Ombudsman busy with outreach activities

By Jami Peterson

Although the new NIU ombudsman’s hands are full, he isn’t complaining—because he asked for it.

With a variety of “outreach activities” including table tents in cafeterias and personal visits to student organizations this year, Ombudsman Tim Griffin said his efforts definitely have paid off.

“The student traffic is up at least 50 percent (from last year),” he said.

The ombudsman’s office, established as a go-between for students and administration, is not well-known on campus. “This (outreach activity) is helping us pick up the pace,” Griffin said.

The office is not completely busy with any one thing in particular. But one major problem students have been coming in with is plagiarism and lost papers, he said.

Griffin said he encourages students to always keep a second copy of their papers and save every graded test and paper for evidence.

Freshman English Director Robert Self said there are not any formal rules and regulations for plagiarism and lost papers. “There are a number of circumstances considered,” he said.

In most cases, a student is not charged with plagiarism unless it is obvious they have committed the act, such as when a student turns in the same paper for two classes or a teacher is familiar with the text the student plagiarized, Self said.

“We take it (plagiarism) very seriously. When we catch a student, we are not very forgiving, but we make sure there is clear documented evidence,” Self said.

Charges of plagiarism are reported to the judicial office and they handle it from there, Self said.

Judicial Office Director Larry Bolles said his office had some cases of plagiarism this year.

A student who argues they did not commit the act first meets with the teacher and then the chairman of the department, who might decide the case, he said. If a student and faculty member still disagree, a hearing is scheduled where a student can be suspended or expelled from school if found guilty.

But, he said “a lot of the times the case will settle between the faculty member and the student.”

The cases this year have been “mild,” where students have been required to rewrite the paper or take an F in the course or a lower grade, Bolles said.

Griffin said other problems students have are concerns dealing with sexual harassment, classes, financial aid and the judicial office.