April 24, 2012

Tennessee Law Would Create Ombuds for Higher Education

The Tennessee General Assembly is considering legislation that would create an Office of Higher Education Ombudsperson within the Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Dolores R. Gresham (R-Somerville), explains that the office would be a safe haven for public university faculty, staff, and students with policy and financial compliance concerns.

The Senate bill (and companion House version HB2392) have been approved by the Education and Government Operations committees and now heads to the Finance Committee for hearings.

According to the legislative summary for SB2254, the office...
would answer questions and provide information to faculty, staff and employees of the University of Tennessee and the state university and community college system. The role of the higher education ombudsperson would be to assist faculty, staff and employees in obtaining information about the operations and financial workings of the higher education system and provide educational outreach on higher education issues to such faculty, staff and employees. 
In testimony before the Senate Education Committee, Executive Assistant to the Comptroller, Jason Mumpower said the Comptroller expects the Higher Ed Ombuds would be a successful as the existing Open Records Ombuds and Small Business Advocate Ombuds. He also said that none of the state's universities were opposed to the law. The legislation does not address the issue of confidentiality. (Tenn. Gen. Assy. Bill Summary, Amended Bill, Senate Ed. Cmte. Video.) 

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