The NIU Office of the Ombudsperson was established and opened its doors in 1969 to provide a neutral line of communication to the administration. Since that time over 20,000 individual members of the university community have consulted with the staff. Since its beginnings, the Office of the Ombudsperson has served students, faculty, and staff who have sought assistance in responding to conditions or situations within the institution. Soon, obvious trends in the types of issues presented emerged. Finding itself in the somewhat unique position of having the ability to identify needed changes in policies and procedures from the broadest of perspectives, the office began making recommendations for institutional improvements.
The Office of the Ombudsperson was established by the University Council. This body of 62 elected representatives includes faculty, staff, and student members. Chaired by the NIU president, the University Council continues to regularly evaluate the performance of the ombudsman and also periodically evaluates the continued need for the office. Reporting to such a body, rather than to an individual administrator, allows the office to maintain independence from potential influence by any one person or constituency.
Nearly 1,000 individuals consult confidentially with the ombudsman each year. In addition to assisting each of them in the resolution of their unique concerns, the office provides input into the development of policies and procedures to help make the institution as responsive as possible to the needs of its constituents.