Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to the Western Michigan University Office of the Ombudsman frequently asked questions page. We hope this page answers any questions you may have and provides you with the necessary information to make your academic efforts here a success.

For better results when exploring this page for specific subjects, use the search feature on your PC by selecting "Control-F" or on your Mac by selecting "Command-F" and typing the topic you need information on—such as "appeals"—into the browser window.  

As always, you may contact us directly with any questions or concerns at (269) 387-0718 or ombudsman@wmich.edu.

Where is the Office of the Ombudsman for Western Michigan University?

We are located in 2420 Faunce Student Services Building. Our contact information is:

Mailing address:
Office of the Ombudsman
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5295 USA

Phone: (269) 387-0718
Fax: (269) 387-0716
Email: ombudsman@wmich.edu

What is the Office of the Ombudsman at Western Michigan University?

The ombudsman is an intervention agent and impartial person who helps students, faculty and staff resolve academic and non-academic concerns. The ombudsman listens to you and discusses your question or concern; provides you with information that answers your question or helps you locate someone who can assist you; explains the University’s policies and procedures and how they may affect you; follows up with you and others at the University to make sure your concern is resolved; and recommends changes in the institution that will make it more responsive to every member of the community. The basic principles of the ombudsman are independence, impartiality, informality, and confidentiality. The ombudsman is authorized to make thorough investigations and has access to most University offices and records, reports and other documents. No person shall suffer any penalty for seeking assistance from the ombudsman.

Who is the University ombudsman for Western Michigan University?

The ombudsman is Kathy Mitchell. She has been an employee of the University for 25 years, where she obtained her B.S. in family studies in 2002 and her Master of Arts degree in family life in 2004. She has been the ombudsman since 2008.

What does the ombudsman do?

  • Listens to you and discusses your problems and concerns, identifying and evaluating with you options to resolve problems.
  • Provides information on resources within the University that may help you.
  • Opens avenues of communication, investigates complaints and gathers information.
  • Serves as a neutral party to solve problems and resolve conflict. The ombudsman does not take sides, but works to achieve fair outcomes.
  • Identifies problem areas facing faculty, staff and students, and recommends changes in University policies and procedures.

What doesn't the ombudsman do?

  • Act as an advocate for you in a dispute. The ombudsman is neutral and impartial.
  • Represent individuals in appeals or formal grievance procedures either on campus or off.
  • Provide legal representation or give legal advice.
  • Get involved if you have a non-University related problem or complaint.
  • Overturn binding decisions, but can investigate procedural fairness.
  • Serve as an office of record. Speaking with the ombudsman is not "notice to the University" of problems or policy violations. Often persons will seek advice from the ombudsman privately, before deciding what actions to take in response to a problem. If you want the University to "be on notice," that is, formally to know about a particular problem and formally respond, the ombudsman can help you identify what office you would need to contact.
  • Keep formal written records. The ombudsman can help you determine how to keep your own records, if you need to do that.

Is the ombudsman a member of the faculty of Western Michigan University or an outside consultant?

No. Ombudsman Kathy Mitchell is a full-time member of the staff of Western Michigan University. In accordance with the Office of the Ombudsman's policy of impartiality the ombudsman answers directly to University President John M. Dunn and receives oversight from the Office of the President.   

Who may meet with the University ombudsman?

The office predominantly serves the needs of students of Western Michigan University, but also serves University staff and faculty, parents or other family and off-campus support providers assisting students. For questions regarding who may meet with the ombudsman, feel to contact us directly at (269) 387-0718 or ombudsman@wmich.edu.

How do I meet with the University Ombudsman?

For best results you should call the office directly at (269) 387-0718 to make an appointment with the ombudsman. Often clients of this office can get their questions answered directly over the phone. You can also address questions to our "Contact Us" page. Appointments are confidential and occur at our office at 2420 Faunce Student Services Building.

Do I have to meet with the ombudsman in person?

Not necessarily. Depending on your circumstances the ombudsman may be able to offer consultation or information in a phone appointment. To schedule a potential phone appointment, call us directly at (269) 387-0718.

