Ombudsperson updates name to Office for Student Assistance

Nov 6th, 2008 | By | Category: Campus News, November 6, 2008

What’s an ombudsperson?


While many faculty and staff know that an ombudsperson is an official who hears and helps solve complaints or disagreements, the word – Nordic in origin and Americanized and gender-neutralized – is beyond meaningful for students.

So, the Division of Student Affairs and assistant vice chancellor Tim Alvarez are putting the word aside for a more descriptive name – the Office for Student Assistance.

“The name ombudsperson just didn’t resonate with students,” Alvarez said. “We would ask them ‘Do you know what this is?’ and we found it was an antiquated term for them.”

Alvarez has served as student ombudsperson since he re-arrived at UNL in 2007. The change of his role and office name to Office of Student Assistance has been on his mind for some time, and is a change being made in many ombudsmen offices to become more descriptive of what assistance can be done.

“I do a large variety of conflict-negotiation and helping resolve issues, but mostly helping students navigate their way through the system to resolve a problem or issue,” Alvarez said. “I’m a neutral party and I don’t necessarily advocate for a student but I help them use the policies, procedures and due process that we already have in place.”

Alvarez said he helps students identify practical approaches to resolving conflicts and through the process, they learn how to move toward their goal and minimize their frustration and own feelings of conflict.

“I’m not solving the problem for them,” he said. “I do students a much better service by helping them work within the system to solve their own problem.”

Alvarez talks to student groups about the role of the Office of Student Assistance, and on the faculty/staff side, with college advising offices and other student-service offices so they know to refer students experiencing conflict to him.

Alvarez asked faculty and staff to direct students to him, at 472-3755 or

Staff needing an ombudsperson should contact Human Resources at 472-3106. Nanda Ramanathan is director of employee relations.

— Story by Kelly Bartling, University Communications

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