Because e-mail is not considered confidential, telephone contact is preferred for arranging appointments.
Before contacting the office
- Before contacting the ombudsperson's office, you may want to consider some of the following:
- Speak directly to the person involved with your concern and try to resolve the issue directly. Some questions to think about include:
- How can I approach this person?
- Do they usually schedule appointments, or talk with people informally in the office or lab, or before or after class?
- Are they generally more receptive to talking with people in the morning or afternoon? (Some people prefer to get "right to work" in the morning and are more approachable later in the day, or vice versa.)
- Is there a way to frame the concern so that he or she will not be defensive?
- For what part of my concern might I be responsible? Or might he or she think I am (at least partly) responsible?
- Are there things I can offer in our discussion to show that I am truly interested in resolving the situation, and not just complaining about it?
- If you are uncertain about how to approach the person, you may consider consulting a colleague, friend or other trusted adviser in addition to the ombudsperson about ways in which you can approach and discuss your situation with the person involved.
Whether you decide to speak first to the person directly involved, take the matter to another university official or come to the ombudsperson's office, it always helps to be as prepared as you can be in explaining the situation. Sometimes it helps to organize thoughts if you write out a brief timeline of events or summary of the situation. Gather all documents related to the situation and bring them with you to your appointment. Similarly, keep good records and notes of conversations that you have with people as you try to resolve your situation.
- What rule or policy applies?
- Why was my request denied?
- Are there exceptions to the rule?
- Is there any appeal process?
- Ask for the names and titles of people with whom you discussed the issues.
- Ask why the person or office acted as they did.
- Ask for copies of policies or records that are relevant to your situation.
- Ask questions until you understand what happened and why.
- When checking your status with a university office, ask to have your particular file checked. This measure can help to catch problems that might otherwise go undetected.
Do some research
In many situations, VCU has policies that may govern your concern. Ask questions about the policies and procedures and spend some time on VCU's website and elsewhere researching them yourself. Be sure to ask about any deadlines that exist for filing appeals or grievances.
Write it out
Write out the issues about what happened, questions that you have and what you would like to happen. Organize such thoughts before visiting the ombudsperson.
If your efforts to resolve your situation have been unsuccessful, or you are having difficulty determining how best to resolve your issue, contact the ombuds office to meet with the ombudsperson.