Ombudsman appointed

Ashlee Clark

Erica Frank wants to finish her remaining undergraduate credit hours and take a few graduate courses at the same time in the spring.

She just doesn’t know if she can.

Frank, a senior from Leitchfield, said she got “frustrated and sweaty” going up and down the Hill to several offices trying to gather information, and she still doesn’t have an answer.

“I was sent on the runaround,” Frank said.

She may need to look no further. Luther Hughes, associate vice president for enrollment management, was appointed ombudsman for students during the summer.

In this role, he will act as a “final mediator” for students who have made previous attempts to fix their problems with no success.

He will also continue in his vice president position.

Hughes said other universities, such as the University of Cincinnati, have ombudsmen.

“It’s key for an ombudsman to be sure that the usual processes are permitted to run their course first, then if there is no resolution, then the issue goes to the ombudsman,” he said.

President Gary Ransdell said the colleges have been appointing ombudsmen for about four years for faculty and staff.

They give employees “an opportunity to air their concerns in a thoughtful and protected manner,” he said.

This is the first ombudsman for students at Western, Provost Barbara Burch said.

Hughes said that he enjoys working with those who may need his assistance.

“I get joy out of helping a student who has a serious need,” he said.

Hughes said the situations he assists students with include issues with faculty, grades, financial aid, degree programs and any other problems.

“A new issue seems to come up every day practically,” he said.

Disciplinary actions are not a part of what has been put in his responsibilities, he said.

Hughes said that along with understanding university policy, an ombudsmen should also be sensitive to unusual needs of students.

Burch said the decision was made to officially name Hughes ombudsman after watching him perform that role for students and acting upon his recommendation.

The role of ombudsman is not meant to take away any authority from other offices on campus, she said.

“One of the things that we keep finding is that students get caught up in going from one place to another and trying to solve a problem,” Burch said.

Burch said that the addition of an ombudsmen will help amend difficult situations.

“If you have a problem that you just can’t get solved that is preventing you from being successful academically, we have one person designed in Academic Affairs that will help you work it out,” she said.

Reach Ashlee Clark at [email protected].