Student Ombuds Office works to ease student difficulties
College academics can sometimes be scary and confusing. When questions arise and problems unfold, individuals may feel as though they have exhausted all possible options for help.
This is where the Student Ombuds Office comes in. Director of Administration for Enrollment and Student Services Brad Kloha said the Ombuds Office is a safe place for students to voice their concerns about administrative problems.
“What the student (ombudsman) function really does is that they’re a neutral party,” Kloha said. “They’re an advocate for a fair process. They’re a neutral party that helps to refer the student to figuring the conflict process or to someone who can help them better with the situation.”
The Ombuds Office serves as a counseling system for students confused with the administrative process. Things such as grade disputes with a professor can be brought to the Ombuds Office, which works to help individuals put them on the right track and guide them to the correct personnel. Student complaints are confidential.
“I think more than anything, it’s just to act as a resource for students to make sure that their voice is heard and to make sure they get assistance when they need it,” Kloha said. “It’s really a situation basis. A lot of times in most situations, it’s just usually like ‘Oh have you gone through the proper administrative channels?’ And if they haven’t, it’s getting them to talk to the right person they need to. Usually it’s all rectified and it doesn’t go much higher than that.”
Getting students to talk to the correct person usually involves getting them in contact with the department chair, dean, or director of the administrative office the individual is having problems with. Students can voice their concerns in the Ombuds Office because that’s what it’s there for: Outlining options that are available for solving problems.
The office, however, is not to be used for legal counseling.
“The Ombuds Officer can advise you of your rights within the university but will not provide legal advice or represent you in a legal matter,” reads the FAQ section of the office’s website. “The Ombuds Officer is a neutral facilitator, not an advocate for either side of a dispute. The goal of the Ombuds Office is to advocate for fair process.”
Kloha stressed the fact that Ombuds is available to students as a resource.
“Student Ombuds doesn’t really make a decision,” he said. “They will refer to people who can make that decision or explain what a university policy is that’s really affecting that situation.”
Students interested in making an appointment with the Ombuds office can do so by phone, email or simply walking into Kloha’s office, Ronan 220.
“[Students] can call the office,” Kloha said. “There is a specific Ombuds phone they can reach, 989-774-3010, and an email, firstname.lastname@example.org .”
When emailed by students, Kloha works with Kyle Pybus, the Student Ombuds Officer and Administrative Aide of CMU’s Global Campus, to decide the best course of action. Both Global Campus and on-campus departments collaborate to handle the problem to the best of their ability.
Ombuds Office hours are from 8 a.m-5 p.m. and are available for students Monday through Friday.