July 26, 2010

University of Miami Ombuds Offers Guidance for Students in Conflict

Last week, the student newspaper at the University of Miami published an interview with Dr. Gail Cole-Avent, who serves as the Ombudsperson for non-academic issues. She explained that Miami relies on a network of "University Troubleshooters" to triage student concerns and refer more significant issues to the Ombuds office.

Cole-Avent offers students in conflict five pointers:
  1. When in doubt, seek us out. Our motto is probably one of the most effective ways to find a resolution. S.T.O.P and Come See Us First. If you think you have a question or anticipate something may need to be addressed, see us first. The University Troubleshooters and Ombudsperson representatives want to help students talk out possibilities for resolving their concerns.
  2. Start early. Many students wait until that last moment, which can be a challenge if a quick response is needed. Start seeking out the appropriate people early. Even if you have a preliminary question, the troubleshooters and appropriate ombudsperson can point you in the right direction.
  3. Learn about the Policies and Procedures. If applicable, ask about the policy and procedure that addresses your concern. It will describe the parameters and if there are any exceptions. Fully read and understand any contract that you sign. A contract at UM is the same as a contract with any other institution or business. You must fulfill your commitment.
  4. Document your interactions. Keep a record of who you spoke to, when you spoke to him/her, and the outcome. This is good practice for life. When speaking to students, we hear the general statement “they told me.” It is challenging to address the specifics of a scenario with the elusive “they.”
  5. Be Respectful. Yelling, screaming or cursing a fellow student or administrator is not the most effective way to resolve a situation. Some situations will lead to frustration, but try to keep a cool demeanor. Individuals are more willing to listen and respond when they are engaged in a conversation where respect is exhibited.

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