In response to a suggestion from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, EUR commissioned a preliminary study to look at the pros and cons of an ombudsman. Based on the results of the study, the Executive Board concluded that an ombudsman would have no apparent added value.
An ombudsman is an independent and impartial complaints officer. Complaints can be presented to this person if the normal avenues, such as turning to a confidential counsellor, fail to lead to a resolution for whatever reason. An ombudsman can also be asked to independently investigate wrongdoings within the university.
Arguments put forward in favour of appointing an ombudsman are: independence, having the scope to investigate, preventing workplace conflicts and offering a ‘safety net’ if the culture of calling others to account does not function effectively.
But according to the report, the pros are outweighed by the cons of such an appointment: it impedes a culture of directly calling someone to account, there is an overlap with other positions such as the confidential counsellor, its necessity is not always clear, the costs involved, and it would encourage ‘grievance shopping’, where students explore which of a range of bodies or services would be most likely to uphold their complaint.
The University Council does not concur with the report and wants to persuade the Executive Board to appoint an ombudsman, says University Council member Clemens Festen. “Right now the university does not have the option of independently investigating wrongdoings at the university, even though this is important for the organisation. The University Council and EUROPA are in favour of appointing an ombudsman.”
“The Executive Board is already somewhat more well disposed to the idea”, says Festen. “During the last meeting they were more willing to listen to our arguments supporting the appointment of an ombudsman.”
An ombudsman had previously been appointed from November 2014 to December 2015 during a reorganisation at the University Support Centre (USC). However, the ombudsman departed when the reorganisation was completed.