Section: News

Ombuds Office releases report, announces new programming

The College’s Ombuds Office released its annual report in August. The report, among other details, offered new information on the recent development of the Office and its services. 

Opening in the 1980s, the Ombuds Office was, at first, for faculty and staff only. Only recently did Student Council discuss opening Ombuds services to students as well, which it did in 2016. Since then, the Office has gained recognition as a campus mediator program for students.

After opening itself up as a resource to the student body in 2017, the proportion of visits to the Ombuds Office by students has steadily increased. In 2019, it reached its highest yet as 27 percent of visits were made by students, as compared to the 2016-2017 school year where they comprised two percent of all visits.

This year’s report also included new recommendations for the College on how best to handle conflict on campus. The report suggests the promotion and adoption of “a collaborative management style across campus in order to demonstrate inclusiveness” as well as the creation of avenues allowing individual voices to be better heard.

The Campus Mediator program — started last year — trains community members, namely students, to act as arbitrators in order to mediate difficult conversations. The program can provide a neutral third party to support a conversation between students, staff or faculty.

Campus Mediator Molly Dierker ’21 hopes to be an accessible resource for any students on campus in need of support.

“As a student, it’s helpful to talk to another student. I think that’ll be really helpful for people,” Dierker said. “If they run into any conflicts or they have any disagreements, they can come to the Ombuds Office and speak with a mediator and resolve those conflicts.”

As a mediator, Dierker guides students through difficult conversations and interpersonal conflicts. She also helps run the Ombuds Office’s Kenyon Listens dialogues, a series of open conversations that aim to bring people from a number of different backgrounds together in order to have conversations on a variety of topics and build relationships. This will be the first year where student organizations can hold their own “Kenyon Listens” dialogues.

Ombudsperson Carrie Knell hopes that student groups will jump at the opportunity, and that doing so will help everyone in the Kenyon community to connect and share ideas with each other.

“Right now there are so many topics that people want to talk about and very important ones,” Knell said. “I think it’s difficult to pick just one for all of us to be talking about.”

Another Ombuds program, Lunch and Learn, teaches relationship and management skills. This semester, Lunch and Learn discussions will focus on understanding other perspectives. The events will be hosted online, and will be accessible by all students and faculty members.

The pandemic hasn’t stopped the Ombuds Office from providing services. Knell is still able to support conversations and deliver presentations to the Kenyon community online. She hopes students and faculty will take advantage of Ombuds’ resources.

“I want people to know that the Ombuds service exists and that it’s open to anyone.” Knell said. “If anyone has a question as to whether it’s something I could help with, they can always reach out and ask.”


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