, we will generate and explore options for you to consider. Options can range from simply talking about your problem to pursuing a formal grievance internally or externally. You choose the options you prefer. Keep in mind that timelines contained in policies and procedures, such as the Staff Conflict Resolution Policy and the Faculty Grievance Procedure, are not waived or extended while informal options are explored.
Your privacy will be respected, as conversations will ordinarily remain confidential. Notes are not kept. In very unusual circumstances, such as a court order or where there is a potential threat to safety, and all other options appear to have been exhausted, information may need to be shared. Please let us know if you have particular concerns about confidentiality.
If you choose not to use informal processes or attempts at resolving the situation informally have failed, you may choose a more formal grievance process. The Ombuds will discuss how to access the formal process appropriate to your circumstances but does not participate in any formal proceedings.