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Students Have an Address for Complaints: Professor Schatzker, Their Ombudsman

Professor Chaim Schatzker walks into the room for the interview nattily dressed, suit and tie, a good fit, and not at all stiff. It is a very un-post-modern look for the occasion, but it makes a statement. It demonstrates his respect for the institution and, especially, for its students.

The 76-year-old professor emeritus of history shows his concern for students in still another, more active manner: he is their ombudsman. Their complaints representative, to translate the term from the Hebrew. He considers it a position of honor.
“I enjoyed every day,” he says of his teaching career at the University, which began before there was a Mount Carmel campus. “So if I can give something in return, I will do so willingly.”

That “something” is acting upon 20-30 complaints a year that reach his office after filtering through the Dean of Students Office. Most grievances have to do with academic matters—“but I do not interfere in grades,” he makes it clear—and a minority with tuition and other administrative matters.

“A kind of contract exists between the University and the student,” he says, half figuratively and half alluding to the ISO convention in regard to student services that the University administration has uniquely issued. “If something goes awry, if the contract is not filled, then the student has an address where to turn.

“I relate equally to all student matters. It could have to do with a classroom matter, such as not stating the course requirements in the first class meeting as each lecturer is required to do, or a student’s feeling insulted or humiliated in class, or a professor’s making unfair or unequal demands. Or it could have to do with a parking space or the clarification of an item.”

When the complaint reaches his office, Schatzker first checks it out, then invites the complainant for a talk. He does not want any student to feel deprived. “Students should feel that someone is listening to them,” he says. “This is not an obtuse University.”
If he finds the student’s complaint legitimate, he writes to the department chairperson, who must according to University regulations provide a response. If the answer is evasive, he will go to the academic officer. If there is no satisfaction, he will write his verdict and submit it either to the rector or directly to the president. “The lecturers have learned they can’t fool around with me,” he comments.

The ombudsman’s ability to act freely, not subject to any unit head, and also to appeal right to the University rector or president is the element that gives the office some teeth. “The students are very thankful,” Schatzker remarks, “even when I can’t help. For they see that the matter is being handled.” He says, almost as an aside, that the Student Union has praised him, quickly adding that he has no direct connection with the students’ organization. Nor does he publicize his successful mediations.
He rarely hurries to hand in a verdict, since his aim is obtain mutual understanding. If he detects a serious clash of personalities between teacher and student, he may try, for example, to persuade the student to have someone else administer the test.
Exam time brings with it the biggest rush of complaints. Two exams may be scheduled on the same day or a lecturer does not allow a student doing army reserve duty to take advantage of exam period B or the exam may contain material not covered in class.

Although this ombudsman was once instrumental in ousting a lecturer whose behavior he described as “an absolute monarch,” he reiterates that he is not an advocate of the students. “I only a priori listen to them.” He also notes that he doesn’t have the tools to investigate a student’s character, nor does he wish to. Even with his freedom of action, he also doesn’t do what might be termed “class action” complaints. For that, some departments and Faculties have their own grievance committees.

Schatzker, who continues to research and publish—he just finished an article on “skinheads” and has embarked on a new project researching how German school textbooks deals with present-day anti-Semitism—explains that the office of University ombudsman always goes to a retiree—“What can they do to me?”—and has never gone to someone from the Law Faculty. He also feels it shouldn’t. He stresses, though, that “my judgments are according to the University’s constitution and regulations.”
Four years on the job of listening to and acting on students’ complaints has not in the least lessened Chaim Shatzker’s declared attachment to the institution that in 2002 awarded him its “University Award of Merit.”


In This Issue:

President’s Focus - Battling Unjust Resolutions

Prof. Azy Barak’s SAHAR Offers a Vital Virtual Shoulder to Those with Nowhere Else to Turn

University Joins War on Drugs,
Campaign Is Integral to Interdisciplinary Clinical Center’s Service

Kidma Project Helps Students Face Their Identities

University Will Not Be Silent in Face of UK Boycott

Anat Liberman Is New External Relations Head

Prof. Majid Al-Haj to Be New Dean of Research

Prof. Sophia Menache – New Dean of Graduate Studies

Prof. Menachem Mor—Dean of Humanities

Virtual Open House Proves a Big Hit

Students Have an Address for Complaints: Professor Schatzker, Their Ombudsman

Computer Science and Occupational Therapy Team Up for Virtual Reality Conference
Student Develops Innovative Technology to Deal with Post-Traumatic Stress

Giora Lehavi: His Job Is to Check on Quality Management, and Other Standards

University’s Sports Teams Prove a Winner in More Ways than One

Student Publishes His Road to Wisdom

Honors and Awards

Mother and Son—in utero—Studied Hebrew at University’s Summer Ulpan

University’s China Connection Continues

Unique Algorithm Enables Better Mobile Wireless Communication




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