Clark University’s Ombudsperson, Israela Brill-Cass, is an informal, confidential, neutral, and independent resource for staff and faculty who want to discuss any concern, issue, or conflict — without fear of retaliation or judgment.
What to expect in a visit
When you have a virtual visit with Israela, she will explain a bit about her role, then let you talk about your concerns.
An ombudsperson (or “ombud”) can:
- Be a sounding board and offer a neutral and impartial perspective
- Provide you with information about how to manage challenging conversations and resolve a matter informally
- Answer questions, identify your goals, and provide information to help you assess your options (not legal advice)
- Coach you in written and verbal communications
- Refer you to the appropriate office to file a formal complaint or grievance, if you wish to do so
- Mediate conflicts and facilitate conversations if all participants are willing to do so
An ombudsperson cannot:
- Make or change a University policy, rule, or decision
- Provide legal advice or representation
- Testify in formal grievance proceedings
- Conduct investigations or grievance proceedings
Israela will help you weigh your options and develop strategies — but you decide what to do next.
As a member of the International Ombudsman Association (IOA), Israela Brill-Cass subscribes to the IOA’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, including confidentiality, independence, neutrality, and informality.
The purpose of the ombud’s office is to create a safe space for faculty and staff to share their concerns, examine issues, and identify and consider potential options. All communications are confidential, which means that Clark’s ombud won’t share the name of anyone who visits — in person, via email, phone, or video conference — in or outside of the office. She also will not share what we discuss unless she receives explicit permission to do so. The only exception to this confidentiality is if I feel there is an imminent risk of serious harm, in which case I’ll notify an appropriate individual or office.
The ombudsperson is independent and outside of Clark’s administrative structure. The only “reporting” will be in the form of general check-ins with President David Fithian to see if the office is being used. Reporting will not include any identifying information about individuals or issues unless visitors specifically ask for their information to be shared.
The ombudsperson is an impartial third-party whose role is to offer objective assessments of any concerns raised and to provide information about what options are available to employees. She has no authority to take action or advocate on anyone’s behalf and cannot compel anyone or any department to respond.
An ombud is an informal resource for faculty and staff. She does not and cannot make or override decisions or formally advise any individual. The ombud does not maintain any permanent records of confidential communications and cannot participate in any formal adjudicative or administrative process regarding concerns brought to my attention. Her role is to listen and offer perspective and information only.
About Israela Brill-Cass
Israela has more than 20 years of experience as an attorney, mediator, facilitator, trainer, ombuds, and consultant. In 2015 she launched her company, Fixerrr LLC — the 3 r’s stand for rethink, respond and resolve — to help individuals, groups, and organizations recognize their strengths, assess their options, and gain the tools they need to succeed. In 2017 she became Wesleyan University’s inaugural ombudsperson.
Since 2003, Israela has taught negotiation (including culture and gender in salary negotiation), conflict communication, dispute resolution, mediation, and ombuds skills in both the public and private sectors for such clients as the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Tufts Women in Medicine and Science, MassMutual, MIT, Arabella Advisors, the American Bar Association, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A faculty member in the Communication Studies Department at Emerson College since 2012, she teaches courses in Conflict and Negotiation, Persuasion, Mediation, Advocacy, and Pre-Law.