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Scenes from Faculty Senate

Annual Report of the Ombud

1999-2000

Personnel:

Vincent Rose, Ombud
Elizabeth Eyring, Student Assistant

Office:

The ombud office is in room 324 Roosevelt Hall. The hours are posted on the door along with the office phone number and the phone number and e-mail address of the ombudperson. The telephone message also gives information on reaching the ombudperson. The office was loaned to the Registrar's Office from mid December through January for processing SET forms.

Web Page:

The web site http://www.uri.edu/facsen/Ombud.html has been kept up-to-date through the efforts of the Faculty Senate Office. The site emphasizes the purpose of the ombud office, lists its location and indicates the hours, the telephone number of the office and the ombudperson and the e-mail address of the ombudperson and the student assistant. The site can be reached from the University home page as well as through the Faculty Senate and the Student Senate web sites.

Outreach:

Posters have been placed in the Memorial Union and in University College. Contact has been maintained with the Student Senate and the Graduate Student Association, the Office of the Registrar, Bursar, Student Life, Counseling Center, Campus Ministry and Graduate School. The ombudperson has attended parent orientation sessions each summer and will attend in 2000. Flyers have been and will continue to be distributed to parents during these sessions.

The ombudperson has served on the College of Engineering Diversity Committee, participating in the development of the attached conflict resolution procedure (ATTACHMENT A). This procedure could be applicable to the whole University. In addition it has been recommended that a training program be developed to provide people in each department with skills in conflict resolution. He has been a participant in the USDE Change The Culture Grant including a week long Disability Resource Mentor workshop (ATTACHMENT B). For further information the Change the Culture web site is http://www.uri.edu/ctc/ The Ombudperson also serves as a faculty senator and on the Senate's Academic Standards and Calendar Committee.

Cases:

Questions have been received from students, parents, faculty, administrators and outside groups. Many of the cases are raised and resolved via the internet. The majority of the problems have involved undergraduate students. Most of the solutions have involved informing people of the appropriate procedures and options.

Housing deposits on and off campus continue to be an issue. In all cases it has been clearly indicated that the deposit was not refundable. The main issues are timing and equity. Other housing issues have involved roommate conduct.

Alleged cheating also continues to be a problem. Primarily this involved questions of the definition of "sole" work. Working in teams with access to each others computer accounts or discs has complicated this problem as has the internet. Proper citation also has been an issue.

A case in May 1998 regarding the calculation of honors for graduation has been addressed finally with the approval of proposed changes to the regulations in the University Manual. The question of retroactive application of the standards has been referred to the Academic Standards and Calendar Committee.

Another set of cases has involved performance and supervision of external practicums. Timely open communications among all parties is essential in these situations, especially for the non-traditional student.

Multiple cases have involved dropping people from classes and the appropriate use of the NW grade. At least part of this issue is before the Academic Standards and Calendar Committee.

At the graduate level several cases have involved dismissal. One case involved a joint program with another institution. There is need to develop guidelines for handling lines of authority in cases involving multiple institutional jurisdiction.

Timing:

Many of the cases reach the ombud office before or at the start of the semester (housing, appropriate registrations, course availability, prerequisite requirements, fees, student payroll etc.) and at the end of the semester (grades, dropping of course, cheating, academic standing, dismissal). Cases involved personal conflicts (student-student, teacher-student, administrative office-student) occur on a more random basis.

Future Plans:

Efforts will be renewed to obtain coverage of the office in the Cigar and the Pacer. Contacts will be maintained with the various student service offices. The ombudperson will continue to serve on the Academic Standards and Calendar Committee during the 2000-01 academic year .


Attachment A

Guidelines for Conflict Resolutions in the College of Engineering (4-21-00)

Guidelines should be posted and accessible to all undergraduate and graduate students, staff, faculty, and administrators in the College of Engineering (COE). Successful implementation requires ongoing training in and awareness of conflict resolution, within the COE. Conflict can involve different parties (e.g., Undergraduate: Student-Student, Student-Faculty; Graduate: Student-student, Student-faculty; Faculty-Faculty; or Staff: Staff-staff, Staff-faculty and Staff-student (This includes janitors, technicians, secretaries, computer lab personnel, TA/RAs etc.). The main objective of conflict resolution is to provide a forum in which conflicted parties can initiate a confidential and amiable discussion that hopefully addresses both parties concerns. Several options are suggested to achieve conflict resolution, in descending order of preference. That is, it is always preferable to address the situation with the immediate parties involved. If this is not deemed possible, other options are provided.

I. Resolution by the Parties Themselves. Because many conflicts can be resolved through improved communication, the parties are urged to talk with each other and attempt to resolve the conflict by mutual understanding, mutual consent, or "agreeing to disagree" without further injury to either side. The parties are advised that confidentiality, which is an important foundation of personal dignity and professional standing, can most easily be preserved if conflicts can be resolved in this manner. This option will not work for everyone. Directly approaching the person with whom one has a conflict may be emotion-laden, involve a power differential, or be otherwise uncomfortable. The Guidelines provide additional options to consider.

