Y ombudsman acts as mediator for students


    By JANA L. COX

    He defends BYU students, fighting against discrimination, unjust legal issues and difficult landlords. He represents justice in the battle for student rights, yet few people know about the ombudsman.

    Adam Anderson, 22, a senior from Las Vegas, Nev., majoring in English, bears the title of BYU’s Ombudsman.

    Originating from Sweden, the word ombudsman means “representative of the people.”

    Just as the Scandanavian mediator negotiated between king and peasants of olden times, BYU’s Ombudsman Office provides legal service to students dealing with the university, local businesses and other students.

    “We want them to know someone is looking out for students,” Anderson said.

    Volunteers at the Ombudsman office listen to students’ complaints, research individual cases, write letters and suggest avenues of action. All of this they do free of charge.

    “We want to help students know what their rights are and what kind of choices they have,” said Sherilyn Olsen, assistant Ombudsman.

    Olsen, 21, a senior from Newport Beach, Calif., majoring in political science, joined the Ombudsman Office several months ago in an attempt to gain a better understanding of law and to serve students in need.

    Some volunteers are pre-law students, but most are simply concerned students looking to help those who have legal problems and don’t know where to turn.

    Though Ombudsman volunteers have no legal power, they do have clout with administration and local organizations. They are also able to provide students with sources for professional help.

    Despite the fact that BYU’s Ombudsman Office was established 28 years ago in 1970, its services appear to be a well-kept secret among students.

    “I didn’t know about the Ombudsman Office until I was involved with BYUSA … They (the Ombudsman Office) are stashed away in the corner,” said Jennifer Lloyd, 22, a senior from Kaysville, majoring in humanities and history.

    Though once its own entity, the Ombudsman Office is now a branch of BYUSA. The position of ombudsman is filled yearly, to provide diversity and new ideas to students.

    Anderson and Olsen plan to implement a four-part plan for volunteers in Fall Semester 1998.

    They will organize the Ombudsman Office according to academic and housing affairs, legal issues and public relations, Anderson said. Each section will have its own staff.

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