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University establishes ombuds office to help students address conflicts

By Hannah Schuster

Section: News

March 11, 2016

The university announced the creation of an ombuds services yesterday, in accordance with the diversity action plan produced during the Ford Hall movement last semester. An ombuds office provides students with a place to confidentially discuss issues at Brandeis.
Officers will work with undergraduate and graduate students to discuss the situation and the conflict resolution options available to them.

Three employees will serve as in the office this semester, until Brandeis hires a Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion. A permanent ombuds office will operate through this person’s office, according to the Draft Implementation Plan for Diversity and Inclusion.

“[A]n ombudsperson functions as a conflict-resolution resource who is independent, confidential, informal and neutral,” according to an email from the three employees who make up Brandeis’ new ombuds office. The office functions separate from university processes. Speaking with an ombudsperson does not translate to reporting a complaint to the university. There is a code of ethics for ombudsman which includes these points and is outlined on the Brandeis Ombuds website.

The ombuds employees will “provide feedback to university officials on trends in an effort to promote an inclusive community where students from all backgrounds and life experiences are heard and valued in our community,” according to their new website.

Erika Smith, Elana Lewis and Brian Koslowski were trained through the International Ombudsman Association, according to their email. They are available in Heller 267 Monday-Thursday and Rabb 236 on Fridays (though the Friday location may vary), according to the Ombuds website. Office hours for each are available on this site.

Smith has served in many positions during her 15 years at Brandeis, including Director of the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program, a position she has held since 2004.

Lewis is also the assistant director of the Student Support Services Program and has taught a program on Civil Rights and Educational Equity as part of the Justice Brandeis Semester program.

Koslowski is the associate director of academic advising at Academic Services and coordinates the Brandeis Undergraduate Study Group, or BUGS, which employs student tutors for classes including many language and intro-level courses.

There will be an information session where the three employees will discuss and answer questions about the service on Tuesday, March 15 at 6:30 p.m. in Gerstenzang 122.

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