Seeking confidential guidance from the Ombuds

When CPP students, staff and faculty come across campus-related problems or personal conflicts, they may not know where to go to resolve these issues, but the Ombuds office is there to help.

Lavada Austin and Ellen P. Jardino have been working together at the Office of the University Ombuds for about 10 years, seeing hundreds of visitors each year. MICHELLE QUINTERO | THE POLY POST

The Office of the University Ombuds, established in 2006, provides a welcoming and confidential environment where students, staff and faculty can seek guidance and answers for any type of issue, conflict or problem. 

It is run by Ombuds Director Lavada Austin and Ellen Patterson Jardino, Ombuds coordinator. 

“I am often asked, ‘What does Ombuds mean or stand for?’” Austin said.

She said the term “Ombuds” comes from the Swedish word “ombudsman” that refers to a representative of people who solves problems.

“A primary goal is to resolve problems at the initial stages or at the most minimal level possible in [an] effort to avoid the escalation of concerns or the need for a formal complaint or grievance,” she said. 

In order to preserve confidentiality, the office is intentionally independent from other campus departments and reports directly to the president. 

The office assists in problems and conflicts and provides training, workshops and presentations throughout the year to student clubs, classrooms and departments. 

Topics range from communication skills to mediation, but topics can be requested based on specific needs. 

“It’s rewarding and at the same time it is a big responsibility that people are entrusting us with,” Austin said. “It is not always an easy situation to sometimes to bring people bad news or challenge them to make changes within them, versus where they are not looking at the whole situation.

“It is a delicate balance at times and sometimes people are not happy with the outcome because it’s not what they expected. So we get the whole range, typically people seem to be very satisfied, not always.”

Walk-ins, phone and after hours appointments are accepted. 

However, to maintain confidentiality, cases are not handled through email and communications through email are limited. 

“It’s very satisfying when I get an email or a phone call from a student thanking me for helping them maneuver and things worked out for them. That just makes your day,” Jardino said.

Jardino recounted a case when a student thanked the office years later after his situation and how rewarding the gesture was.

“We had a student years ago, the young man was ill … we assisted him and he got well and back into college and graduated and years later he emailed Dr. Austin and let her know he is in graduate school and it just gave me chills, him thanking her for helping him five years ago,” she said. “It’s satisfying that we can make a difference in one student, one little thing makes a difference in their life … it just makes it all worth it.”

The Office of University Ombuds is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located on the first floor in Building 1, Room 106 and can be reached at (909) 869-3728.

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