February 12, 2018

Michigan State University Posts History of Ombuds Office

MSU has published materials from its archives to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its Office of the University Ombudsperson.  The primary source materials document the appointment of every university Ombuds from 1968 to the present and explain their evolving role on the campus. 

Here's an excerpt from the history:

In the mid-1960s, campus life was changing across the America. No longer were students satisfied with the politics of their country. Most colleges operated on the principle of in loco parentis, which meant that the school acted in place of the parents and as such, were an authority that was not to be questioned. However, many students around the country were participating in the Free Speech Movement. Feeling emboldened, some students and faculty at MSU began to strongly question the status quo. ...
A newly formed Faculty Committee on Student Affairs created [a] document, now called Student Rights and Responsibilities, provides a framework for regulations governing student conduct and for providing due process in the adjudication of student disciplinary cases. This document also provides procedures for student complaints and grievances. Key to ensuring the procedures work, the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsperson) was created to provide impartial representation for a student in a dispute between the administration, faculty, or other students. The Ombudsman was patterned after a Scandinavian concept that literally means "one who represents someone" or more commonly, "citizen protector." MSU was one of the first Universities in the United States to create this office.

In 1967, Dr. James D. Rust stepped down from his duties as a professor of English at MSU to become the first Ombudsperson. When asked to give his perspective on the position, Rust reiterated that he was not an "Establishment Man" nor was he there to enforce rules. Rust thought of the Ombudsperson as the conscience of the university. He wished to be a friend of the students; to treat them compassionately and fairly when helping to resolve conflicts in their educational pursuits. ... Within two years of the establishment of the office, the number of cases brought to Rust had almost doubled.
(MSU On the Banks of the Cedar River.)

Related posts: Michigan State University Ombuds to Retire; Meet Michagan State University's New Ombuds; Michigan State University Ombuds Marks 45 Years; Michigan State Medical School Appoints First Ombuds; Carolyn Stieber: Former Ombuds at Michigan State University; Registration Opens for 2017 Summer Academic Ombuds Meeting; Ombuds Office at Michigan State University Celebrates Half Century.

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