What do I bring to my meeting with the ombudsman?

That can vary by situation. You may be asked to bring a syllabus, grading rubric, emails, letters of support or other third-party documentation. Be sure to ask what materials you may want to bring to your meeting with the ombudsman when you make your appointment.

Where do I park for my meeting with the ombudsman?

For students with valid parking passes the closest parking is available in Lots 79, 82 and 83. Staff and faculty should park in the staff parking area to the west of the Faunce Student Services Building in Lot 100 or in the staff parking available in the Parking Services Building Lot No. 62. Visitors of the University or students without valid parking passes will find visitor (metered) parking available in Lot 100 directly west of the Faunce Student Services Building

Where do I find the Office of the Ombudsman within the Faunce Student Services Building?

Go in the main (front) entrance of the Faunce Student Services Building and go straight past the spiral staircase. You'll see a door that reads "Office of the Ombudsman." Go straight through that door. Our office is No. 2420, directly on your left.

It is past the last day for me to withdraw from a course on my own—is there any way I can be withdrawn now?

The only way for any student to withdraw from a course once the last day to do so on your own has passed or the semester is over is to apply for a hardship or non-attendance withdrawal.

What is a hardship withdrawal?

The hardship withdrawal is an appeal process available to students who have experienced a hardship (extenuating circumstances outside of their control) that prevented them from completing a semester successfully. Examples of hardships include but are not limited to extenuating documented medical or mental health circumstances, a death in the family or contingencies of military service. Students appealing for a hardship withdrawal submit paperwork that is reviewed by the Grade Appeal and Program Dismissal Appeal Committee and approved or denied. Along with filling out the Appeal for Hardship Withdrawal form, a student must also provide a personal written statement describing what hardship they experienced, when it happened and how it affected them. Appeals are heard in the order they are received and may take six to eight weeks or more for a decision to be reached. If a hardship withdrawal appeal is approved the Registrar's Office will be notified to change the grades in questions to W's for withdrawal. The decision of the committee regarding your appeal for hardship withdrawal is final.

What is a non-attendance withdrawal?

The non-attendance withdrawal is an appeal process available to students who have never attended, participated or contributed to a given course or courses in any way. Students who meet the criteria stated previously may apply for a non-attendance withdrawal no matter how old the semester in question is. Unlike the appeal for hardship withdrawal process, the non-attendance withdrawal requires only that the student fill out the Appeal for Non-attendance Withdrawal form, answering "no" to the question "Did you ever attended this course?" You will also be required to submit a brief written statement indicating that you never attended the courses in question. Once non-attendance is confirmed for the course or courses in question the Registrar's Office will be notified to change the grades in questions to W's for withdrawal.

What qualifies as a hardship under the appeal for hardship withdrawal process?

A hardship as defined by the Grade Appeal and Program Dismissal Appeal Committee is a documented extenuating circumstance (something outside of your control) that includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Severe physical illness of student or close family member.

  • Severe mental illness of student or close family member.

  • Traumatic event (death of close family member, act of violence).

  • Exigencies of military service where established procedures are not applicable.

What doesn't qualify as a hardship under the appeal for hardship withdrawal process?

A hardship as defined by the Grade Appeal and Program Dismissal Appeal Committee is a documented extenuating circumstance (something outside of your control).  Examples that are not considered hardships include but are not limited to the following:

  • Student dislikes the course, teaching method or professor.

  • Student believes the course is too difficult or believes instructor is not teaching effectively.

  • Student has taken on more academic or other obligations than he or she can handle.

  • Financial or employment constraints that were not beyond the students control.

  • Situations in which any resolved or unresolved academic integrity charges through the Office of Student conduct exist.

How do I apply for a hardship withdrawal?

