The office operates outside of formal channels to provide full assurance of confidentiality and an additional layer of conflict resolution resources to more fully promote a respectful and ethical campus community in line with the University’s values and policies.
Neal Powless G'08 serves as University Ombuds. He is a Ph.D. candidate in the Newhouse School, earned a bachelor's degree in psychology at Nazareth College, a master's degree in counseling at SU and is a Nationally Certified Counselor. Powless previously served as assistant director of the Native Student Program in the Office of Multicultural Affairs and a career counselor with the Center for Career Services. Learn more about Neal Powless.
The Office of the Ombuds launched in February 2018 in response to recommendations from the University Senate Committee on Women’s Concerns and the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion. It provides University staff, faculty, and graduate students, a place to go outside of such formal institutional channels as Human Resources, the Office of Equal Opportunity Inclusion and Resolution Services, Office of University Counsel, or Risk Management, to address work-related concerns or questions openly and without fear of retaliation or judgment.
Undergraduate students are encouraged to continue to avail themselves of the various existing informal and formal processes and services at the University (e.g., the Office of Student Assistance, the Counseling Center, Hendricks Chapel, Health Services, the Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion & Resolution Services) to address and resolve issues that might otherwise be handled by the Ombuds for employees or graduate students.
The Office of the Ombuds operates according to four core principles:
- Confidentiality: All communications and inquiries are confidential to the extent permitted by law. The office will not disclose identities of visitors to the office or the contents of conversations.
- Independence: The Ombuds operates independently of existing administrative structures and processes and free of any interference or influence from the University or University administrators.
- Impartiality and Neutrality: Ombuds staff are neutral, impartial, third-party resources for University employees and graduate students. They do not take sides for or against any individual, cause, or position.
- Informality: The office provides informal assistance only. It cannot initiate formal investigations, proceedings or disciplinary processes, nor can it adjudicate cases or change/set aside any rule, policy, or administrative decision. It is designed to complement—rather duplicate—existing grievance procedures.
The Ombuds reports to University leadership on general trends and patterns of complaints without breaching confidentiality so that problems can more effectively be prevented from escalating or recurring.
The Office of the University Ombuds provides a venue for complaints, conflicts, or concerns that visitors do not wish to address through other official University channels. These concerns might include disputes, interpersonal conflicts, or questions about University policies, practices, or services.
In response to employee concerns or complaints, the Ombuds Office may take a number of steps, including:
- Listening carefully and without judgment to concerns
- Clarifying University policies and procedures
- Helping employees and graduate students explore and evaluate options on how to proceed
- Referring employees and graduate students to appropriate University resources
- Coaching employees and graduate students on effective communication tactics and other means of de-escalating and resolving interpersonal conflicts
- Engaging in shuttle diplomacy and/or informal mediation, where appropriate
While the Ombuds has no authority to take formal action in response to complaints, it may help employees or graduate students file formal complaints by providing them with relevant information.
For more complete information on the scope of services provided by the Office of the Ombuds, view the Office of the University Ombuds Charter.
Neal Powless, Ombuds
111 Waverly Ave., Suite 215