NIU plans to hire permanent ombudsperson in spring

Merlynette Griffin is the current interim ombudsperson and NIU will begin the hiring process for a permanent one in the spring.


Courtesy of Merlynette Griffin

Merlynette Griffin became the interim Ombudsperson in August. NIU is searching for a permanent Ombudsperson.

What to know

  • According to NIU, “An ombudsperson provides confidential and informal assistance for resolving university-related concerns, independent of the university’s formal administrative structure, and will consider all sides of an issue in a neutral manner.”

DeKALB— Merlynette Griffin became the interim ombudsperson in August. A permanent ombudsperson will be sought later this year.

An ombudsperson provides the university community the opportunity to discuss issues outside formal channels.

“The position will be advertised later in the spring semester,” Liz Wright, the executive assistant to President Freeman, said in an email exchange. “Our expectation is that the advertisement would be posted in early March, however, the timeline is still being drafted.”

While this timeline is not final, it is expected that interviews will happen before the end of the semester.

“Our expectation is that we will have on-campus interviews before the end of the semester,” Wright said via email.

According to NIU Today, Griffin worked at NIU as the academic advising coordinator in the College of Health and Human Sciences before taking that position.

“I can’t speak to why it is interim position because that’s not a determination that, you know, I made, it was an opportunity that was presented to me and so I was interested on the fly, but I can’t speak to why it is an interim position,” Griffin said.

She said she would be interested in returning to a position similar to her previous one if this does not become permanent.

“I can’t speak to the future,” Griffin said. “But again, if the opportunity presents that is something that I may consider for someone based on the experience I’ve had and it is something that I am enjoying in connecting with colleagues across campus and getting more in tone seeing things from a different view from what I had seen before.”

Griffin has enjoyed helping students and the experience so far.

“I’ve also had a lot of very interesting and mind-provoking conversations as part of the committees that I’m serving in this role,” Griffin said.

Conversations with the NIU ombudsperson are meant to be a neutral, safe and off-the-record way to provide advice to students.

“Our office is here and we do serve as a resource on campus for not just the students but for faculty and staff alike,” Griffin said.

According to NIU, the NIU ombudsperson position was created in 1969 and since then has served 20,000 students, servicing about 400 students every year. The resource is available to anyone at NIU.

Griffin explained some of the limitations of the offices as well.

“I can’t force or I can’t supersede, you know, the decisions of our university personnel,” Griffin said. “And I think that sometimes that’s a misperception that people have is that I talk to the ombudsperson and they can fix it and so I can’t always fix it, but I’ll do my best to help visitors find positive outcomes to lead to a positive result.”

Correction: This report has been altered to correct the job description of the ombudsperson. The ombudsperson does not investigate complaints against an organization.