Sept. 28, 1995

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    Ombudsperson: Applying theory to real life

    Marc Blitz hadn't actually planned on applying for the job of Student Ombudsperson. In fact, he wasn't even aware the position was available until he went to the Student Ombudsperson's Office last spring with a complaint of his own.

    "When I walked in, the secretary asked me if I had come for the information session for job applicants," said Blitz. "I said, 'What job?' "

    Blitz decided to stay for the session and then to apply for the position. He was named Student Ombudsperson for 1995-96 and officially began his term at the beginning of summer quarter.

    "It's one of the best things to happen to me here at the University," said Blitz, who is a graduate student in political science. "As a student of political theory, I've long been interested in questions about how just institutions treat their members. Being ombudsperson gives me the chance to help find answers to such questions when they are of pressing concern for real people and for the University community, of which I am a part."

    The ombudsperson's charge is to facilitate resolution of conflicts that have not been resolved through normal channels and to provide advice about where to turn when a problem arises. Students can discuss with the ombudsperson problems ranging from grade appeals to problems in residence halls to questions about financial aid. The ombudsperson may then refer the students to the appropriate department or work with students, faculty members and administrators to find acceptable solutions.

    Blitz will be assisted in his work by Abby Markle, a third-year College student concentrating in Romance Languages & Literatures.

    "It is important to me that students not feel that our office is only their last resort for dealing with issues," said Blitz. "We are able to help a student at any point in the process of resolving a conflict. We can help a student figure out where to start, and we can give advice to a student who is in the process of working through a bureaucratic snag. Of course, we are also always willing to give advice to a student who has exhausted the formal options for resolving a dispute."

    As part of his duties, Blitz meets weekly with Jonathan Kleinbard, Vice President for University News & Community Affairs, and Edward Turkington, Dean of Student Services. The Student Ombudsperson also has access to other University officers, including the Provost and the President.

    The Student Ombudsperson is appointed by the President after receiving the recommendation of a student-faculty committee that interviews candidates.

    The Student Ombudsperson's Office, located in Reynolds Club 006C, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Students with questions or complaints can visit the Ombudsperson's Office or call 702-8422. All phone and office conversations are confidential. Students can also e-mail Blitz at ombud1@uchicago.edu, but e-mail messages cannot be maintained as confidential.