An ombudsperson is an advocate with a significant degree of autonomy and independence who investigates and mediates complaints and grievances. There are two Ombudspersons for the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences who can help if you find yourself in a situation where you would benefit from this kind of assistance. This is an unofficial position, and does not take the place of the university’s formal grievance processes for issues related to academic, harassment, discrimination, disability, or safety policy. Additional support at the campus level may be obtained from IU’s Student Advocates Office.
If you have a grievance about a situation that arises within our department, contacting one of the Ombudspersons could be a good place to start.
How can we help?
If you have a grievance about a situation that arises within our department, contacting the Ombudspersons could be a good place to start. They will try to help you understand your options and, where appropriate, direct you to the relevant university offices. Your complaint will receive individual attention and be dealt with non-judgmentally and in confidence.
Note that there are important exceptions to this rule. We are legally obligated, for example, to report any information of sexual misconduct brought to our attention to individuals at the university who are trained to respond appropriately.
Students or employees seeking complete anonymity should speak only with individuals designated as confidential employees. Confidential resources are available at the IU Sexual Assault Crisis Services (SACS), the IU Health Center, and the Confidential Victim Advocates group within the Office for Sexual Violence Prevention and Victim Advocacy. Additional information about these resources is available here.
Examples of services offered by the Ombudspersons
The Ombudspersons can:
- Listen to your concerns, and assist you in developing a set of options.
- Provide advice and referrals.
- Clarify university and departmental policies and procedures.
- Help you contact appropriate parties.
- Refer disputes between students to Student Mediation Services.
- Explain the services of the Student Advocates Office and more specialized conflict resolution offices at IU.
- Assist in setting up a direct personal meeting between the parties involved, and may assist with mediation if appropriate.
- Assist in the preparation of appeals or explanatory letters.
- Do the Ombudspersons have authority to resolve your grievance?
No. The ombudspersons have no formal authority to make decisions in your case. They will be available to help discuss your situation. They can refer you to other people or offices if they feel your case would benefit from others’ involvement. They are not authorized to accompany you to judicial or academic hearings.
- What about discussing sensitive issues?
All matters discussed with the Ombudspersons remain confidential, unless you request otherwise. Exceptions to this rule are matters falling under the Title IX/Sexual Misconduct Policy, which the Ombudspersons are obligated to report as a Responsible Employee.
- What kinds of problems are appropriate to bring to the Ombudspersons?
The Ombudspersons deal with concerns relating to any grievance a student has that grows out of (1) academic issues that arise in a course in the Department, (2) working relations with colleagues in the academic workplace, and (3) ethical issues that arise in the research environment. Some examples include:
- You believe that you have been falsely accused of cheating on an exam
- You believe that course assignments or exams are unreasonable, unfair, unclear, or discriminatory
- You believe that you have been unfairly denied admission to a course
- You have a dispute over a grade
- You have a concern or complaint about teaching quality
- You have an issue regarding degree requirements
- You feel that a supervisor has treated you unfairly
- You have concerns over safety in your laboratory
- You are facing unusually difficult personal situations in your work group
- You are inclined to act as “whistleblower” to a violation of research ethics
- Should you speak with others in the department first?
That's an excellent question with no simple answer. Each case is different, and the answer may depend on your situation and your relation to other individuals involved. The Department Chair (Dr. David Polly), the undergraduate advisor (Melissa Jackson) and the graduate services coordinator (Cami Albers) may also be able to help resolve academic conflicts. Use your own judgment.
- Can a faculty member or Associate Instructor initiate a complaint with the Ombudspersons?
- Are the Ombudspersons impartial?
Insofar as possible, they remain neutral in their role. They will recuse themselves from any case that they believe represents a conflict of interest. The Ombudspersons' role is to help resolve conflicts if possible. If this cannot be done, they will refer you to other people.
- Who are the EAS Ombudspersons?
Michael Hamburger, Professor, and Shelby Rader, Assistant Professor, are the Ombudspersons for Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
Dr. Hamburger is a caring individual as well as a seasoned member of the university community. He has been teaching at IU for more than 30 years. He also served as Associate Dean of the Faculties and Associate Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs, where he led mediation and conflict resolution efforts for academic appointees.
Dr. Rader joined our faculty in 2019 and brings a fresh perspective to the department. She has been a member of multiple universities where she was involved with creating a cohesive team to service the academic community. Her work has facilitated collaboration and open communication between existing and new members of the university environment.
Both ombudspersons will provide a neutral point of view and information about the university and the Department.
- How can you meet with Dr. Hamburger or Dr. Rader?
- Michael Hamburger: Call (812) 855-2934, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Shelby Rader: Call (812) 855-7508, or email email@example.com
IU Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
1001 E. Tenth St.
Bloomington, IN 47405