The Executive Board wants to invest more in the central counsellors who deal with complaints about intimidation, aggression and violence. Furthermore, EUR also has a counsellor for scientific integrity.

Such an investment is obviously excellent. The time that the Executive Board previously made available to the central counsellors was so short that they were barely able to conduct interviews with staff and students, let alone communicate what they can offer, analyse problems or write reports. And they had almost no time for communication with fellow counsellors in the faculties, who may actually often act as first point of contact. Now they have more time for all these things.

Has Erasmus University now got a proper complaints management process in place? Not exactly. I feel we still need an independent and impartial ombudsman.

At their last meeting, the Executive Board and the University Council discussed a policy document about the Role of the ombudsman. HR/personnel department drew up this document because of an agreement in the Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) that every university would do this. The document claimed that the added value of an ombudsman could not be proven. Furthermore, the document predicted an increase in ‘shopping behaviour’, i.e. the submission of complaints to several organisations from students and staff if another help desk appeared for complaints.

However, an ombudsman definitely has added value. An ombudsman is impartial. The new role also offers the opportunity to do independent research. A counsellor does not formally have such independence and impartiality.

The shopping behaviour predicted by the document can be prevented by good communication about the various procedures and authorisations of counsellors, ombudsman, personnel advisors and student deans. There are two or perhaps more sides to the coin. The threshold for reporting complaints will become lower and as an organisation you therefore get better insight into your own performance and possible risks. I also assume that the appointment of an ombudsman can help reduce what is often currently a purely legal approach to complaints.

The Executive Board would do well to appoint an ombudsman!