The first step of the appeal process is to obtain the Appeal for a Hardship Withdrawal form, either at our office at 2420 Faunce Student Services Building or online. The Grade Appeal and Program Dismissal Appeal Committee meets periodically to review appeal requests and decide whether to approve or deny them based on the paperwork a student submits to them. Students do not appear before the committee—just their appeal paperwork does. Students are asked to submit the completed appeal form, write a personal statement describing the hardship they experienced, when they experienced it and how it affected them. You will also be required to submit third-party documentation substantiating your hardship claim. Completed paperwork (appeal form, statement, third-party documentation) may be submitted to our office in person, via fax, standard mail or email. Appeals are heard in the order that completed paperwork is received and may take six to eight weeks or more before a decision is reached. If a hardship withdrawal appeal is approved the Registrar's Office will be notified to change the grades in questions to W's for withdrawal. The decision of the committee regarding your appeal for hardship withdrawal is final.  

How do I apply for a non-attendance withdrawal?

This appeal process is reserved for students who never attended, participated or contributed to a course in any way. The first step of the appeal process is to obtain the Appeal for Non-attendance Withdrawal form, either at our office at 2420 Faunce Student Services Building or online. Students submitting an appeal for non-attendance withdrawal need only fill out the appeal form and write a brief statement indicating to us that they never attended the courses in question. No third-party documentation is required for a non-attendance withdrawal and there is no time limit on how long ago the semester in question occurred. Completed paperwork (appeal form, statement) may be submitted to our office in person, via fax, standard mail or email. Once this office receives completed non-attendance withdrawal paperwork we will confirm non-attendance either via the University records system or with the instructor of the course. When the non-attendance appeal is approved the Registrar's Office will be notified to change the grades in questions to W's for withdrawal.

What do I include in my personal statement for the hardship withdrawal appeal?

The personal statement is your voice to the Grade Appeal and Program Dismissal Appeal Committee. Since you won't be appearing before the committee—only your appeal paperwork will be—the statement is your opportunity to tell the committee everything you think is important about your situation: what happened, when it happened and how it affected you. In the past our office has observed these statements to be one to two pages in length, typewritten and checked for grammar, punctuation and spelling errors. For non-attendance appeals the statement need only be a few sentences indicating to us that you never attended the course or courses in question. Be sure to sign your statement.

What can I use as third-party documentation for my hardship withdrawal appeal?

Third-party documentation varies based on the nature of the hardship. For medical or mental health hardships the Grade Appeal and Program Dismissal Appeal Committee prefers a note or letter from your health care provider related to the hardship that describes your diagnosis, when you were diagnosed and how it affected you. Detailed hospital records or prescriptions may not be accepted as third-party documentation for these hardships if the committee cannot plainly tell from the documents what occurred. For instances of a death in the family the committee will accept death certificates, an obituary notice in the newspaper or online, or materials given out at the deceased’s memorial or funeral. For an instance of unplanned military deployment please provide a copy of your military orders describing your deployment timeline, etc. 

Is there a limitation as to how long I can wait before filing my appeal for hardship withdrawal?

Yes. Per the Appeal for a Hardship Withdrawal form "hardship appeals will not be accepted more than one year after the end of the term or session for which the hardship was documented." This means that if you need to appeal for a hardship withdrawal from spring 2014, you have until the end of spring 2015 to file your appeal. Appeal requests outside of the 12-month window of opportunity of submission require an exception (permission) from the provost of the University for the appeals to be heard. 

How long will it take to get a decision regarding my hardship withdrawal appeal?

Depending on the current volume of appeals ready to be heard by the Grade Appeal and Program Dismissal Appeal Committee a hardship withdrawal appeal may take up to six to eight weeks to be resolved. Appeals that are complete and ready to be reviewed by the committee receive a date stamp at the time of their receipt and are heard in the order that they have been received. All appeals not able to be heard at a given session are then heard first at the next committee session. For questions or concerns regarding this policy please feel free to contact our office at (269) 387-0718 or ombd_info@wmich.edu

How long will it take to get a decision regarding my non-attendance withdrawal appeal?

Non-attendance withdrawal appeals must receive confirmation of attendance, participation and contribution from the instructor of record for each course you are appealing to be withdrawn from. This information can be found instantly on some occasions, in others the instructor must be emailed. It can take two weeks or more to confirm and approve a non-attendance withdrawal appeal.   

