Univ. expands ombuds service
The University announced an expansion of its Ombuds Office and introduced three staff members that will facilitate ombuds services to community members, undergraduate and graduate students. Prior, these services were not provided to community members beyond students.
The Ombuds Office “will make it possible for all members of the Brandeis community — students, faculty, staff, alumni and others — to access conflict-resolution assistance for situations they might encounter at the university,” wrote Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Mark Brimhall-Vargas in a Jan. 10 email to the community.
The new members of the office include Don Greenstein, Cathy Burack and Elena Lewis. Burack and Lewis both come from within the Brandeis community.
Lewis has been at Brandeis for 14 years. She earned her master’s degree in sociology at Brandeis and works as the director of the Student Support Services Program. She has also served as a student ombudsman at Brandeis for the past two years. Lewis was unavailable for comment.
Burack works as a senior fellow for higher education at the Center for Youth and Communities in the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. At Heller she has also served as a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Steering Committee, as a member of the Master of Public Policy program’s Diversity Committee, and as an advisor to the student LGBTQ Workgroup.
In an email to the Justice, Burack wrote, “I am excited that the Ombuds office is now a regular part of Brandeis because it is an important way that the university can ensure that it is living its social justice mission.” She also shared her gratitude to the students involved in Ford Hall 2015 who pushed for the expansion of the Ombuds Office and to her Brandeis colleagues who helped make it a reality.
Greenstein, who leads the team, comes to Brandeis with over 29 years of experience in conflict resolution. He stressed the all encompassing nature of the new Ombuds Office in an interview with the Justice.
“Conflict resolution and ombudry is most effective when an ombuds office can respond to an entire community and not just to some individuals on campus,” he said.
The Ombuds Office is not meant to act just as a center of mediation but rather as an informal, neutral and confidential resource. “We can help [an individual] figure out how to respond as well as figure out other resources within the Brandeis community or even outside the Brandeis community for support,” Greenstein explained. For students to whom mediation is already available on campus, Greenstein suggested that the Ombuds Office “conflict coaching” could even be used in conjunction with this service.
The expanded office plans on immediately starting campus outreach so community members are aware of all services available.