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What Can Ombuds Do for You?

Conflict arises in every type of environment, and graduate school is no exception. Perhaps it’s a disagreement with one of your peers over shared office space; tension with an academic advisor due to miscommunication; arguing with a professor over a grade; or a dispute over how your department allocates funding, equipment or other resources. When left unresolved, these small conflicts can grow into contentious and explosive issues, which may disrupt your academic life. So what do you do when a conflict refuses to subside? Try the Ombuds office – they provide resources and tools to help you resolve small conflicts before they escalate into all-consuming issues.

What Is Ombuds?

Ombuds is a university-sponsored office that provides conflict resolution and mediation services to students. It provides a variety of options to help students manage the many stresses and conflicts that come with being a graduate student. The Ombuds staff is trained to help students work through the situations that may arise during their time here at UC. 

“The Ombuds office is an excellent resource for graduate students who are often times balancing their educational, research and professional relationships. Talking with a confidential, neutral third party can be a huge advantage as Ombuds can listen, help clarify options and may act as an informal intermediary.”

        - Kimberly Fulbright, MA | Office of the University Ombuds

When there is a dispute between a student and a professor, the situation can escalate quickly, especially if either side is feeling defensive. Students often wait until it is too late for Ombuds to help with the situation before asking for assistance. While there is a formal grievance process through the Graduate School, Ombuds hopes to help students resolve their conflicts before filing a grievance is necessary. Take a look at the lists of common issues Ombuds helps with and the services they offer students. If you’re dealing with a situation like those listed below, perhaps it’s time to contact the Ombuds office before tensions rise any further.

Professor and student

Common Issues Ombuds Deals With

  • Concerns with academic policies and practices
  • Concerns about fairness of process
  • Disrespectful or inappropriate behavior
  • Interpersonal disputes or conflicts

What Can Ombuds Do?

  • Listen to graduate student concerns
  • Explain policies and their application to specific cases
  • Help identify and consider options for resolving conflicts with colleagues and faculty at the university
  • Coach on approaching difficult conversations with colleagues or supervisors
  • Mediate difficult conversations and disputes
  • Facilitate contact with administrative offices
  • Refer graduate students to formal complaint and appeal procedures
  • Make appropriate referrals to other resources on campus

One of the best parts about sitting down with an Ombuds staff member is that the meeting is entirely confidential. Ombuds will only share information that you approve*, and they will shred any notes taken during your meeting. Nothing you say in a meeting will get back to your department, professors or peers unless you expressly ask Ombuds to talk to them. Remember that no issue is too small to take to the Ombuds office; sometimes just talking about it with an unbiased third party can help you see the solution. 

Conflict Resolution Resources

If you’re dealing with an issue and you’re not quite ready to talk to an Ombuds staff member about it, make sure to do something. Letting the tension build won’t solve anything. The Graduate School has put together a page of conflict resolution resources that you can use to help remedy the situation. There are links that cover suggested reading (all available at the UC Libraries), tips from Ombuds, tips on working with your advisor and the formal grievance process through the Graduate School. It is our hope that you will be able to resolve any conflicts before they reach the stage that requires a formal grievance. However, that is not always possible, so it is important to know all of your options.

Always remember that no matter what kinds of situations arise, there is a University resource out there willing to help you work through them. You’re not alone; everyone has to deal with conflict, and both Ombuds and the Graduate School are here to help. If you would like to schedule an appointment at Ombuds, you can visit the office in 607 Swift Hall (open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday) or contact Kimberly Fulbright at 513-556-5956 or Please don’t send confidential information via email due to the accessible nature of computer networks. 

*Please note that Ombuds is required by law to report all felonies to the authorities. 

Written by Hillary Oberpeul, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate School Office
Last updated April 5, 2016
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