Ombuds Office

The MIT Ombuds Office serves as a neutral, confidential, independent, and informal resource to the diverse MIT community for resolving disputes, managing conflict, and for educating individuals in more productive ways of communicating. The office advocates for a fair and effective conflict management system, and recommends and supports systemic changes to achieve this goal.

During academic year 2002–2003, the Ombuds Office updated its Operations Plan. Plan goals include continuing to improve the effectiveness of the Ombuds Office in delivering services to the MIT community; effectively communicating the roles and responsibilities of the Ombuds Office to the MIT community; providing support to an effective MIT conflict management system in collaboration with the other elements of the system; and helping to improve the skills and abilities of the MIT community to prevent and manage conflict.

The Ombuds Office received more than 1,000 callers and visitors in this academic year, consisting of faculty; support, service, administrative, and research staff; graduate and undergraduate students; post-docs; and alumni/ae. Common issues included academic concerns, conditions of work and study, performance and supervision, policies and procedures, personal and interpersonal concerns, concerns about various perceived transgressions, separations and terminations from MIT, requests for referrals, and consultations about how to deal with a specific concern. The office played a special role in helping members of the community come forward about very serious problems.

The Ombuds Office was again fully staffed in October, when Kelvin H. Chin joined the office. Mr. Chin brings years of experience in managing, designing, and implementing conflict management mechanisms in business and academic environments. With the addition of Mr. Chin, the office was able to initiate and continue various projects in collaboration with academic and administrative departments, which could have broad implications in the MIT community. The Ombuds are part of a team of academic and administrative professionals from various schools and departments who are reviewing, improving, and attempting to coordinate the Institute's internal administrative conflict management policies and procedures. The office is continuing to improve its web site and other communications.

Ombuds staff, in collaboration with Human Resources officers and the Senior Counsel's Office, designed and taught more than a half dozen workshops, such as "MIT Policies and the Law" and "MIT Complaint Handlers' Seminar," for managers, supervisors, and high-level administrators who handle serious complaints. In addition to facilitating several large group sessions, Ombuds staff provided over a dozen trainings in conflict management, negotiation, diversity, and leadership to groups of faculty, department heads, and administrators. The sessions provided up-to-date information on MIT's complaint-handling processes and focused on helping participants who have supervisory duties improve their complaint-handling skills. Ombuds staff participated as instructors, panelists, facilitators, and internal consultants at several dozen MIT orientations, midways, tutor training sessions, freshman seminars, IAP courses, retreats, and affinity group and DLC meetings. Sessions included review of the roles and responsibilities of members of the MIT community, issues that may rise to the level of a complaint, policies and procedures, and resources available within and outside the Institute, along with skill building.

Externally, Ombuds staff designed and delivered training—and participated in panel discussions about the role of an organizational ombuds in North America—through The Ombudsman Association, the University and College Ombuds Association, and the American Bar Association. Some of these sessions focused on ways that an ombuds program may enhance the effectiveness of an organization, by providing a means for individuals to raise and resolve issues early on, and reduce the number and cost of contentious complaints. Others were training courses or workshops designed to enhance the skill levels of new and experienced ombuds from around the world. Ombuds staff continued to survey ombuds worldwide, collaborated with other ombuds in understanding the effectiveness of the ombuds function, and published articles about the profession and other conflict management topics.

Kelvin H. Chin, Ombudsperson
Toni P. Robinson, Ombudsperson
Mary P. Rowe, Ombudsperson and Special Assistant to the President

More information about the Ombuds Office is available on the web at


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