Skip directly to: Main page content

Department of Physics

Graduate Ombudsperson

Graduate school isn't easy, but it ought to be a stimulating and rewarding experience. Unfortunately, we do not always live up to these standards: students can find themselves facing difficulties with faculty, administrators, or other students that can seem nearly impossible to cope with.

The campus provides a number of useful resources to help students deal with such problems. If you don't require confidentiality, you can usually start with the Graduate Coordinator, currently Angela Sharma, or the Graduate Vice Chair, currently Rena Zieve. More resources can be found at the bottom of this page.

If you want anonymity, though, a place to begin is the Physics Graduate Ombudsperson, currently, Chris Fassnacht.

The Graduate Ombudsperson provides confidential, informal, independent, and neutral assistance to graduate students who have concerns related to Physics Department policies, conflicts with faculty, staff, or other students, or problems involving any other aspects of their graduate experience. The department is large and complex, and misunderstandings and conflicts can arise easily. The Ombudsperson is available to provide informal assistance, offering information, advice, referrals, and, if requested, intervention to help resolve conflicts and promote fair and equitable treatment.

The Ombudsperson is respectfully impartial with all parties to a conflict. He or she operates independently of the usual administrative authorities. The Ombudsperson may make recommendations for review or change when policies or procedures within the department generate patterns of conflict and concern.

Communications with the Ombudsperson are confidential. They will not be disclosed, within or outside the University, without the student's consent, unless there is a serious threat of harm to the student or others, or unless required by law (for example, where there is reasonable suspicion of child abuse or elder abuse).

The Ombudsperson does not serve as an "office of record" for the University. This means that a student complaint to the Ombudsperson does not start any official action. In particular, if you want to initiate a formal investigation of a complaint, merely talking to the Ombudsperson will not automatically lead to any further action. The Ombudsperson can, however, offer you advice about how to proceed further with a complaint, and can, at your request, talk to others involved in a conflict.



Graduate Studies


Graduate Coordinator Knowledgable about department and campus rules: getting exceptions to Grad Studies requirements, how to navigate the campus bureaucracy, etc.; can help with office assignment issues; starts requests for PELP and filing fee status and has access to many forms.
Angela Sharma
MSO Expert on campus bureaucracy. Staff supervisor who can help with conflicts between students and staff.
Tracy Lade
Graduate Vice Chair Contact regarding academic matters including course requirements, exams, qualifier committes and also non-academic matters including department financial support for students, PELP approval, and filing fee status. Can add extra weight on exceptions for Grad Studies rules.
Rena Zieve
Undergraduate Vice Chair Helps with complaints regarding TA assignments and supervision.
Lori Lubin
Chair The boss. Can overrule both the MSO and Vice Chairs.
Andreas Albrecht

Grad Studies 
Student Affairs Officer
Deals with dissertation approvals and can explain most Grad Studies rules.
Amelia Swearingen
Graduate Assistant to the Dean Serves as a liaison between graduate students and the administration; can convey student concerns, formally or informally, to the administration.
Angel Hinzo
Associate Dean for Students "Is responsible to serve as a neutral sounding board for [graduate students], and is knowledgeable about the procedures [students] must take to resolve [their] issues."
JP Delplanque
Dean The big boss: can approve exceptions to Grad Studies rules; is responsible for formal "disqualification" of graduate students, and decides on appeals from students who have been disqualified or have been warned that they are subject to disqualification; can hear appeals of department decisions and complaints about department policies (although usually as a last resort).
Jeffery Gibeling
Graduate Council, Chair Sets policies on such issues as progress toward degree, employment standards, and fellowships; Administrative Committee hears appeals of disqualification.
Kyaw Tha Paw U

Counseling Services Provides free short-term counseling to registered students, and referrals for longer term counseling; offers emergency responses; has been very helpful for students with depression, anxiety, and other concerns.
Graduate Student Association General resource for grievance information and advice; provides limited free legal assistance.
Union for Academic Student Employees Represents TAs and readers on issues such as wages, benefits, workload, grievance procedures, and fair hiring processes (for example, complaints of excessive TA workload).
Mediation Services Provides voluntary, informal, and completely confidential mediation for conflicts involving faculty, staff, and graduate students; for significant conflicts, if both parties agree to mediation, this can be very effective.
Student Judicial Affairs Deals with charges of academic and personal misconduct by undergraduate and graduate students; hears grievances by students who suffer arbitrary treatment, discrimination or harassment based on prohibited bias.
Sexual Harassment Officer Deals with complaints of sexual harassment, and can help with other types of discrimination; anonymous complaints can be made to 2-2255.
Senate Graduate Student Privilege Adviser Academic Senate position; advises graduate students with respect to their rights and privileges, grievance procedures, and resources available to assist them in responding to disputes involving academic and student employment matters not subject to collective bargaining.
Jerry Hedrick
Student Disability Center Provides services and ensures the provision of appropriate accommodations for disabled students. Note that to request such accommodations, a student must go through the SDC; faculty members are instructed that under no circumstances should they provide disability-related accommodations without such a letter.
Services for International Students and Scholars (SISS) The basic resource for issues involving international students (visas, employment issues, etc.).
Reentry Student Services Offers counseling and referrals to graduate students age 30 and over.