The Office of the Ombuds

If you are having a serious dispute with the University, talk to us.

The Office of the Ombuds at the University of Michigan is a place where all students are welcome to come and talk in confidence about any campus issue, concern, problem, or dispute. You may contact us anytime—as a first step, as a last resort, or anywhere along the way. We are here when you need us, so come and share your concerns. We will help you evaluate your situation and plan your next step—if you want to take one

Request an Appointment

You can request an appointment by calling the Ombuds line at (734) 763-3545 and leaving a voicemail, or by emailing umstudentombuds@umich.edu.

Staff members are available to assist you Monday-Friday 8am-5pm. If you leave a voicemail, be sure to leave your name, phone number, and/or email address so that we can get in touch with you as soon as possible.

Unsure if you should make an appointment or not? Read on to learn more about how we are here to support you. Still not sure? You are always welcome to call or email our office, and we will be sure to connect you to the right people and resources for your concerns.

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Tom Lehker, University ombudsperson
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Tom Lehker,
University Student Ombudsperson

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Tom Lehker is the University's student Ombudsperson.  He has worked in higher education for almost 30 years, the last nine as student Ombuds.  Tom is driven to do this work because of the satisfaction he receives working with Michigan students, and the opportunity the role provides to find positive, systemic ways to better the student experience at Michigan.  As a Michigan graduate himself, Tom believes that U of M is a special place that can and should always look for ways to improve its functioning for all students.

Why contact the Office of the Ombuds?

Students contact our office for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, students just want to talk. Others are reluctant to go through formal channels, while some do not know where to begin. Many students have tried other avenues to obtain help but have not found the assistance that they need.

If you are a student having a serious dispute with the University and you:

  • do not know how to proceed,
  • are trying to avoid escalation conflict,
  • feel unfairly or insensitively treated,
  • believe that your due process rights have been violated,
  • feel subjected to intimidating, bullying, or emotionally toxic behavior,
  • feel your concerns are not being listened to,
  • feel powerless,
  • need coaching on dispute resolution skills,
  • believe the University should improve its policies, procedures, and patterns of treatment.

What Does the Ombuds Do?

  • Provides a safe and confidential setting where students feel respected and where they can be candid and forthright.
  • Listens intently and discusses conflicts, disputes, concerns and complaints that students have about the functioning of the University, including its policies and procedures, the actions of others and unfair treatment.
  • Helps students evaluate and select among a variety of options to address their concerns.
  • Answers questions or help find others who can answer them.
  • Makes appropriate referrals and assists in creating a helping network for students.
  • Coaches students on dispute resolution skills.
  • Advises students about informal and formal problem resolution possibilities, and helps to untangle and clarify "red tape."
  • Engages in shuttle diplomacy between parties finding it difficult to solve a problem.
  • Identifies needed improvements in University policies, procedures, and patterns of treatment, and recommends changes.

What Does the Ombuds Not Do?

  • Participate in formal grievance processes, hearings or judicial processes.
  • Make administrative or academic decisions for other parts of the University.
  • Determine the guilt or innocence of those accused of wrongdoing.
  • Assign sanctions.
  • Give legal advice.
  • Keep official University files and records.

What is it like to talk with the Ombuds?

We have four main principles—we are confidential, impartial, informal, and independent. 

  • Confidential: We will not divulge your name, identify you in any way, or discuss your concerns without your explicit permission. The only exceptions are in situations of imminent risk of serious harm, suspected abuse, or if required by law.
  • Impartial: The Office of the Ombuds is an advocate for fairness with no personal stake in the outcome of any situation. We do not take sides and consider the rights and interests of all involved parties. We do not judge, discipline, or reward anyone.
  • Informal: Any communication with the office is "off the record" and the office does not provide formal notice of a problem to the University. The use of the Office of the Ombuds is not a substitute for formal procedures, such as filing a grievance.
  • Independent: The Ombuds is independent of other University entities and holds no other position that might compromise independence. The Ombuds exercises sole discretion over whether or how to act in a situation.

 


Request an appointment now by calling (734) 763-3545 or emailing umstudentombuds@umich.edu