A series of tense standoffs between students and the administration over the course of this year caused Student Council president Phoebe Roe ’16 to begin thinking of ways the College could mitigate the disagreements. One solution she imagined was for Council to create a student ombudsperson position, the holder of which would mediate disputes between students or student groups and the administration.
In its past two meetings, Council discussed implementing an ombudsperson for students to complement the role Carrie Knell, the College’s faculty ombudsperson, performs. This person would hold regular office hours to discuss student complaints, according to the minutes from Council’s Sunday meeting.
“We want somebody closer to students, who would be able to work with students to show them how you can communicate your problems to the administration,” Roe said, adding she was concerned that, in the absence of a clear third-party mediator, students seem more willing to share complaints about the administration on social media platforms like Yik Yak, Facebook and Twitter than to pursue official methods of voicing their grievances.
“Sometimes students just aren’t comfortable meeting an administrator to talk about about another administrator,” Roe said. “The idea is, really, to give students essentially no excuse as to why they wouldn’t voice their concerns.”
President Sean Decatur admitted the office of the ombudsperson, which operates in the Office of President, currently has little contact with students.
“I think opening it up to students is certainly something we should think about,” Decatur said.
Roe said she envisions the ombudsperson being a student, but has not ruled out the possibility of the officeholder being a faculty member.
“We just want to keep the lines of communication open, and make sure that if there is a problem, it’s actually addressed,” Roe said.