Ombudsman offers solutions to problems

By Maria Tortorello

NIU offers several opportunities for students to solve specific problems with the university. But the only office on campus that is strictly neutral and can assist students, as well as faculty, with their problems is the Office of the Ombudsman.

The Office of the Ombudsman first was established in 1969, during a time of chaos between the administrators and students at universities around the country.

“The office was established in an effort to improve communication between faculty and students before more drastic measures were taken by the students,” said NIU Ombudsman Tim Griffin.

The purpose of the ombudsman is to help students, faculty and staff find solutions to their problems in a confidential matter, while remaining impartial.

“The main philosophy of the office is confidentiality and neutrality,” Griffin said. “No one has to know who was here, but we do not advocate for people—we are not lawyers.”

Griffin’s graduate assistant Mark Walton said the neutrality of the office is to the client’s advantage.

“This system means that we are no less objectionable to the other party,” he said.

The ombudsman deals with several types of problems, such as disciplinary concerns, discrimination, teacher/student misunderstanding, roommate concerns, academic policies, financial aid and interpersonal communication.

“We help people analyze the situation, first,” Griffin said. “Maybe there is a policy the client is not aware of until he comes into the office. They have to do the work themselves, but we will assist them.”

During the 1992-93 school year, 56 faculty members came into the office, compared to the 425 students. However, these figures do not include the number of general information calls the office received.

The Office of the Ombudsman is located in room 709 in the Holmes Student Center. Office hours are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday or by appointment.