- What does “Ombudsman” mean?
- Can the Ombudsman give me legal advice?
- Is the Ombudsman’s Office confidential?
- Do I have to bring anything to my appointment with the Ombudsman?
- What if the informal process doesn’t work?
- What if I have a Sexual Harassment or Discrimination complaint?
- Does the Ombudsman advocate for students?
- How many Ombudsmen are there?
- Who does the Office of the Ombudsman report to?
What does “Ombudsman” mean?
The word "ombudsman" originated in Scandinavia and means "representative of the people." In Sweden, there were government officials appointed to receive and investigate complaints made by individuals against abuses or capricious acts of public officials (Webster’s Dictionary). This term has also come to be used for the individuals who investigate student complaints and act as neutral mediators to try to reach fair solutions for the parties involved. For more information see Ombudsman’s Office History. [up to top]
Can the Ombudsman give me legal advice?
No. The Ombudsman can help you identify University procedures and policies, discuss options, and mediate, but cannot give legal advice. For legal advice we refer students to the Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) at 800-464-1529, or 619-231-8585. LRIS will refer you to an attorney who will give you a free 30 minute initial consultation. For more information, visit their website at: www.sdlawyerreferral.com. [up to top]
Is the Ombudsman’s Office confidential?
Yes. Conversations and meetings with the Ombudsman are confidential, and the Ombudsman will not share any of your information without your permission. If you decide to file a formal grievance or take legal action, the Ombudsman cannot testify for or against your position. [up to top]
Do I have to bring anything to my appointment with the Ombudsman?
No. When you come into the office, we will give you an Intake Form to fill out before you meet with the Ombudsman. You can do this the day of your appointment or pick it up beforehand if you like. If you have documents that are relevant to your complaint, such as a course syllabus, official SDSU letters, copies of petitions, etc., please bring them with you and we will make copies. If you are out of town, and will be meeting with the Ombudsman by phone, we can email or fax you the Intake Form, and you can send it and any relevant documents back to us by fax or by mail. [up to top]
What if the informal process doesn’t work?
If you and the Ombudsman have exhausted all options of achieving a resolution to the conflict at the levels of lower redress, you may wish to file a formal grievance with the Student Grievance Committee (SGC). This committee is “the court of last resort,” and follows a set of formal procedures (links to SGC Code and Procedures). The SGC does not lend itself to quick solutions, so resolution at a lower level is always more desirable, and must be attempted before the committee will accept a case. A grievance must be filed before the last day of the semester (excluding summer and winter session) after the semester during which the incident you are grieving occurred. For example, if you are disputing a grade that you received in Spring 2004, then you must file your grievance before the last day of the Fall 2004 semester.
Examples of problems brought before the Student Grievance Committee are grade disputes, faculty/staff conduct, administrative policies and procedures, course requirements, and institutional compliance with federal and state nondiscrimination laws. [up to top]
What if I have a Sexual Harassment or Discrimination complaint?
As with all issues, we will try to resolve the issue at the most informal level appropriate. If you decide to file a formal complaint on this issue, we will refer it to the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs for investigation. For more information, please refer to the Campus Procedures for Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Complaints filed by Students. [up to top]
Does the Ombudsman advocate for students?
No. An advocate argues on someone else’s behalf. An ombudsman investigates complaints and mediates fair settlements. According to the UCOA Standards of Practice, “The Ombuds is neutral, impartial, unaligned and objective. The Ombuds is an advocate for good and fair process, not an advocate on behalf of individuals or the institution.” Although the Ombudsman will do everything possible to assist you through the process of resolving an issue you have with the University, the Ombudsman is required to always remain neutral in order to ensure that all parties to an issue feel the conflict can be resolved fairly. [up to top]
How many Ombudsmen are there?
At SDSU, there is one Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman occasionally calls on the assistance of Volunteer Ombudsmen, who are retired faculty and staff who have been trained in mediating student complaints. [up to top]
Who does the Office of the Ombudsman report to?
Our office is in the Student Affairs division, and reports to the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs. However, this does not change the fact that we are an independent office that maintains confidentiality and neutrality. [up to top]