Right at the edge of campus, tucked away via a nondescript parking lot side entrance in the basement of Russell House, you’ll find the on-campus home of Israela Adah Brill-Cass, Wesleyan’s first ombudsperson.
Walking through the unmarked screen door can feel a bit unnerving, like trespassing unannounced or entering through a secret back entrance, but Brill-Cass soon welcomes you into the comfort of her office. It’s a small and simply decorated space with bright textile prints on the wall and soft music offsetting the quiet that comes with being the only inhabitant on the entire floor.
The remote location and private access are by design, to help ensure the promise of confidentiality that is a crucial component of Brill-Cass’s work. “Visitors” (as Brill-Cass calls those who come to see her) schedule appointments ahead of time through her website and are staggered so that there is less chance of others seeing who stops by.
As Wesleyan’s inaugural ombuds, Brill-Cass serves as an objective, independent resource for faculty and staff, providing a safe space where individuals can talk through any workplace issues they may be experiencing without automatically triggering an investigation or required next steps.
“It’s like triage. I’m the first step where people can say, ‘Am I really perceiving it this way? Or is this something I might be feeling because _____?’” Brill-Cass explains. “I talk to them about their options. ‘If you want to address it directly, here’s how you can proceed from here. If you don’t want to address it directly, here are ways that you can manage the issue.’ People can then use the information to decide whether or not they want to take the next step. It’s completely voluntary.”