Conflict between the residents of a student house
The manager of a student house asked the Ombudsman for intervention and actions in connection with a conflict between students living in the facility, which led to the destruction of University property. The Manager stressed that if students do not remedy the damage they have caused, they will face disciplinary measures.
The information gathered showed that there was a clash (alt. conflict) between the tenants of one room in the dormitory. The quarrel resulted in a fight and destruction of property, including elements of dormitory equipment and electronic equipment belonging to one of the students. After the incident, the perpetrator of the destruction disappeared from the dormitory and did not respond to attempts to make contact. The other student claimed that he was an aggrieved party and thus not willing to compensate for the damage done in the dormitory. He also expected compensation from the other party for the losses suffered.
The Ombudsman started her activities with separate meetings with each of the students. During the meetings, the Ombudsman collected information about the events and their causes and examined the needs and expectations of the parties and their willingness to settle.
After gathering the information, the Ombudsman informed the students about their legal situation, including possible consequences of violating the standards and regulations of the University and legal provisions. At the same time she suggested possible ways of resolving the situation. After analyzing the options available, the students decided to settle the matter through conciliatory mediation.
The Ombudsman organized a mediation meeting in which both parties participated, supported by a mediator. After nearly two hours of talks, students developed a solution that involved mutual apologies and the obligation of one student to pay the other student a certain amount of money, as compensation for the destroyed electronic equipment. Students agreed to pay jointly for losses (alt. damages) in the University property.
The agreement signed by the students and by the Ombudsman, was submitted to the management of the Student’s House. As both parties have fulfilled their obligations, the case was closed. In addition, the students at their request were separated and assigned to two different rooms with other roommates.
Conflict between a student and the faculty office
The possibility of readmission without making up for curricular differences
A student of the second year of MA studies contacted the Ombudsman and filed a formal complaint, stating that the incompetence of the faculty office workers and the fact that they provided him with incorrect information regarding the rules of getting credit for general academic courses (and assigning them to one’s curriculum within the online system) resulted in the student not scoring enough ECTS points, thus not being able to defend his thesis (despite it being ready) and having to retake an entire year. The student felt unfairly treated, especially in the context of his career plans, which necessitated finishing his studies as soon as possible.
By analyzing the student’s online USOS profile and the documents that he submitted, the Ombudsman assessed his formal situation and concluded that he in fact did not take enough general academic courses, which in turn resulted in not getting enough ECTS points to complete a semester and finish his studies.
Then (with the student’s written permission) the Ombudsman undertook action to investigate the possible reasons of the misunderstanding. After speaking with the faculty office (and the Deputy Dean for student matters), it turned out that it’s impossible to verify the validity of provided information, as the office worker mentioned by the student was not employed with the faculty office any more. Moreover, it turned out that the worker in question was laid off, because she failed to perform her duties adequately, especially with regard to competent attitude towards student inquiries. Considering the circumstances, the Ombudsman decided to refrain from verifying the parties’ views and took action aimed at minimizing the costs for the faculty and the student, stemming from the situation at hand. To this end, she started talks with Deputy Dean.
After a productive meeting with the Deputy Dean, a solution was conceived – the student would apply for a conditional credit for the course and for being exempt from the obligation of bearing the standard costs of such a procedure, which the Deputy Dean would agree to. Moreover, the student would get credit for the selected course through a procedure previously agreed upon with the professor (in this case, a two-day workshop held in the second half of October). Immediately after getting the credit, the student would be deemed eligible to defend his MA thesis.
The solution was presented to the student and accepted by him. Thanks to the arrangements made, the student was able to defend his thesis in the last days of October.
Rules of terminating employment contracts with appointed employees with the academic rank of professor.
Expiration of the appointment relationship.
A researcher inquired the Ombudsman about her interpretation of the rules regarding the termination of employment with appointed professors and asked her to explain when the expiration of appointment relationship can take place.
The employee was worried that, due to a conflict with his supervisor, he would be unexpectedly dismissed and wanted to check if there was such legal possibility.
During her meeting with the employee, the Ombudsman analyzed the situation at hand in the context of the employee’s worries and the possibility of mobbing or discrimination taking place. The information provided by the employee did not imply any harassment or discrimination, but pointed to a serious conflict, stemming from a disagreement as to how to allocate project funds. The conflict, which started within the department, was taken to the Faculty Board, which caused it to escalate further.
The Ombudsman provided the employee with a list of possible solutions of the conflict – among them, mediation. However, the employee was not ready to take action leading to a conciliation hearing. He expected to be provided with a clear and complete legal analysis. To accommodate him, the Ombudsman’s team provided the employee with a comprehensive description of the process of termination of employment contracts with appointed professors and explained to him when the expiration of employment occurs.
The legal analysis provided to the employee helped to relieve his worries and assured him that, given the circumstances, there was no possibility for him to be suddenly laid off by his employer.
Furthermore, after a semester, the employee returned to the Ombudsman’s office, willing to take part in mediation activities with the participation of the Dean. The Ombudsman held a meeting with the Dean and the employee’s supervisor and they agreed to participate in the mediation hearing. During the meeting, the parties agreed that the employee would leave the project and switch departments. The agreement’s terms were accepted and supported by the Dean.