Student Ombudsman: I’m here to facilitate student, university officials interaction


The unassuming office looks like many others on campus. A little cramped and a bit cluttered, the office’s oversized furniture stuffed into the room hides the white paint. Despite its appearance, this office is anything but just another university office. The walls almost burst with the voices of students past, struggling with a variety of problems.

It’s the office of Student Ombudsman Thomas Van Schoor, a little-known resource for students.

He’s an expert on all rules and polices of the university, and his job is to enable and empower students to handle the different predicaments that can arise between themselves and the university, he said.

“The only thing I advocate for is fairness,” Van Schoor said. “I assist the student[s] … but I don’t take their side or try to influence decisions in their favor.”

Van Schoor, a former dean, does his part in trying to get the word out about what his office can do, he said.

He has been involved in the freshmen orientation and recently has talked at the parent orientation. He also said he plans to hold an upcoming workshop that focuses on what he called, “the things you need to know to stay out of my office.”

But if an issue does arise, Van Schoor provides students with a confidential place to bring questions and concerns about university officials, rules and procedures. He is the neutral party that advises how to best resolve the problems, he said.

Van Schoor can even help students notify professors if a student has an emergency, he said.

“That could have been helpful,” said Amanda Meshaw, a UNF psychology senior, who had to contact all of her professors in the midst of an emergency. “If something like that happens again, I am definitely going to visit that office.”

Van Schoor stressed that all his discussions with students are confidential, unless students are a threat to themselves or someone else.

“Since my services are confidential, in most cases no one at the university would even know if the student had worked with me,” Van Schoor said. “On some occasions and with the consent of the student, I will discuss a situation with a department or person to make sure that the university entity has acted consistently with their own policies. That is about as close to advocacy as I would ever get.”

When the renovations of Building 2 are complete, Van Schoor’s office will move. But currently, students can visit the ombudsman in Building 9, room 2319.

Compiled by Meghan Steckloff