Since the establishment of Bellevue College, the school’s mission has included the aim to nurture “a supportive environment throughout its programs and services,” for both students, faculty and staff members.
One of the many resources available for students who experience problems within the classroom environment is the Ombuds Office, which is directed by Miranda Kato.
Since it was established in 2006, the Ombuds Office has existed to address issues and conflicts on campus between members on campus.
The office offers one-on-one consultation and helps to facilitate group meetings when necessary. Depending on the issue, an Ombuds representative will listen to a complaint or concern and help to seek a solution that is equitable for both parties. They also offer coaching and training to those who wish to personally handle similar situations in the future.
In the past, students have come to the Ombuds with concerns about grades, discrimination and academic misconduct and procedures. Faculty and staff have also reached out to the Ombuds Office for their assistance regarding issues like harassment and conflicts with colleagues or students.
While the Counseling Center gives students professional help from counselors, the Ombuds office seeks to resolve issues by being a neutral party.
Kato said, “Bellevue College is a large school and is very diverse and sometimes diversity can cause tension whether it is cultural, age or religion. It is the Ombuds’ duty to help ease that tension.”
The Ombuds Office is obligated to treat all matters brought to them with confidentiality. It is meant to serve as a neutral problem-solving consultant, while following and maintaining the college’s policies and procedures.
However, due to its policy regarding informality, Ombuds will not get involved with a situation if a case is or has plans to undergo legal processes or any formal investigation process.
The overall goal of Ombuds is to provide their visitors with the necessary skills to resolve an issue. They hope that their help will empower their visitors to take action at any given point according to their level of confidence.
“We want to help people and help prevent miscommunication errors. When I sit down with students, I will ask them how would they approach a faculty member and work with them from there,” explained Kato regarding the one-on-one coaching sessions.
Kato explained that there are potential plans to expand the Ombuds office. More information on Ombuds can be found on their homepage located on the Bellevue College website.