Northwest Florida State College Logo

Purpose of the Ombudsman

An Ombudsman provides a safe and comfortable environment for students to confidentially discuss complaints, concerns or problems. When appropriate, the office will initiate an informal intervention with the goal of facilitating a resolution that is acceptable to all parties involved. The ombudsman acts as an independent, impartial resource. If a matter cannot be resolved through this office, a referral will be made.

Role of the Ombudsman

The Office of the Ombudsman offers an alternative opportunity to resolve complaints, concerns or problems in a timely and private manner. Users of the office are provided a place to explore options to make informed decisions. The Office of the Ombudsman does not replace or substitute for formal complaint procedures, investigative or appeal processes made available by the College. An ombudsman does not make, change, or set aside policy or previous administrative decisions, nor does an ombudsman serve to determine the rights of others or to unilaterally resolve conflicts.

The Student Ombudsman is a responsible employee and must report potential Title IX allegations, child abuse or neglect, or other required disclosers related to health and safety under federal or state law. Outside of these mandatory reporting obligations, communication with the Ombudsman Office is off-the-record and does not put the College on notice of a problem. If students wish to place the College on notice, the ombudsman can provide information about how to do so. Ombudsmen follow no prescribed sequences of steps, and do not participate in the adjudication of any formal grievance process. The ombudsman does not advocate for either party and cannot assist a student who is represented by legal counsel.

The Ombudsman WILL:

  • Listen and discuss questions, issues, and concerns
  • Be an advocate for fairness
  • Help develop and evaluate various options to address concerns
  • Answer questions or help find others who can develop and evaluate various options to address concerns
  • Explain College policies and procedures
  • Facilitate communication between people
  • Advise individuals about steps to resolve problems informally
  • Advise individuals about formal and administrative options
  • Mediate disputes to seek “win-win” resolution of problems
  • Make appropriate referrals when informal options don’t work
  • Point out patterns of problems/complaints to administrators

The Ombudsman WILL NOT:

  • Replace or circumvent existing channels
  • Advocate for specific outcomes
  • Direct any College office to change a decision
  • Make decisions for the student
  • Have a stake in outcomes
  • Set aside rules and regulations
  • Participate in formal grievance processes
  • Make decisions for College faculty/administrators
  • Determine “guilt” or “innocence” of those accused of wrong-doing
  • Assign sanctions to students
  • Receive official “notice” for the College about issues
  • Give legal advice

Office of the Student Ombudsman

Rhonda Springfield
Executive Director of K-12 Programs and Student Engagement
(850) 729-6483
[email protected]