Professional News

Applications, Nominations Being Taken Now for UK Academic Ombud

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 30, 2021) The position of academic ombud has had an important and respected history at the University of Kentucky for more than 50 years. The university is now taking applications for the position for the 2021-22 academic year, with the option of renewing for a second year.

The academic ombud position is open to tenured faculty members and to faculty emeriti. The ombud facilitates resolution of complex academic issues related to student academic rights and problems concerning the commission of academic integrity issues. The ombud reports directly to the UK provost; and the Academic Ombud Services office functions independently of all colleges and instructional programs. More information on the responsibilities can be found on the Academic Ombud Services website.

Applications and nominations will be taken through April 19, 2021. Anyone wanting more information on the process can contact Anna Chalfant in the Office of the Provost at anna.chalfant@uky.eduApplication information is also available on the ombud website.

“The academic ombud plays a pivotal role in student success by providing a neutral and confidential environment for students to take their academic conflicts and then applying fair and equitable standards to resolve those conflicts,” said UK Provost David W. Blackwell.

The academic ombud was created as an administrative position at UK in 1970, only four years after Eastern Montana College (now Montana State University Billings) became the first school in the United States to do so. UK was among the early supporters of  ombud practice — what was considered a progressive action in higher education at that time. Ombud practice eventually spread to government, businesses and the nonprofit sectors from its origins in the U.S. on college campuses. 

As the ombud practice has grown, organizations have formed to oversee best practices in the profession. The practice at the University of Kentucky encompasses the four standards established by the International Ombudsman Association (IOA): confidentiality, informality, impartiality and independence. The UK Office of Academic Ombud Services has structured its practice to best serve the students, staff and faculty based on the IOA standards.

Only 28 senior faculty members have served as academic ombud at UK, many finding the job so rewarding they extend their terms to at least a second year.

“Academic Ombud Services owes its success to the efforts of the individuals who have worked in Academic Ombud Services for the past 50 years and to the continued support by the administration and University Senate for the valuable service it provides,” said Joe McGillis, a former academic ombud and associate professor emeritus in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics in the College of Medicine.

Although 1970 marked the first academic ombud position filled by faculty at UK, the practice apparently began with students when the UK Student Government instituted a student operated ombud program in 1967 according to research by McGillis and Davy Jones, a professor emeritus in the Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology in the College of Medicine and a former UK faculty trustee.

By 1968, student ombuds were calling upon the faculty to take over the practice according to a story in the Kentucky Kernel student newspaper, which later reported in 1969 that the University Senate approved creation of the academic ombud office. Law Professor Garrett Flicklinger was appointed as the first academic ombud at UK in 1970.

McGillis has researched the history of ombuds not only at UK, but also from the origins of the practice. Ombuds as a modern profession originated in Sweden and the practice spread throughout Europe.

“While there were prototypes of ombuds in Asia dating back 2 millennia, the modern practice of ombuds in the west originated in Sweden in the 1700s and developed over the next 200 years,” he said. “In the United states, ombuds were first discussed in the academic legal community in the 1950s and 1960s and quickly gained interest on college and university campuses, driven in part by the widespread and disruptive unrest due to the Vietnam War and civil rights issues.”

With the search for a next academic ombud, UK is continuing its support for this important service to the university community.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.