Frequently Asked Questions:

What does an Ombudsperson do?

  • Listens to students' concerns that result in particular from their role and position as graduate students at the University at Albany;
  • Provides "wise counsel" from years of experience working in academic departments that offer graduate degrees;
  • Helps students find ways to open channels of communication;
  • Provides or locates information and makes referrals to other campus resources;
  • Explains University policies and procedures or refers student to someone who can do so;
  • Shares generic information about graduate students' concerns with appropriate campus offices in an attempt to contribute to a larger supportive environment for graduate students;
  • Offers recommendations for policy or procedural changes that appear to interfere with graduate student success.

When should students seek out an Ombudsperson?

  • When you believe you are being treated unfairly in your department, or by one of your graduate professors;
  • When you have a situation involving interpersonal issues with faculty, advisors, or other students and need advice to determine the best course of action;
  • When you feel a policy, procedure, or regulation has been applied unfairly or in error;
  • When you are unsure what options or resources exist to help you solve a problem.

Does an Ombudsperson have the training or credentials to serve as a psychological counselor?

  • No. The Ombudspersons' credentials are academic and they are qualified to help graduate students negotiate the sometimes difficult interpersonal relationships that are part of the students' graduate and professional education. For example, Ombudspersons have had much experience working with students on master's theses and doctoral dissertations, understand the anxieties that sometimes accompany the choice of qualifying examination and dissertation committees, and recognize the inevitable stress that can accompany long-term status as a graduate student.
  • Other offices on campus exist to provide a variety of health and well-being resources for students. Ombudspersons may help students access these resources. This information is also available at Resources for Students.

Can an Ombudsperson give students legal advice or advice concerning personnel matters, if the graduate student is also a Teaching Assistant or Graduate Assistant?

  • No. The Ombudsperson will refer you to the appropriate office(s) for legal advice.
  • The Office of Human Resources is the office to contact for legal/contractual issues concerning the terms and conditions of employment. The Graduate Student Employees' Union represents students in their capacity as employees, and it is therefore not appropriate for Ombudspersons to address issues related to employment.

Are there conflicts or disputes the Ombudspersons do not address?

  • Ombudspersons do not address Visa issues for international students but may refer students to the office of International Student Services.
  • Students with concerns about sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation should consult with the Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action. Ombudspersons may suggest that the student contact ODAA.
  • Ombudspersons do not provide tutorial assistance or help with students' writing or securing reasonable accommodations for the taking of examinations. They may, however, refer students to the Writing Center, to the Office of Disabled Student Services, or to any other resource on campus that seems appropriate. If you already know that you need services from one of these offices, it is probably not appropriate to consult with an Ombudsperson unless you also have a related academic or professional issue that you believe these offices cannot address. Please consult the list of Resources for Students to determine whether an office exists that may be helpful for your specific problem.
  • Ombudspersons do not address conflicts or disputes between graduate students and private individuals, organizations, or companies not affiliated with the University at Albany. However, some issues that may arise in conjunction with a student's internship or field placement may be appropriate to bring to consultation with an Ombudsperson.
  • Ombudspersons and the Ombuds Office do not receive formal grievances, judicial referrals, or legal issues of any kind. However, students may discuss with an Ombudsperson their choice to use a formal grievance procedure.

What can you as a graduate student expect to gain by consulting with an Ombudsperson?

  • Insight into your issue or problem;
  • Perspective from the vantage point of someone with experience, someone who once stood "in your shoes" as a graduate student;
  • An opportunity to gain a clearer perspective on a concern;
  • A potential advocate in the process of identifying options;
  • Alleviation of a sense of isolation concerning your situation;
  • Practice in effective communication skills;
  • Someone outside your department who shares an interest in your successful resolution of conflict and your return to productive completion of your degree.