Ombuds Services For Graduate and Professional Education
The Texas A&M University Graduate and Professional Student Ombuds Office serves as an informal, independent, and neutral resource that anyone from the graduate and professional community can use to obtain assistance with a conflict, misunderstanding, concern or issue related to graduate education.
Resolving an Academic-Related Conflict
The university is a large and complex institution where graduate and professional students often play multiple roles, such as student, research collaborator, teacher, technician and peer. Misunderstandings and conflicts can arise in any one of these roles, particularly where they intersect with one or more roles filled by others in the graduate and professional community.
A Safe Space For Dealing With Conflict
The Ombuds Office provides safe, non-judgmental space where you can share complaints or concerns off-the-record. Ombuds Officers are available to assist graduate and professional students as well as staff, faculty and administrators in a wide range of conflict situations or concerns, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Academic-related issues (e.g., grade disputes, testing procedures, instructor/student misunderstandings).
- Intellectual property issues.
- Interpersonal conflicts, lab politics and problems with workplace climate.
- Concerns about professional ethics.
- Initiating and conducting difficult conversations.
- Concerns about procedural fairness or due process.
- Conflicts between graduate students and their research advisors.
- Concerns about inequities in work expectations and/or funding opportunities.
- Disagreements with or misunderstandings of university policies/procedures.
- Cultural conflicts.
- Concerns about unethical or inappropriate behavior.
The Ombuds Office values and protects the privacy and identity of students seeking assistance. We do not disclose confidential communications unless required by state law such as in situations of child abuse or neglect; imminent risk of serious harm to the visitor or another person; or a court order with appropriate authority.
According to Texas A&M System Regulation 08.01.01, Ombuds Officers are considered Mandatory Reporters and are required to report any alleged sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, discrimination, or any other prohibited conducted committed by or against a person who was a student or employee at the time of the incident. Ombuds Officers are also obligated to report discrimination based on a protected status.
The university is structured with various layers of policies and procedures that guide its operations. The ombuds office can assist with providing clarification on how university policies and/or procedures apply to your situation such as excused absences and religious holy days, work hour expectations, grade appeal process, or similar matters related to your graduate education experience.
The Graduate and Professional Student Ombuds Officer promotes the University mission of excellence in graduate education by providing a service to support graduate students and facilitate environments in which they can thrive and prosper. To that end, the Graduate and Professional School holds the Ombuds Officer accountable to the same high standards that Texas A&M prides itself in.
The Ombuds Officer is guided by the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the International Ombudsman Association. The IOA code of ethics informs the types of activities in which an Ombuds Officer can and cannot engage.
When Should I Contact the Ombuds Officer?
We recommend you contact the Ombuds Officer when you find yourself in any of the following situations:
- You need an impartial and independent person to listen.
- You think someone at the university has treated you unfairly.
- You have an issue that you and others have not been able to resolve and that you would prefer not to address through formal channels.
- You are not sure how to interpret a University policy or procedure or how it applies to your situation.
- You feel that a University policy, procedure, or regulation has been applied unfairly, or itself is unfair or ambiguous.
- You have a problem that requires an outside party to help facilitate communication and/or negotiate a solution.
How Do I Reach Out to the Ombuds Officer
The Ombuds Office is located in the Graduate and Professional School in 204 Nagle Hall. Email us to schedule an appointment in person, over the phone, or on Zoom. The Ombuds Officer will listen and work with you through to create a range of options and strategies for moving forward. Please include UIN, availability, and a brief description of the issue. (Be advised that confidentiality cannot be ensured in email communication. Thus, we discourage you from sending sensitive information via email.)
Contact: email@example.com or 979-845-3631
The Ombuds Officer can:
- Listen and help you achieve a greater understanding of the problem.
- Help you find information applicable to your situation and identify possible solutions to your problem.
- Explain University policies and procedures and how they apply to your specific case.
- Help you identify options for resolving conflicts with colleagues, staff, faculty and advisors.
- Help you achieve fair and equitable solutions to problems.
- Facilitate communication among people in conflict.
- Provide other types of assistance to help you resolve a problem informally.
- Refer you to formal grievance or appeal procedures if you wish to engage in a formal process.
- Identify trends or patterns of complaints that might be systemic.
- Offer recommendations for changes to policies/procedures that appear outdated or problematic, while maintaining confidentiality.
The Ombuds Officer cannot:
- Advocate for the University or the student, or any particular point of view.
- Make or change University decisions, rules or policies.
- Set aside a decision or supersede the authority of another University official.
- Participate in formal grievance procedures.
- Provide legal advice.
- Conduct formal investigations.
OMBUDS ANNUAL REPORTS
The Graduate and Professional School is committed to transparency in reporting. Since 2012, the Ombuds Office has kept statistics on the types of issues for which persons seek its services and, each year, published an annual report.