The term Ombudsperson comes from the Swedish word Ombudsman which describes an individual that listens to people. It is an office commonly found in governments, it performs similar functions to those of a Human Rights Commissioner. This office is also popular in European and American Universities. Its role is associated to that of a justice agent, which implies that human rights are respected and all private information is kept strictly confidential. It provides guidance to students on how to solve problems. This office particularly opens communication channels between students, faculty and administration.
At Zamorano University, the Ombudsman office opened in 2006. The purpose of this new branch was to serve the student community by creating an independent, impartial, and confidential communication channel. This new communication channel would deal with academic and student life issues while safeguarding freedom of expression and eliminating any fear of retaliation.
The Ombudsperson becomes an enabler for communication in case of conflict between students, faculty or any other University staff. The person in this office is appointed by and reports to the President. Essentially, the Ombudsperson investigates cases of unfair or disrespectful treatment as well as any issues dealing with inappropriate procedures. The duties of this office include listening, counseling, and directing those who need such interventions. This office also mediates in a conflict resolution or in a negotiation process.
Frequently, suggesting clear steps to follow becomes the easiest way to solve a problem. The office counsels students about the different paths he or she can take to address an issue during his or her time at the University. Counseling must be impartial at the same time it is guided by the University’s current policies. Additionally, the Ombudsperson has the responsibility to notify the University administration about any academic or non-academic situations that might be weakening relationships within the Institution.