College of Arts and Sciences

CAS Ombudsperson

Maria Pao.

Dr. Maria Pao

Illinois State University
Campus Box 4300
Normal, IL 61790

Office: Stevenson Hall Room 119
Telephone: (309) 438-7374
Fax: (309) 438-8038


University Ombudsperson Site

What is an Ombudsperson?


Ombudsperson is from Swedish, a Germanic language in the same family as English, and means "commissioner, agent." Derived from Old Norse, an umbodhsmadhr was a deputy who looked after the interests and legal affairs of a group such as a trade union or business. In 1809 the office of ombudsman was created to act as an agent of justice to look after the interests of justice in affairs between the government and citizens.


The CAS Ombudsperson is available during all academic sessions to faculty, staff, and administrators of the CAS community. The guiding principles of an ombudsperson are objectivity, neutrality, independence and confidentiality. The Ombudsperson assists in mediating and resolving misunderstandings and disagreements. She will assist people with interpersonal misunderstandings and disputes as well as complaints about academic or administrative issues. The CAS ombudsperson will help individuals resolve concerns fairly, and whenever possible, informally.

Students who are seeking assistance are encouraged to contact Community Rights and Responsibilities at the Office of the Dean of Students

What an ombudsperson does do :

  • Listens and discusses questions, complaints, and concerns in neutral and detached fashion
  • Provides answers to your questions or helps you find the person who can
  • Explains University policies and procedures and their effect
  • Opens avenues of communication
  • Facilitates conflict resolution
  • Mediates disputes so that an acceptable resolution for all parties can be found
  • Provides advice when a remedy is not within the Ombudsperson’s Jurisdiction
  • Identifies patterns of problems and complaints to administrators
  • Actively represent commitment to fundamental fairness within the CAS campus community

What an ombudsperson does NOT do:

  • Resolve grievances that are in formal litigation
  • Take formal disciplinary actions
  • Address formal complaints or grievance hearings
  • Address union and/or arbitration hearings

With regard to grievances, complaints or concerns, please note that notice to the Ombudsperson does not constitute notice to the institution. The Ombudsperson does not testify in formal or legal actions, is not part of the official grievance process and has no power to order rule changes or behavioral changes of individuals. However, the ombudsperson does have an obligation to bring attention to policies, programs, personnel and institutional decisions that violate rights of individuals of CAS campus community.


Q: I am a CAS staff/faculty member. May I go to the CAS Ombudsperson if I have a problem?

A: Yes. The CAS Ombudsperson is appointed to assist members of the CAS community with problems or concerns that may hinder their professional, academic, or personal lives. The assistance may be an objective review and recommendation, an investigation, an interpretation of policy, or a beneficial referral.

Q: I am a staff member who believes that my supervisor does not care about my professional concerns or needs. What can the CAS Ombudsperson do?

Q: I am a supervisor who feels that my employee is not hearing, understanding, or responding correctly to my concerns. I would like to retain this person because of their value to the department. What can the CAS Ombudsperson do?

A: Before a situation reaches the formal action stage, the CAS Ombudsperson can assist in opening up avenues of communication so that effective means of addressing and resolving the issues can be found.

Q: On whose side is the CAS Ombudsperson? Mine or theirs?

A: Neither. The CAS Ombudsperson is a neutral and impartial individual participant.

Q: Since the CAS Ombudsperson is employed by the College, is the Ombudsperson more responsive to the needs of administrators, especially if those administrators are tenured faculty, Chairs?

A: No. The CAS Ombudsperson is an advocate for equity. No sides are taken; no opinions are rendered as to who is "right" or "wrong". At all times, the CAS Ombudsperson works to deliver the most informed advice possible to enable you to correctly address your problem or grievance.

Q: As a supervisor, I may simply want to discuss a problem, concern, or situation without being put in the "formal process machine". May I engage in a conversation about a problem, an employee grievance, or a personal grievance without rumors being spread or notes taken which might circulate?

Q: If I have a personal problem about which I need advice, will a visit to your office jeopardize my career?


Q: If I simply want information on what to do about a particular problem or concern, can I count on complete confidentiality from the CAS Ombudsperson?

A: All conversations with the Ombudsperson are confidential and, therefore, no one will know that you have visited the Ombudsperson. At all times the discussions, issues, concerns, or problems you discuss with the Ombudsperson remain in strict confidence, unless you give authorization for the release. Furthermore, to preserve your confidentiality, rights, and to help you feel more secure about the process, the CAS Ombudsperson can meet with you at a location other than our office. Telephone meetings also can be arranged.

A: The CAS Ombudsperson is a resource established at CAS to help you informally address your concerns. Frequently, this help may consist of recommending you to an office such as the University Mediation Program, Academic Senate, Human Resources, or other staff and faculty support entities, such as the University Faculty Ombudsperson.

Q: As an employee, what should I do before coming to the CAS Ombudsperson?

Q: As a supervisor, what should I do before coming to the CAS Ombudsperson?

A: The following steps might be useful to take before scheduling an appointment with the Ombudsperson:

  • Know and use the policies and procedures regarding employee or faculty rights.
  • Remain open to the other positions on the issue.
  • Ask for and consider the solutions being offered by other involved party. Discuss the pros and cons of these solutions.
  • Address the problem directly with those involved. Be open, sensitive, and accessible to sharing the responsibility for resolving the issue.
  • Remember, no matter how problematic an individual may appear to be or may have been, their current complaint may be valid.
  • Maintain confidentiality. Divulge only statements and information upon which public release has been previously agreed.
  • Try to keep the solution as informal and unencumbered as possible. Utilization of tape recorders, stenographers, lawyers, or family members tend to heighten tension and force the issue into a formal, confrontational arena in which neither party wishes to be.

If all of the above fail, and you are still not committed to a formal University process, then contact the CAS or University Ombudspersons for assistance.