Student Ombudsman Service
Good Afternoon USC Aiken Colleagues,
I hope that the transition back into the school year has been easy and enjoyable for you all.
Many of you served on or contributed information to the Chancellor’s Task Force for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging. This almost yearlong task force was instrumental in discussions and subsequent actions to ensure that our ever-changing campus is more tangibly inclusive and serving the needs of all students, faculty, and staff. It was beneficial and enlightening to have so many great minds on this campus work together to sort through ideas, review data, and discuss the lived experience of so many of our students. Thank you, again, to all who contributed to this process in any way.
The Chancellor’s Task Force for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging received a significant amount of feedback that suggests that our students are having difficulties when it comes to navigating, adjusting to, and integrating themselves into college life and processes. This is certainly not a phenomenon unique to this campus. All over our country, we are seeing campus demographics change drastically from what they were even five years ago. A dramatic increase in first generation college students, more students with diverse cultural backgrounds, greater dependence on parents, students battling hunger and homelessness, a larger LGBTQ&I community, and an increase in non-traditional students represent a small percentage of the survey of topics that institutions of higher education are working to address. Knowledge on policy, procedure, and campus services played a momentous part in how successful students felt they were (and actually are) while enrolled.
In response to recommendations from the Chancellor’s Task Force for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, I am excited to announce a new service for students that will kick off after Labor Day. With the leadership of the Chancellor, we will be launching the Office of the Ombudsman. As part of my role this year (in a part-time, temporary capacity), I will also be serving as the Student Ombudsman & Success Advocate.
The Office of the Ombudsman will provide students with an informal, confidential, impartial and independent resource to address interpersonal issues or questions openly and without fear of reprisal or judgment. It will provide a venue for complaints, conflicts, or concerns that students may not know how to address through other official University channels. These might include interpersonal conflicts or questions about University policies, practices, or services.
In response to student concerns or complaints, the Office of the Ombudsman may provide assistance by:
- Listening carefully and without judgment to concerns
- Clarifying University policies and procedures
- Helping students explore and evaluate options on how to proceed
- Referring students to appropriate University resources
- Coaching students on effective communication tactics and other means of de-escalating and resolving interpersonal conflicts
- Engaging in shuttle diplomacy and/or informal mediation, where appropriate
While the Ombudsman will not have authority to take formal action in response to complaints, he or she may help students file formal complaints by providing them with relevant information.
The Office of the Ombudsman does not and will not circumvent formal processes already in place by the University. Instead, its goal is collaboration.
The office will work closely with other entities campus such as Student Life, the Counseling Center, Financial Aid, Title IX, Health Services, Housing, Veteran and Military Services, Academic Services, as well as faculty advisors and academic deans. The Ombudsman will report to the Chancellor and will provide information on general trends and patterns of complaints, but in a way that assures confidentiality. All communications and inquiries will be kept confidential to the extent permitted by law, and identities of visitors or the contents of conversations will be kept in confidence as well.
As an attorney, certified mediator, and former Ombudsman, I am honored to provide start up assistance in this role and excited about the opportunities for unity and advancement that these services can and will bring to USC Aiken. Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions and concerns, or refer students to my office in the SAC (behind the Clinic). I will be making my rounds on campus to share more with faculty, staff, and students in the coming weeks. Thank you in advance for your support!
Brittney D. Alls, J.D.
Student Ombudsman & Success Advocate
Assistant to the Chancellor for Special Projects
Office of the Chancellor