Office of the Ombudsperson
The Hampshire College ombudsperson is Larry Hunt. The ombudsperson provides a neutral place for faculty and staff to talk through concerns in a confidential environment. You may bring any concerns that you feel need attention, and Larry will work with you to develop options for addressing them.
The ombudsperson is here to provide completely confidential workplace counseling to staff and faculty on many different issues and situations. The ombudsperson can help you with challenges such as:
- Conflict with a colleague or supervisor
- The need to have a “difficult conversation”
- Lack of clarity about a Hampshire policy or practice
- Any situation that you are unsure how to handle
You may meet with Larry in person or on Zoom. To schedule an appointment, please contact Larry at lhPR@hampshire.edu or at 413.559.6628.
A Message from Larry Hunt
If you are stressed out and highly challenged by a situation at work, you may not feel confident and trust that anyone can really understand or help you. I acknowledge that it can be hard to reach out to someone you don’t know and don’t yet have reasons to trust. I sometimes hear from people that they’ve been intending to get in touch with me for months before they did so.
All of our discussions will be confidential, informal, and relaxed. You’ll also see that I take the time needed to understand your issues. Together, we will develop a course of action you can take.
If you think this could be helpful, please contact me at lhPR@hampshire.edu or 413.559.6628.
Hampshire College Ombudsperson
What to Expect in a Meeting
The first thing I will do when I meet with you is take the time needed to get to know you a bit better. It will be helpful to know about your background with the College, your department, and the people with whom you work. I will explain how my role as a neutral and independent resource can benefit you. I will commit to total confidentiality in our discussions and explain the rare exception to that — those instances where there is risk of significant, imminent harm.
We’ll then get into the specific matter that is causing you concern. I will ask you to describe the situation, giving you the time you need to explain it.
Together we will explore the set of issues and challenges present in the situation. For instance, a conflict with a colleague might have the following issues:
- Differences in communication style and a sense of not “being heard”
- A sense that neither party is fully respecting the other
- Fears that confronting an issue may create further problems or even retaliation
- Lack of clarity in roles and expectations
- Lots of emotions coming up that are difficult to sort out
Once we fully understand the important issues present, we will brainstorm about what can be done to address these issues. While there are rarely easy solutions, there are almost always some actions that can help. We will usually explore the specific goals you have in the situation. Getting clearer about these can really help. These steps alone can create a greater sense of optimism.
In many instances, people seem to benefit most from jointly developing a specific plan for a discussion they will have with one or more of the involved parties — their supervisor, for example, or dean or colleague.
We may sometimes need more than one meeting to get through all this, and it’s not uncommon for me to meet several times with someone. I am available to take whatever time is needed to help you get to a place where you feel more ready and confident.
What Not to Expect in a Meeting
What should you not expect when we meet? Though I make every effort to support you in our discussions, there are some actions that I cannot take in response to our meeting, such as:
- I don’t conduct investigations. Any matter requiring investigation should be brought to Human Resources or other formal channels at the College.
- It is not part of my role to make policy. There may be times, however, when I might suggest that the College consider a different approach to a policy.
- Meeting with me is an informal activity. I don’t participate in formal processes such as grievance procedures or legal matters.
- I do not provide legal advice.
- I will not breach confidentiality, except in very rare situations involving threat of imminent harm. I will explain these exceptions in my first meeting with you. If you and I agree it would be good for me to speak with another party, then I would do so on a strictly need-to-know basis.
I practice according to the standards set by the International Ombudsman Association (IOA). Specifically, we adhere to the IOA Code of Ethics and IOA Standards of Practice. The IOA is the largest international association of professional organizational ombuds practitioners in the world.
Here are examples of some of the questions or concerns that faculty and staff might bring to the ombudsperson:
- I’m not getting along with a coworker. What can I do to improve the situation?
- I need to have a difficult discussion with a colleague. Can you help me think through how best to handle the conversation?
- I’m not happy with the performance feedback I've received from my supervisor. What can I do to better understand the feedback and meet my manager’s expectations?
- I’m feeling that the behavior of a colleague is unprofessional, and I’d like some advice on how to address the situation.
- I feel I’m being treated differently by my supervisor than he/she treats others. What can I do about this?
- Several people in my department are not getting along. Are there actions I can take to improve the situation?
- I’m having an ethical dilemma and want to talk through the issues with someone who will keep it confidential.
- I have a concern about my manager but am worried about retaliation if I bring it to their attention. Can you provide some coaching on how best to handle this?
- I have concerns about safety or other aspects of my work environment but am not sure what to do.
- I’ve been told that a particular policy does not allow for something I believe should happen. Can you help me understand the policy and how it is applied at Hampshire College?