Students encountering problems at Florida A&M University finally have somewhere they can go to seek a resolution.
Ruth Campbell, Esq., is the new University ombudsman, as well as executive assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs, Patricia Green-Powell.
According to Campbell, the mission of her office is “to enhance the collegial environment here at FAMU.” This means that she will “basically be a listening ear to students, faculty as well as staff.”
Campbell’s duties include responding to any queries students may have, referring people to the right offices, listening to their complaints, investigating troubling issues and generally trying to bring resolution to the many problems students, staff and faculty face at a university, she explained.
“I can help you with answering questions or direct you to a person that can; or I can be a last resort in that you’ve gone through the procedures. Maybe the process is going slow, and you don’t know why people keep putting you off, or the end result was not what you thought was fair or what you thought was right, then I can come in. I can investigate, and I can put things together to try to explain what happened and come to a resolution.”
According to Green-Powell, the University has been without an ombudsman for the past six to nine months.
Fleur Williams, 21, a food science student from Antigua, was thrilled to learn the University has a new ombudsman.
“I think that’s just wonderful,” Williams said.
“Students have many issues that they need resolved and they do not know who to speak to.”
Campbell, an Atlanta native, has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Georgia State University and a law degree from the University of Florida. She is also a certified Florida Supreme Court mediator and a member of the Florida Bar.
Campbell said so far she has had a variety of student issues brought to her attention ranging from financial aid to miscommunication between students and faculty.
However, financial aid, transcripts and housing are among the more prevalent.
When students come to Cambell’s office, they are asked to fill out a form that lists some of the areas in which they might have concerns.
Students can also choose “other” and write down their own concerns that are not listed.
The reverse side of the sheet explains what her office is about.
While some students are already visiting Campbell, others do not even know what an ombudsman is, and even more students are only now realizing that Campbell’s services are available to them.
Williams said that besides just filling the position, she hopes the University informs students on what an ombudsman is and where they can contact the University ombudsman, or else “[filling the position] is useless.”
Sheena Sewell, a senior food science student from Pembroke Pines, admitted to previously hearing the term ombudsman, but not being able to fully explain the duties associated with the position.
Rick Anderson, a freshman general studies student from Indianapolis shares Williams’ sentiment. However, both agree the position would be useful on campus.
“It’s really beneficial,” Anderson said, noting that often times students need someone to talk to because their parents are so far away.
Campbell began serving as the university ombudsman in September of this year after a search committee recommended her for an interview with Green-Powell.
Green-Powell said that Campbell came highly recommended by the search committee, and she was very pleased with the selection.
“[Campbell] is just awesome; she will be very good for the position,” Green-Powell said.
Campbell said since working as the University ombudsman she has had to be a mediator, something she considers a big part of her job, between students and sometimes even between students and faculty members.
“My first guest was a faculty member that called because of a situation with a student, and they wanted to bring some resolution to it.”
Campbell said she was able to assist the faculty member and student, though the issue is not yet fully resolved.
“Complaints or issues don’t just get completed necessarily in a day or in an hour. It takes some time, and as long as both parties understand that, then things flow easier,” she said.
Campbell’s immediate goal as the University ombudsman is to conduct different workshops.
The first workshop, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 25 from 10 a.m. to noon, will be on the subject conflict resolution.
“I want to be able to have workshops for students, staff and faculty on how to handle conflict and how to come to reasonable resolutions.”
Campbell is looking to get the dispute resolution center to facilitate the first workshop.
She said thus far they have agreed to it.
One thing Campbell wants the students to know is her job is not to circumvent any existing procedures.
“I’m here to enhance the collegiate environment, so that means I’m not here to stop you from going through the procedures that are already set up … I’m here to change it for the better.”
The Office of the Ombudsman is located in the Foote-Hilyer Administration Center, Room 103.
Contact Kalifa Hickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org