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Office of the University Ombudsperson - Home | Michigan State University

The University Ombudsperson is a senior faculty member appointed by the President to assist students in resolving conflicts or disputes within the university. The University Ombudsperson also helps staff members, instructors and administrators sort through university rules and regulations that might apply to specific student issues and concerns. In addition to helping members of the MSU community resolve disputes, the University Ombudsperson also is charged with identifying MSU policies that might need revision, and referring them to the appropriate academic governance committee.

The University Ombudsperson carries out these duties in a neutral, confidential, informal and independent manner. Neutral: The ombudsperson seeks processes that are fair and equitable to all parties.  The Office provides an impartial and objective resource for the University community.  Confidential:  Information concerning any visit will not be disclosed without the visitor's permission, absent compelling reasons (e.g., a court order or potential risk to safety).  On occasion, the University Ombudsperson may, at the request of the visitor and if appropriate, contact another party and seek additional information or clarification to better understand the nature of the problem.  Informal: The University Ombudsperson listens, seeks to understand, and provides information to help solve problems.  The University Ombudsperson does not participate in the formal grievance process. Independent:  The Office of the University Ombudsperson officially reports to the President but is independent of any University administrative structure.

The services of the University Ombudsperson are organized according to the above listed four principles. Consultation with the University Ombudsperson is completely voluntary; no one is required to use our services. Those who choose to consult with the University Ombudsperson are understood to have agreed to abide by these principles, including not calling on the University Ombudsperson to testify with respect to confidential communications.

Campus disputes fall into two broad categories: academic and non-academic. The former includes instruction (e.g., grades, exams, academic dishonesty), registration (e.g., holds, late registration and drops and adds), academic hearings (e.g., grievance and disciplinary hearings) and academic status (e.g., admission to university or college, voluntary withdrawal and recess). Non-academic matters include financial aid (e.g., loans and work-study), housing (e.g., contract termination), and special problems (e.g., medical concerns and disruptive students).

Following a request for assistance, the University Ombudsperson will take one or more of the following actions: (1) listen carefully to the concern, (2) explain relevant student rights and responsibilities, (3) review relevant university policies or regulations, (4) suggest fair and equitable options, (5) refer the individual to an appropriate university resource or (6) investigate, when necessary.

The University Ombudsperson also assists all parties involved in academic grievance or disciplinary hearings or academic grievance hearings, the final step in a student’s effort to resolve a dispute.

The Office of the University Ombudsperson is available for presentations at staff/faculty meetings, training sessions, classes, and conferences.  Topics for such presentations include: conflict resolution, academic integrity, faculty and student rights and responsibilities, and Ombuds roles and practices.

Note: The University Ombudsperson is not an advocate for any individual or group on campus; instead, the University Ombudsperson is an advocate for fairness. The University Ombudsperson also does not provide legal service, represent students or instructors at academic grievance or disciplinary hearings or mediate disputes between or among faculty or between faculty and administrators. 

Notice: The Office of the University Ombudsperson does not accept formal complaints, or notice, for the University.  The University Ombudsperson may assist in the informal resolution of concerns regarding a variety of issues, including sexual harassment and discrimination.  Talking to the University Ombudsperson does not constitute notice to the University, since the purpose of the University Ombudsperson's Office is to provide a confidential forum where different options may be considered.  The University Ombudsperson can provide the visitor with information about how a complaint may be made to the University.

Members of the MSU community may contact the University Ombudsperson in person, by e-mail, by phone or through the online “problem report form.” Please remember that e-mail is not recommended for confidential discussions.

The Office of the University Ombudsperson is located in 129 N. Kedzie Hall.  Phone 517.353.8830 to set up an appointment with the University Ombudsperson or the Assistant University Ombudsperson.  To file an immediate request for help, contact the University Ombudsperson

Robert Caldwell

Robert Caldwell

University Ombudsperson

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