How do I apply for an exception from the provost to have my appeal heard outside of the 12-month time limit?

To ask for this exception from the provost, you must do the following:

  1. Type an email to ombudsman Kathy Mitchell at kathy.mitchell@wmich.edu.
  2. Include the following information:
    • What course, semester and year was the course in question?
    • What was your hardship?
    • Why are you appealing now as opposed to at the time of the hardship?
  3. Meet with your academic advisor(s) to formulate a graduation plan if you have not already received your graduation audit.  If you have received your graduation audit add it as an attachment to your email to the Ombudsman.

She will forward your exception request on to Provost Greene for a response. If the provost grants you an exception, your appeal may move forward. If he does not, you may not appeal for a hardship withdrawal from the course and semester in question.

What does the question "Is this grade the result of academic integrity charges?" mean?

Students are reported to the Office of Student Conduct for academic conduct review with the academic integrity hearing panel for issues such as plagiarism, cheating, multiple submissions, etc. Any student who has been reported will be notified via email to their WMU student email account as well as standard mail. Students may not use the hardship withdrawal appeal process for failing or lowered grades that are the result of being found responsible by the academic integrity hearing panel. More information regarding academic integrity and the student conduct review may be found at wmich.edu/conduct.  

What does the question "Did you ever attend this course?" mean?

If you have ever attended, participated or contributed to the course or courses you are appealing to be withdrawn from, even once, you must answer "yes" to the question and pursue a standard hardship withdrawal. If you have not you may answer "no" and pursue a non-attendance withdrawal appeal.

What does the question "Have you consulted with financial aid?" mean?

Although not required, students who receive financial aid are strongly advised to consult with Student Financial Aid and Scholarships before pursuing an appeal for hardship or non-attendance withdrawal, as withdrawing from all or even one course may affect your future eligibility for financial aid. If you receive financial aid and have consulted with the financial aid office regarding your hardship or non-attendance withdrawal appeal answer "yes" to this question. If you haven't consulted with the financial aid office select "no" and if you do not receive financial aid select "N/A."  

What does the question "International student services?" mean?

Although not required, international students are strongly advised to consult with International Admissions and Student Services before pursuing an appeal for hardship or non-attendance withdrawal, as withdrawing from all or even one course may affect your visa status, eligibility, scholarship status, etc. If you are an international student and have consulted with International Student Services regarding your hardship or non-attendance withdrawal appeal answer "yes" to this question. If you haven't consulted with them select "no" and if you are not an international student select "N/A."

What does the question "Have you previously appealed to withdraw from these courses for this year and semester?" mean?

If you previously applied for hardship or non-attendance withdrawal for a given course or courses for a calendar year and semester and the Grade Appeal and Program Dismissal Appeal Committee rendered a decision their decision is final and not subject to further appeal. For questions or concerns regarding this policy please feel free to contact the ombudsman's office directly at (269) 387-0718 or ombd_info@wmich.edu.      

What email address should I put on the Appeal for a Hardship and Non-attendance Withdrawal form?

This email address is how the University ombudsman will be communicating to you the results of your appeal request or any questions the Grade Appeal and Program Dismissal Appeal Committee may have regarding your appeal. You may use any email address that belongs to you but please be sure to print your email address legibly in the space provided and check your email every day for updates regarding your appeal.

What does the question "Currently enrolled student?" mean?

If you are a student currently enrolled at the University or enrolled for courses in future semesters at the time you are filling out your appeal (not the semester your appeal is for) answer "yes" to this question. If you are not a currently enrolled student at the University or enrolled for courses in future semesters at the time you are filling out your appeal answer no to this question. 

Where do I list the course or courses I want to be considered for a withdrawal from on the Appeal for a Hardship and Non-attendance Withdrawal form?

At the bottom of the Appeal for Hardship Withdrawal Form, just above the box for internal use only that reads "Results of the Committee are Final" is a grid table that provides up to six blanks to input course in department information. List the course you want to appeal to be withdrawn from by their department and course numbers, such as "HIST 1000" or "COM 2400."