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Washington State University Ombuds

History of the Ombudsman

Origin of the term “Ombudsman”

The term ombudsman (om-budz-man) originated in Sweden and dates back to 1809 when the Swedish Parliament appointed an Ombudsman to resolve problems in the absence of the king.  Ombudsman means grievance handler, the people’s representative or delegate.  This concept became a popular method for resolving problems and quickly spread to other countries.  In the United States and Canada, Ombuds Offices have been created to assist citizens, consumers, children, students and employees who wish to address their concerns confidentially.  The Ombudsman function has been utilized in state and federal agencies, prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, child protective services, industry and higher education colleges and universities.

Origin of the Ombuds Office at Washington State University

The Washington State University Office of the University Ombudsman was established in 1970.  President Glenn Terrell formed a special faculty Summer Discussion Group on July 23, 1970, to study problems confronting higher education during the period of nation-wide campus unrest of the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Many universities established Ombudsman Offices in an attempt to provide a safe place for the university community to have their concerns addressed.  In the Discussion Group Committee’s Final Report, published in Community (WSU newspaper) November 12, 1970, President Terrell recommended that an Ombudsman be appointed.  The varied and possible functions of the Ombudsman were to:

  • Investigate and recommend action on any matter brought up as a grievance by any member(s) of the University community.
  • Resolve possible conflict, tension, abuse of rights, etc.
  • Anticipate conflict situations, and act appropriately.

The intent was to lessen the direct and initial confrontation of the President with grievances at WSU.  The Ombudsman’s Office was created to facilitate the solution of many smaller problems and reshape others in ways which could be dealt with successfully by central administration.  President Terrell requested that the Ombudsman resolve conflict by informal attempts at reconciliation with faculty, students, staff or administrative officers in the institution.  The Ombuds office continues to provide an open, immediate, available sounding board for all university related grievances.  The services of the Ombuds do not replace the formal WSU Complaint Procedures or other areas of redress.  The Ombuds Office is an additional resource, which is neutral, objective, confidential and advisory by identifying options for resolving conflict.


For several years the ombudsman selected was a tenured faculty member serving a two-year term (with optional additional term).  In 1998, the Provost selected one half-time tenured faculty and one half-time administrative/professional ombudsman to serve two year terms with optional renewable terms.  The Ombudsman operate independently and report directly to the WSU Provost and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs.  The office is also staffed by an Assistant to the Ombudsman.

Past and Present WSU University Ombudsmen

1971Louis McNew
Feb. 1971 – Sept. 1973Bruce Anawalt, Professor of English
Sept. 1973 – Sept. 1975Theodore R. Saldin, Professor of Business Admin.
Sept. 1975 – Sept. 1977F. Dudley Klopfer, Professor of Psychology
Sept. 1977 – Sept. 1979Toshio Akamine, Professor of Education
Sept. 1979 – Sept. 1981Fritz Blackwell, Professor of Asian Studies
Sept. 1981 – Sept. 1984H. Clare Wiser, Professor of Mathematics
Sept. 1984 – Aug. 1987John Donnelly, Professor of Economics
Aug. 1987 – July 1990Walfred Peterson, Professor of Political Science
Aug. 1990 – July 1993H. Clare Wiser, Professor of Mathematics
Aug. 1993 – July 1997Mary Gallwey, Professor of Human Development
Dec. 1998 - June 2006Penne Pierson, Administrative Professional
Jan. 1999 - Dec. 2009Kenneth Struckmeyer, Prof. of Landscape Architecture
Aug. 2006 - Jan. 2011M. Judith Krueger, Administrative Professional
Jan. 2010 - Aug. 2011Raymond A. Jussaume Jr., Prof. of Community & Rural Sociology
Aug. 2011 - July 2015Cathryn Claussen, Professor of Sport Management
April 2011 - August 2018Tena R. Old, Administrative Professional
July 2015 - PresentMax Kirk, Associate Professor in the School of Design and Construction
August 2016 - PresentDebbie Lee, Professor of English
August 2018 - PresentSheri Glaesman, Administrative Professional

Principal Assistant to the Ombudsman

1978 - June 2004Patricia Bezdicek, Administrative Professional
Aug. 2004 - June 2011Debbie Waite, Administrative Professional
July 2011 - presentJanet Herrlinger, Administrative Professional