By Betsy Pray
St. Bonaventure University has a president, provost, professors and many faculty members. But what many people may not know is the university has an ombudsman.
Gary Ostrower is St. Bonaventure University’s ombuds officer, having held the position since 1997. He explained what an ombudsman’s job is.
“The ombuds officer is essentially a mediator, a problem solver; a person who seeks to resolve conflicts,” Ostrower said. “There are about 350 universities and colleges that have ombuds officers.”
The types of issues that Ostrower services extend to a broad range of topics.
“I have seen students, faculty members, staff members and on occasion administrators who will seek out my services,” Ostrower said. “They will do so for varied reasons; from an individual having a conflict with a supervisor to people complaining about the food service.”
Ostrower highlighted the three principles that are installed into his services: neutrality, independence and confidentiality.
Regarding neutrality and independence, Ostrower said he does not take sides when resolving an issue. His position is independent and contractual. He is not technically an employee of the university.
“I do not represent St. Bonaventure,” he said. “Nor am I an advocate for a complainant. I am in the middle; I am neutral.”
Ostrower emphasized that anyone who comes to see him about problems are informed of confidentiality.
“An individual can come into this office and be assured of confidentiality,” he said. “It’s no different than if you went to see a priest, doctor or lawyer.”
Ostrower encourages people to talk about their problems because it gives them the chance to look at the issue in a different way.
“Sometimes talking about it gives them the opportunity to think it through in a way that they have not before,” Ostrower said. “And I can make suggestions; allow them to gain some perspective.”
His services are available for anybody in the Bonaventure community. Anyone who is interested in Ostrower’s services can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, call him at 607-871-2999 or visit his office at Francis 219-A on Tuesday afternoons from 1-4:30 p.m.
“It’s better to resolve something even if resolution may be uncomfortable,” Ostrower said. “Issues that fester- anger, hostility, resentment, a sense of humility – can all undermine the moral of the university.”