“When should I make an appointment to talk with the Ombudsman?” This is a common question, without an easy answer. Perhaps the shortest, and best, answer is: any time that feels right to the individual given the specifics of the situation. I talk with students at every stage of a conflict, and there can be much gained from a conversation at any point along the way.
Students may visit me at the earliest stages of a conflict, or at times even before a conflict situation has fully materialized. At this stage a student may share a situation he or she has experienced, looking for some outside, neutral reality testing of the situation. Exploring a situation at its earliest may allow for the widest possible number of options still to be considered. This may also be the time when a student is looking proactively for strategies on how to handle a conflict or potentially difficult situation. Students can also be assured that confidentiality will be protected to the extent possible by my principles of service.
As the Conflict is Playing itself Out
Students may contact me in the midst of a conflict situation. In this case a student may have questions about policies and procedures that relate to their situation. They may feel that certain actions taken feel unfair or inappropriate. Or they may be wondering if other options could be uncovered as they talk with someone removed from the situation, including perhaps referrals to others on campus who can help with the situation.
At the “End” of a Conflict Situation
Students sometimes contact me when they are told that they have reached the end of a process, or they still feel unsatisfied with the outcome of a situation after talking with everyone involved. Conversations with the Ombuds may be around whether there are still options to pursue. We may also talk about strategies and options for moving forward given how the situation has progressed to this point. And finally, conversations with the Ombudsman may help identify systems issues that can improve policies and practices in the future.
The bottom line is that there is never a bad time to talk with the Ombudsman about a problem or dispute you are having with the University. The Ombuds offers a safe, confidential space to allow you to share your story whenever you are comfortable doing so. When you decide to contact me is really up to you, and the things you are hoping to accomplish.