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Saturday, Feb 24, 2018 at 12:02 am

Live at 6 | New SU Ombuds Office

Brendan Tierney – Syracuse, N.Y. (CitrusTV) – Chancellor Kent Syverud has opened the Office of the University Ombuds after it was first recommended years ago by the University Senate and the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion.   

The office was created to provide a safe space for graduate students, faculty and staff to air their concerns in a completely confidential environment. Dr. Sam Clemence taught engineering at Syracuse for 37 years before becoming the Interim Dean of Hendricks Chapel in 2015.  He will now serve as Interim Ombuds until a candidate is hired.

“We feel like it really provides a great service on campus,” Clemence said.  “We’re starting new and are excited to find out what problems there are out there. We’re open and we want it to help people as much as it can.”

The new Ombuds office is located at 111 Waverly Avenue, above Health Services, and is separate from the university administration.  This allows for complete confidentiality of all complaints. Clemence said no paperwork is required and consultations can be confidential.

The office’s charter declares it as an “informal, confidential, impartial, and independent resource for the community,” Clemence said.  However, that community does not include undergraduates.  

“We feel as if there are so many avenues for undergraduate students here,” he said.  “Syracuse is wonderful about that. The Office of Student Services, Residential Life.  There are so many avenues for the undergrad students that we feel like they can find their way and find their place.”

Clemence did not close the door to helping undergraduates in the future, but wants to focus on making faculty, staff and graduate students feel comfortable coming and having an honest conversation about their issues and the best way to fix them.

Clemence has begun researching how other universities layout their Ombuds office to help him form Syracuse’s version.  He specifically liked Brown University, where the office includes couches around a fireplace. He said it felt like you’re walking into someone’s home to talk about the best possible way to solve an issue.  

Campus community members can reach the office via email at ombuds@syr.edu or on the phone at 315-443-1087.  The office is looking at introducing an online portal that would allow people to submit complaints with complete anonymity.

By the end of the semester, Clemence hopes to find a candidate to lead the office who has experience in conflict resolution, knows how to deal with people in a university environment, and is committed to helping people without a need for recognition. He believes confidentiality is the most important part of the new Ombuds office.

“We try to make this as welcoming as possible,” he said. “We’re going to get some artwork in here and, you know, make it a place where you feel comfortable coming to and talking to somebody.”