CLS Student Ombuds Program to Increase Responsiveness to Student Complaints

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 6.30.58 PMWhen you have a problem, who do you turn to? At what point would you deem a problem “serious enough” to inform administrators? How many times have you had a complaint or grievance but never brought that issue to the administration?

In the Spring 2013 CLS Student Senate Survey, students criticized the Law School’s responsiveness to student complaints and problems. Within the survey, students disclosed multiple issues that affected their experience at CLS. Many students noted that they were revealing these issues for the first time and had never before brought these issues to the attention of the administration.

Issues cannot be addressed unless they are brought forward. More importantly, though systematic problems may exist, they cannot be solved unless our administration is aware of consistent student grievances and can recognize patterns. In order to help lower the threshold for students to report grievances, Student Senate has announced a pilot ombuds program.

For those who may not know, an ombudsperson is a person who is charged with representing the interests of a given group of people by investigating complaints and addressing them with lobbying. They are uniquely positioned to recognize and bring to light systemic issues. An ombudsperson maintains anonymity unless a particular situation demands accountability, like if a student is involved in gender-based misconduct or is a harm to him/herself or others. Paul Chander and I will serve as the program’s first ombudspeople.

The main purpose of the ombuds program is to provide a safe space for students to anonymously report issues, to help the administration be more responsive to student grievances, to provide a non-administrative reporting system, and to improve the overall experience of students at CLS. It will strive to ensure that every student feels heard, that issues are addressed and dealt with as they arise, and to facilitate and encourage open dialogue by providing a platform for face-to-face discussion between the parties of a complaint. All in all, we hope to increase to increase the number of student reports, and to respond to those that would bring forth positive changes to the Law School.

We emphasize that ombudspeople will be happy to act as representatives to voice concerns on behalf of students, especially those relating to issues that students may feel uncomfortable bringing to the attention of the administration themselves. Examples of such issues range from student group misconduct to insensitive comments in classrooms or job interviews.

We are currently in the process of creating an advisory board consisting of student leaders, administrators, faculty, and conflict resolution experts. If you are interested in participating or contributing, please email us.

How to Report to the Ombuds Program:

You can report your problem by sending an email to the ombuds email account, or for further anonymity, by posting on the anonymous ombuds webportal. The post or email should describe your problem and indicate your preferred method of communication.

Upon receiving your report, an ombudsperson will work with the faculty and administration to advocate for you and to resolve the issue. Your identity will be kept anonymous. We do prefer to meet students in person, so that we could discuss the problem and hear the full details from you prior to presenting your problem to the administration.

Disclaimer: The CLS Student Ombuds Program is designed to protect confidentiality while resolving student issues and conflicts. It is not designed to resolve issues related to gender-based misconduct or medical issues. If you seek assistance regarding such issues, please see this list of resources.

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