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Campus Ombudsperson Leads Peers


UC Riverside Ombudsperson to Lead Peers in International Organization

Andrea Briggs is Campus Problem-Solver

(April 8, 2003)

UC Riverside’s Ombudsperson of the last 22 years, Andrea Briggs, will take office as President of the University and College Ombuds Association (UCOA) at the organization’s annual conference taking place in Denver, Colorado, April 9-12, 2003.

UCOA is an international organization of people who perform the ombuds function in universities and colleges. The ombudsperson solves problems and has a long and honorable tradition of protecting against abuse, bias and other improper treatment or unfairness. UCOA, through its Standards of Practice and professional development programs, supports Ombuds Offices in providing confidential, impartial complaint-handling services for students, staff, faculty, and administrators.

Janis Schonauer, Ombudsperson at the California Institute of Technology, and out-going UCOA President, said: “I am grateful to have Andrea taking over the leadership of UCOA. It is important to the organization to have someone of her stature in the field, skill, and experience to serve as leader of and spokesperson for university and college ombudspersons. Especially as higher education experiences financial difficulties, someone needs to be pointing out the monetary value to the institution of having conflicts resolved quickly, quietly and at a low level in the organization, instead of having the institution endure the high cost of grievances, formal appeals and petitions, whistleblower complaints, and the like.”

Briggs will serve a one-year term as President and another one-year term as Past-President of the organization.

At UC Riverside, she works in a small cottage across the street from the campus restaurant, called “The Barn.” People come to see her when they have a problem they don’t know how to solve. She works with them, confidentially, to find a reasonable solution.

An Ombuds office is not required, and not every UC campus has one; however, by supporting an ombudsperson, UC Riverside has provided the university community with a valuable resource. The office can be a first resort, or a last resort, for someone with a problem or complaint.

Briggs said her most frequent customers are students with complaints about academic issues, but staff members, faculty members, parents and members of the business community with UCR-related problems also approach her regularly.

“I am scrupulous about following up on the immediate problem, even when that is limited to working toward a generic resolution,” Briggs said. “It’s ironic in a way. The more successful I am at what I do, the less people hear about me because I keep the small problems from becoming big problems.”

Talking with the Ombudsperson is not the same as officially filing a complaint with the university, but Briggs said she can guide people through that official process if that is what they choose.

Briggs, whose husband John Briggs is a professor of English at UCR, said she never thought that she would find her life’s work in the Ombuds office, but the job is a perfect fit. She can listen in a neutral way and think of all the possible solutions. It uses her background in psychology and religious studies.

“The first question is what we can do to make this right,” she said. “Some things I can help with and some things people can do on their own. There’s a lot to talk about.”

Andrea Briggs can be reached at (909) 787-3213 or found in the Ombuds Office in the University Cottage. She has a website at www.ombudsperson.ucr.edu


The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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