Om-Ombuds… Ombudsperson?

Hello, dear readers! Happy institutionalized day of romance! Any Valentine's plans? Have you ever seen the posters around campus telling you to contact the Ombudsperson? Or ever wondered what that is? I did. The office has been around for more than 30 years, but the original concept came from the Swedish parliamentary system. The Ombudsman was put in place to make sure that the government was fair. In that sense, I had a vague sense of what the office does, but not really. So I did what curious UpbeaTers do - I called the office on Friday. The line didn't pick up, so I left a message, and resigned myself to writing about something else for today because in my experience, I usually get called back a day later, which in this case, would be today. Imagine my surprise when Assistant Ombudsperson Garvin De Four returned my call less than half-an-hour later! Just what does the Office of the Ombudsperson do? "We are part mediator, investigator, and counsellor," said Garvin, "We are a neutral office which attempts to provide guidance and assistance to individuals with problems pertaining to the administrative process." "We report to the Governing Council, so we deal with any incidents that fall under that umbrella. This can include student, faculty and administrative problems." I asked Garvin for examples, because that was still a bit vague. In sum, the Ombudsperson can help you if... - you are an undergraduate student who received a letter from the Provost summoning you to a meeting regarding academic integrity; - you are a graduate student who is having issues with your supervisor; - you are a post-doctoral candidate who is have issues with your management; - you want to know how to petition against an appeal; - you are unable to pay tuition due to a sudden and unexpected circumstance; - etc. "We empower students by advising them of their rights and responsibilities," said Garvin, "We make sure they are informed about the resources available to them." So let's say you got that letter from the Provost. The office won't go with you to the meeting, but will help you prepare for it. If you really plagiarized and are looking for an easy way out, sorry, the office is not the way to go. If you accidentally plagiarized because you didn't realize what you were doing was plagiarism, the office can tell you how to honestly represent yourself at the meeting with the Provost. Whatever the circumstance, the office is there to make sure you know what you're getting yourself into, and to make sure you know about the resources at the University that can help you. With only three people in the office, I was curious as to how many cases the Ombudsperson receive on average each year. "That's a hard question to answer," said Garvin, "because each case is different. Some can be as simple as a phone consultation, while others can go for 6 months." Have you ever needed to contact the Ombudsperson, dear readers? If so, what was the experience like? - Cynthia

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