Do you need guidance on how to address a grade appeal, class withdrawal, financial assistance or a health problem? Have you ever looked for clarification on a campus policy or procedure, but did not know where to go? At the University of Miami, who do you seek when you need help in resolving a concern or mediate a conflict?
Established in 1970, the Ombudsperson Council was created to open channels of communication between students and the university community by providing an identifiable person to listen to student grievances. The goal was to increase student satisfaction by attempting to assist in the resolution of problems and minimize the red-tape and shuffle effect. Since its inception, the Ombudsperson Council has expanded into a comprehensive service called the Ombudsperson and University Troubleshooters Program.
If students have a concern over an academic or administrative matter, they should consider accessing a university troubleshooter or ombudsperson. The university troubleshooters are faculty members and administrators who serve as a first responder, on behalf of their departments, and provide assistance to students seeking help.
“My role as a university troubleshooter is to assist students with their individual questions and problems which they alone have been unable to resolve,” University Troubleshooter for Department of Residence Halls Jon Baldessari said. “Sometimes a phone conversation or e-mail correspondence does the trick, but many times a one-on-one conversation is the most meaningful to the student and typically moves the process along to a productive outcome.”
When regular channels have not brought resolution to your problem and after you have spoken to the appropriate troubleshooter, you should contact the appropriate ombudsperson. The role and approach of the ombudsperson is impartial, confidential and informal.
“The ombudsperson facilitates a voluntary process. We listen, answer questions and interpret University policies,” Dr. Gail Cole-Avent, university ombudsperson said. “Ultimately, the goal is to educate students and identify resources that will help them resolve their concerns.”
The Ombudsperson Program does not bypass or circumvent departments or classroom instruction. It does not eliminate certain structured grievance and appellate mechanisms already established by the university.
For more information, please feel free to visit www.miami.edu/ombudsperson. The website provides access to the University Troubleshooters directory. Students may also submit a case online. The appropriate ombudsperson may be contacted by visiting the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs in the Ashe Administration Building Room 244, by phone at 305-284-4922 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Cole-Avent oversees the Ombudsperson and University Troubleshooters program and addresses the administrative/non-academic concerns. V. Chunoo is the Academic Ombudsperson and addresses academic concerns.
Jacqueline Ledon, University Troubleshooter for the Student Health Services, summed up her role:
“Smile…I’m here to help!”