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Thursday, 23rd November 2017

Looking for a safe place to share your concerns ? – Pass by The Ombuds Office …

Posted on 09. Sep, 2014 by in Features, News

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Photo by Zeiad Arafa

If you haven’t heard of The Office of the University Ombuds, it is simply that unique place where AUC students, faculty, staff and even parents are invited to go for advice or recommendations regarding their concerns and conflicts.

The term “ombuds” originated in Sweden in 1809, essentially meaning an official appointed to investigate individuals’ complaints against maladministration.

The first USA university ombudsman office was established in the late 60s early 70s, leading to a dramatic growth of this profession in higher education over the past decades. In AUC, the Ombuds office was created in 2012 by Dr. Hanan el Sabea, professor of Anthropology, with Lamia Eid being her successor. “We consider ourselves as a thinking partner to members of the AUC community when they need guidance, coaching or assistance in dealing with their concerns”, Lamia Eid, the University ombuds, clarified to the Insider AUC.

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Photo of AUC Ombuds office by Zeiad Arafa

The ombuds deals with a variety of complaints and concerns that include, and are not limited to, misuse of power, cultural differences and sensitivities, bullying, evaluations, and compensation issues for staff or faculty.

Ms. Eid explained to us that the perception and handling of disputes is quite a complex matter. “When it comes to handling issues, the ombuds does not provide direct solutions but rather provides the visitor with a different perspective of viewing a problem,” she said. This is done through asking strategic questions and discussing the matter to provide different approaches for dealing with conflicts.

The office acts as a neutral third party that discusses the benefits and drawbacks of each option with a main objective of empowering the visitor that he/she should be the one making the decision. Another main function of the office is alerting students to the existence of a formal process for a certain policy as many students might be unaware that a certain policy exists.

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Photo by Zeiad Arafa

The Ombuds Office follows the international ombudsman association standards of practice and codes of ethics which are basically 4 major principles: confidentiality, independence, neutrality and informality.

Confidentiality is the fundamental principle of this office. “We cannot disclose any information provided by our visitors except if there is an imminent risk of serious harm nor could we reveal the names or identities of the visitors without their consent” Ms. Eid said, explaining that the logic behind this confidentiality is to ensure to the visitors that this is a safe place where they could share their concerns.

Ms. Eid also underlined the significance of secrecy, “Whatever happens in this office remains in this office, we listen, we discuss but we do not keep records.”

Moreover, the office is independent in structure and function. It remains neutral and impartial on all matters and therefore it does not advocate for any individual or group. It only advocates for the fair process.

Finally, the office is informal; it has no hierarchical structure.

The University Ombuds simplified the whole role of the office by comparing it to visiting an eye doctor when he keeps putting on lenses to test one’s eye sight until being able to see the matter very clearly. “It’s like having additional lenses to make you view things in a better perspective,” Miss Eid concluded.

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Photo of AUC Ombuds office by Zeiad Arafa

The Ombuds Office is expected to dramatically impact the AUC community as a whole, mainly through the reduction of major conflicts. It also aims at showing the community that their administration actually cares about them, enforcing the sense of community and making it a more desirable place for its members.

 

 

Now that you know all about the Ombuds office, if you have any concerns or complaints, you know where to head !

The office is located on the ground floor of the library building.  You could either access it via the library, ground floor behind the periodicals area or directly from the tree garden between the administration and library buildings – Room G02.

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