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September 25, 2014

O-Issue 2014: The student ombudsperson, demystified

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood…if it’s something weird and it won’t look good…who you gonna call?

Instead of the Ghostbusters, shoot the ombudsperson a message. Located on the third floor of the University bookstore building, student ombudsperson Deepa Das Acevedo, a second-year student at the Law School, and associate ombudsperson Charles Huff, a Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, serve as mediators between two parties at the University.  Students can turn to the ombudspeople for help in a variety of situations, including issues with a faculty member, a fellow student, or a roommate.

A part of the University since 1968, the ombudsperson is a part-time, salaried position. Their role is outside of the University’s administrative structure to ensure independence, but they are technically part of the Office of the President. They are appointed annually by the Office of the President, and this year’s term began September 1.

“A lot of what we do is talk through things with students who may not want to take any formal course of action,” Das Acevedo told the *Maroon* in February when she was appointed as associate ombudsperson. “We’re there to listen, bring resources to light, facilitate dialogue, and mediate dialogue.”

According to Das Acevedo, an ombudsperson can help students think through a situation, learn more about University policies, or resolve a dispute between employees and employers. However, they cannot give legal advice, conduct formal investigations, or supersede the authority of University policies or officials.

The Office of the Student Ombudsperson dealt with 37 cases over the winter and spring quarters of 2014. “We’re a harbor should a storm arise,” Huff said.

Acevedo is a native of Nova Scotia who received her Ph.D. in anthropology from UChicago in 2013. Huff is a student at the Divinity School and resident head of Thompson House, hailing from San Antonio, with interests in studying the Hebrew Bible as an ancient Near Eastern text.

Students can send an e-mail to ombudsperson@uchicago.edu to request an appointment.

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