II. Resolution with the COE. A student, staff, or faculty member may decide to ask a neutral third party within the COE to advise, mediate, or advocate for them. The role of the neutral third party and the expectations of all parties should be clearly defined at the outset. For students, an advisor or major professor may provide guidance on some issues. If this does not help resolve the situation, the department chairperson or other conflict resolution designee could be asked to advise and or mediate the conflict. The chairperson reserves the right to forward the conflict to the College (Assistant/Associate) Dean's Office if deemed appropriate. This may be important in cases of disputes across different departments, or conflicts involving several people. Confidentiality remains very important, and should be respected by the third parties, as well as by the principal parties to the conflict. It any case, it is best when a situation is addressed as quickly as possible to prevent escalation of the conflict. Seeking out a neutral third party, such as the department chair or other conflict resolution designee, can provide an objective perspective that will hopefully lead to an effective resolution.

III. Resolution Beyond the COE. After exhausting options within the department or college, or in cases where the nature of the conflict makes resolution outside the COE preferable, parties to a conflict may consult a number of sources: The Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, the Vice-Provost for Research (who is also the Dean of the Graduate School), the Associate Deans of the Graduate School, the University Ombud, the Director of the Multicultural Center, the Office of Student Life, the Director of the Women's Center, the Affirmative Action Officer, the Counseling Center, university Chaplains, and Campus Police, especially in cases of personal safety. Confidentiality remains very important; however, the difficulty of maintaining confidentiality may increase as more people, and people further removed from the original conflict, become involved.

IN SUM, whenever possible, it is best to resolve at the lowest level possible. This can often be handled by using conflict resolution tactics, such as trying to understand another's perspective, and initially assuming the other person is innocent. If conflict cannot be resolved with the immediate parties, it is best to involve a neutral third party, most likely the Department Chair or other conflict resolution designee. If the chairperson is unsuccessful in resolving the conflict, the Assistant Dean should become involved for undergraduate students and the Associate Dean of the Graduate School should become involved for graduate students. For Faculty-Faculty conflicts at the College level, the Dean or Deans can be called on to help address the conflict. If all of these options fail, or in situations where different resources are needed, other offices may be approached: Graduate School Deans; Directors of the: Multicultural Center, Office of Student Life, Women's Center, Affirmative Action, Counseling Center, Campus Chaplains, Disability Services, or Center for Peace and Non-Violence; or the Campus Police, especially in cases involving personal safety.

Flow Chart


Attachment B

Changing the Culture

The University of Rhode Island's Demonstration to Enhance the Inclusion and Retention of Students with Disabilities in Postsecondary Institutions

Disability Training Curriculum

A. Philosophy
The guiding philosophy of this training curriculum is that disability is an example of cultural diversity. Our culture endorses a negative stigma of disability that is similar to what other minority groups experience. This stigmatizing can be the most limiting feature of having a disability. Additionally, it impacts all of us by denying the contributions of this group to society at large. Fortunately, information, knowledge and sensitivity can combat this negative stigma and facilitate inclusion. All aspects of society, including higher education, has an obligation to all of its members to facilitate integration of all persons, including persons with disabilities, into the community and to advance their development toward maximal potential.

B. Goal
The overall goal of this curriculum is to foster the development of an integrative, accepting and facilitating environment for Rhode Island postsecondary students who have disabilities. This goal will be reached by providing specialized training to a cohort of faculty and administrators at the state's institutions of higher education. These trained faculty will serve as ongoing mentors to their peers in relationship to disability issues.

C. Objectives
Participants completing the training curriculum will be able to:

  1. describe common stereotypes of persons with disabilities and the associated limitations these stereotypes foster,
  2. identify and implement strategies to combat the negative stigma of disability
  3. summarize the basic principles of the IDEA and the ADA,
  4. explain the concept of "reasonable accommodations" and give examples for a range of disabilities,
  5. summarize the latest research on learning disabilities, including types, causes and accommodation strategies,
  6. describe common mental illnesses including their symptoms, treatments and unique associated stigma,
  7. demonstrate mentoring skills, including active listening, problem-solving, and consideration of multiple points-of-view,
  8. describe affective and psychomotor consequences of selected (simulated) disabilities,
  9. describe/discuss first person accounts of life with a disability,
  10. disseminate seminar content to departmental/ administrative/ unit colleagues.

D. Techniques / Learning Activities to Reach Objectives
A variety of techniques will be utilized to meet the overall goal of this project and the more specific objectives. These techniques will be organized and integrated across three major activities: a) a series of training seminars, b) dissemination activities by seminar participants to individual departments, and c) ongoing support meetings for the seminar participants. (Note a and c have been combined.)

The training seminars will be a thirty-hour program designed to give participants a range of experiences to broaden their understanding of disability issues and persons with disabilities. A diversity of learning activities will be utilized in this seminar including:

  1. didactic lectures with accompanying discussions/question-and-answer sessions,
  2. simulated disability sessions,
  3. hands-on experiences with technical supports for persons with disabilities
  4. consideration and discussion of disability media including books and award-winning documentaries and short films about persons with disabilities.

An important aspect of this seminar is that students and others with disabilities will be integrated into all aspects of the training to provide positive role models and first-hand accounts of life with a disability.

Each Seminar participant will be responsible to disseminate the essentials of the seminar content to their home academic department or administrative unit within the next academic year. It is anticipated that this dissemination may take many forms with formats varying to maximize compatibility with the learning culture in individual departments. For example, it is anticipated that the degree of formality of these presentations will be on a continuum from formal agenda items at departmental faculty meetings to informal (but multiple) discussions involving fewer participants at a time.

Additional information is available on the web through the Disability Services home page at http://www.uri.edu/disability_services.