On October 11, 2018, the Ombuds offices of UC Berkeley recognized the first annual Ombuds Day.* Ombuds Day will be held annually on the second Thursday of October and is marked as a day to recognize the work of Ombuds in serving their organizations. Both the Staff Ombuds Office and Ombuds Office for Students and Postdoctoral Appointees hosted morning coffees in celebration.
This year also marks 50 years of ombuds services to the students and faculty of Berkeley. In 1967, by resolution of the Academic Senate, Berkeley became the first UC campus to appoint an ombudsperson. In the era of student demonstrations against the Vietnam War, Professor George Leitmann, a “natural ombudsman”, started by informally hearing students’ complaints. With the Academic Senate Bylaw 22, Leitmann was made the official ombudsman and served on the committee until 1970.
This committee provided confidential, neutral services to the campus until 1992 when the Ombuds Office for Students and Postdocs was established. While the Academic Senate committee continues to serve faculty, the establishment of the dedicated student office has continued to serve undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral appointees, as well as staff and faculty with student-related concerns. The addition of Ombuds services for staff was implemented when a separate office was created in 1984 in part from a recommendation of the Chancellor’s Staff Advisory Committee.
Over the past fifty years, thousands of graduate students and instructors have been served by ombuds in many forms. For the past ten years, the campus community has been served by Marcia Gee Riley, the Director and Ombudsperson for Students and Postdocs. Historically, the office has clarified policies and procedures for students, provided informal mediation, assisted students struggling with academic progress, coached in conflict and communication and much more. Nearly 50% of the issues that graduate student visitors bring to the office involve communication in some form.
The Ombuds office is a confidential resource, one of only three on campus. They are also a neutral and impartial office designed not to take sides but to be an informal place where community members can go to feel heard, connect to resources and coaching on how to handle the challenges ahead.
If you face a challenging situation as a graduate student and are seeking a resource to explore your options, the Ombuds Office is here. You can learn more on the Ombuds website.