October 21, 2008

University of Maryland Appoints First Ombuds for Students

With the appointment of James Newton as Undergraduate Student Ombuds, University of Maryland undergrads have a new resource this year. The addition of Newton completes the roster of Ombuds officers which already comprised Ombuds for faculty, staff, and graduate students. Newton has been with the university since 1977 and continues to serve as Assistant Dean to the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and Dean for Undergraduate Studies. In his career he also has been Director of the Center for Minorities in Science and Engineering, Director of Minority Affairs, and a member of the President’s Commission on Ethnic Minority Issues and has served as the president of the university system’s chapter of the National Honor Society Phi Kappa Phi. Newton (as well as all other Ombuds officers) will serve as an ex officio member of the University Senate. (Diamondback Online; UMD Undergrad Advisor; UMD Profile.)

The University of Maryland should be commended for filling the obvious need for a student Ombuds. However, with an undergraduate population of nearly 26,000 a part-time Ombuds would seem insufficient. For most universities, a full-time Ombuds will serve a population of 10,000 to 20,000. Moreover, the dual role of Ombuds and Dean may cause students to doubt the independence, neutrality and informality of the service. Hopefully this is a situation that will continue to evolve.

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