While the Washington Post does not reveal other details about the GWU Ombuds program, the conflict of interest is a critical defect. Organizational and Classical Ombuds both share the common characteristics of independence, impartiality and confidentiality. The American Bar Association observed that:
The ombuds’ structural independence is the foundation upon which the ombuds’ impartiality is built. If the ombuds is independent from line management and does not have administrative or other obligations or functions, the ombuds can act in an impartial manner. [¶] Acting in an impartial manner, as a threshold matter, means that the ombuds is free from initial bias and conflicts of interest in conducting inquiries and investigations. (ABA Revised Standards for the Establishment and Operation of Ombuds Offices.)Obviously, the GWU Ombuds program was not practicing in conformity with IOA, USOA or any other recognizable standard for Ombuds. Having administrative oversight of the student complaint process was a clear conflict with the Ombuds’ other responsibilities. For the accrediting agency, this failure to follow established programmatic norms was cause for concern. This particular case is significant for the Ombuds profession because it marks the first time a university has been cited for a deficient Ombuds program. The lesson for universities is that their Ombuds programs should reflect existing standards.