Ombudsman defended by UC

By Michael Berg

The importance of the Ombudsman’s Office was defended at the University Council meeting Wednesday.

Committee “C” of the council presented a proposal to eliminate the term limitation for the ombudsman, while also providing documents concerning its review of the continuing need for the position.

The Office of Ombudsman serves members of the university community to help settle administrative, academic and individual complaints or grievances, according to the University Bylaws.

The committee found there is a need for the office, and the term limits were not in the best interests of the university.

“All campus constituency groups were invited to submit their comments and recommendations on these topics,” wrote Joan Greening, chair of committee “C”, in a letter to Executive Secretary of the UC Norman Magden. “All but one of the respondents stated that there is a continuing need for the Office of the Ombudsman.”

The number of people who use the office is going up, which leads to funding problems, according to the committee’s report.

The committee said the office was underfunded. “It is evident that the Office of the Ombudsman is critically underfunded to effectively provide assistance to all constituencies,” Greening wrote. “An immediate increase in budget is needed to fund at least a graduate assistant for summer staffing.”

The proposed amended version of the bylaws indicates the need for extra funding. The new version reads, “The President shall provide the Office of the Ombudsman with appropriate financial, secretarial and office resources to fulfill its responsibilities.”

The old version of the bylaws has no such statement about the president having to provide these resources.

According to a letter written by NIU Ombudsman Tim Griffin, this underfunding hurts the ombudsman in his personal career, which is important if they are only allowed to serve five years at the most, which is the situation now.

“Upon leaving the position, the incumbent can demonstrate to a potential employer very little in the way of recent supervisory or teaching experience,” Griffin wrote. “Due to the extensive time requirements of the job (due largely to inadequate staffing—60-hour weeks are the norm, and 70-hour weeks are not uncommon), and the absence of adequate financial resources, little opportunity for research or publication exists either.

The proposal for more funding and no term limitations came up for first reading Wednesday, so it will come back at the next meeting, scheduled for the fall.