Meet Sylvi Leirvåg, University of Bergen’s first studentombud (student ombudsperson). In case you didn’t already know, an ombudsperson is an advocate who represents the interests of a specific group, in this case students, by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or rights violations. I got a chance to sit down and talk with Sylvi in order to “introduce you” to her, and let her tell you a bit about her position and when to come see her. In order to get to know Sylvi and the ombudsperson’s role, I’ve summarizing the highlights of our conversation, below.
Everybody, meet Sylvi
Personable, approachable, professional and knowledgeable, Sylvi Leirvåg is a lawyer with a background in both the public and private sector as a tillitsvalgt (translates to “steward”, but rights advocate may be more accurate) and a verneombud (“safety representative”, again this has to do with understanding the regulations and laws in the interest of protecting peoples’ rights in the physical and psychosocial work environment). She received her law degree from UiB. She’s spent the last three years as the CEO of Signo Dokken where she focused on providing workplaces for people with disabilities.
Sylvi is a native of Bergen, while she’s lived in a couple other cities in Norway she felt homesick for Bergen and had to return. She is extremely excited to tackle this position, one that seemed tailor-made for her and her experience. In other words, despite her enjoyment of her previous position, this was an opportunity she couldn’t resist! Sylvi has a fiancé and two daughters; one who is nearly 5, and one who is nearly 10 years old.
Sylvi’s position as studentombud focuses on the learning environment. She describes her position as a supplement to the existing University services, in other words there are often already protocols in place for student complaints and concerns. However, the studentombud can provide advice and guidance about the study environment by:
- Directing students to the most appropriate resources
- Offering guidance for the protocol for lodging complaints/concerns
- In difficult cases, acting as an advocate. This may be necessary in cases of harassment, bullying, discrimination, conflicts with students or staff, etc
Photo: Ingunn Halvorsen
Listening to students
Sylvi emphasizes that she is here as studentombud to listen. Even if a student only wants to vent, it is still appropriate to have a chat with her. If a student wants and need additional services, Sylvi may be able to direct the student onwards to other resources, discuss University regulations and other student protections in place, or actively get involved, depending on the situation.
Talking to the studentombud is a confidential experience. Students have the right to keep their identity private if necessary or desired, and what is discussed with Sylvi can remain confidential.
Blurry photos seem more confidential, right? Photo: Stand Hiestand
When to consult the studentombud
There are all types of examples of when to discuss issues with Sylvi. Many have already been mentioned:
- If you have experienced or are aware of harassment, bullying, or discrimination
- If you have a disability and the accommodations being made are insufficient
- If you need assistance mediating a conflict with a fellow student, staff, or faculty
- If you are aware of or concerned about the legality of an activity you have participated in or have witnessed
- If you’re wondering if your experience is meeting with University regulations (for example, did you get your exam grades back within an appropriate timeframe)
- If you just need to vent about anything having to do with the learning environment
For international students
Sylvi wants the international students to know she’s trying to get some English-language information available — and hopefully this blog is a good start! She’s working on a webpage and has put up a Facebook page called “Studentombud ved UiB”, which you can check out here. There may be English language information there in the future, and in the meantime, there is always google translate.
To practice your Norsk (or your google translation skills) by reading about Sylvi’s position as student ombudsperson, click here. To really develop your Norsk-ear, you can listen to an interview with Sylvi Leirvåg on NRK Hordaland.
Come and meet Sylvi
She has open hours Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:00-14:00. You can feel free to drop in at these times without an appointment.
Her office is located at:
Harald Hårfagresgt. 1, 5020 Bergen
If you wish to make an appointment instead, you can contact her
via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
via Phone: 975 11 129
She’s happy to be UiB’s studentombud, and would be happy for you to come and talk to her!