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Students’ wishes granted: they’re getting their own ombudsperson

19 Dec 2022

The university already had confidential advisors and an ombudsperson for employees, now a special ombuds officer will be added for students. This expansion should contribute to social safety on campus. Students themselves asked for such a role.

Students in the participational bodies were already asking for one last spring, and now it’s actually happening: Radboud University will soon have an ombudsperson for students. This person – the vacancy is due to be published soon – will be given an independent position within the University, and their task will be to listen to students. Anyone who has experienced or witnessed inappropriate behaviour can contact the ombudsperson.

‘The ombudsperson isn’t only there to handle individual cases, but also to uncover and map specific patterns’ says Agnes Muskens, Vice President of the Executive Board. The university already has confidential advisers for students, but they are not authorised to initiate an investigation. Confidential advisers are there exclusively for the student, and they stand by the student’s side, while the ombudsperson is independent and can actually initiate an investigation. Students can also contact the ombudsperson on their own initiative. According to Muskens, the two services will work in close collaboration.

Social safety

In January of this year, Radboud University hired an ombudsperson for staff: legal expert Nancy Viellevoye. The intention is for her to work closely with the colleague in charge of the student cases, although the confidentiality of the cases being handled will always come first. The ombudspersons are there to create more social safety on campus.

Muskens reports being ‘touched’ by the results of the Vox survey into sexually transgressive behaviour. ‘Every negative experience is one too many.’ She refers to the rapes, sexual assaults, and other undesirable situations that occur outside campus. ‘As a university, we feel a broad responsibility for our students’ well-being in Nijmegen.’

She therefore strongly urges students to report all instances of misconduct, whether it happens within university walls, in nightlife, or elsewhere. ‘It’s an important topic that many people still struggle to talk about’, she says. ‘But awareness begins with initiating this kind of dialogue.’

Mentors are already offered training in the field of social safety so that they can watch out for signals during orientation activities. According to Muskens, student associations will soon also be devoting more attention to desirable and undesirable behaviour. She refers to this development as ‘an absolute gain’.

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