After years of advocacy, Northwestern names Sarah Klaper as first University ombudsperson


Daily file photo by Andi Zhang

The Weber Arch. Northwestern announced Sarah Klaper as its first university ombudsperson Thursday.

Isabelle Sarraf, Print Managing Editor

Northwestern has named Sarah Klaper as its first ombudsperson following a national search, according to a Thursday news release.

An ombudsperson serves as a “neutral, independent, impartial and confidential” resource for members of the community, offering assistance on academic and work-related issues and conflicts. This includes directing individuals to the appropriate University policies and resources or acting as a third-party conciliator for two conflicting parties.

Klaper, who previously served as Northern Illinois University’s ombudsperson for nine years, will start at NU on Aug. 1. She will report directly to the provost and is responsible for creating an Office of the Ombudsperson.

“I am delighted to welcome Sarah Klaper to Northwestern,” Provost Kathleen Hagerty said in the release. “Our community identified a need for an impartial, confidential resource, and I am confident that (Klaper) has the experience and temperament to make an immediate impact on campus.”

The announcement comes after years of calls for conflict resolution reform at NU. The University originally planned to hire an ombudsperson by the 2020-21 academic year, but those plans were delayed due to the pandemic. 

Graduate students in particular had taken initiative on the ombuds front, gauging the community’s satisfaction and engagement with the conflict resolution avenues in place at the University. Graduate Leadership and Advocacy Council surveys dating back to 2004 showed students had been “pleading” for policy change or a form of third-party mediator almost every year.

In her previous role as a university ombudsperson at Northern Illinois University, Klaper modernized and reformed the ombuds program to focus on transparency and communication, providing conflict prevention and resolution to the campus community, according to the release. 

Celina Flowers, assistant provost for faculty and the chair of the search committee, said the committee was impressed by Klaper’s proven experience — particularly her ability strategize through hypotheticals and knowledge of organizational ombuds work.

“Through the creation of this office, Provost Hagerty and the university community are furthering a commitment to both the people and the work of Northwestern,” Klaper said. “Sometimes the university environment can be a complex place. I look forward to building the relationships that are at the heart of the Office of the Ombudsperson in order to help students, faculty and staff navigate through those complexities.”

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