Office of the ombudsperson

Frequently Asked Questions


I think my relationship with my graduate supervisor is hindering my studies. What can I do?

A. Graduate students sometimes encounter difficulties with their supervisors over the course of their studies. Concerns may revolve around funding, direction, or deadlines. For some tips in managing the student/supervisor relationship, check out the guide about Relations with Supervisors. It may also help you to keep a chronology of when difficulties are happening. You can review the guide Tips on Writing an Effective Chronology for advice on how to create one.

The Graduate Student Tip Sheet can also help you select an advisor and guide you through the relationship. If you are concerned that word will get back to your supervisor that you have spoken to someone about him or her, read the guide concerning Confidentiality and the Ombuds Office.

My supervisor has requested a meeting and I am concerned about it. May I take someone with me for moral support?

A. It’s sometimes a good idea for students to take someone with them to meetings that might become stressful – such as ones discussing your progress or an accusation of scholastic offense. Agents and Colleagues: Students Helping Students is a guide that outlines when you can take a fellow student with you to a meeting or have other representation.

I am a TA for a course and have received a disturbing email from a student. What should I do and where can I go for help?

A. Teaching Assistants are often the first point of contact when students have questions about an exam or disagree with a grade. Sometimes students become upset and take their frustrations out on teaching assistants. If you receive a menacing email from a student, you may want to review the guide on Handling Harassing or Threatening Emails.

My funding package doesn’t cover all my living expenses; I am afraid of leaving school with a huge debt. Do you have any suggestions?

A. Financial Officers in Student Financial Services can be a wonderful resource for budget planning and finding out about bursaries and emergency loans. The Society of Graduate Students (SOGS) also has loans available to students in financial difficulty. Read the guide Owing Money to the University – How to Manage Your Debt for more information.

My graduate program requires me to go on a practicum. What can I expect?

A. The Office of the Ombudsperson has developed a Guide for Students in Professional Program Placements, Clinics, Practicums. The guide outlines what you can expect in the way of supervision and what to do if things don’t go well. If things aren’t going well, you may also want to refer to our guide about Relations with Instructors and Persons in Positions of Authority.

I received accommodation for a learning disability during my undergraduate degree; can I do the same for my Graduate studies?

A. Documented, diagnosed learning disabilities are accommodated through Services for Students with Disabilities. To determine the steps to take if you require accommodation, refer to the Guide for Students with Disabilities.

May I get accommodation for short-term illnesses or compassionate circumstances?

A. Graduate students who have an acute illness or other circumstance which requires them to miss an academic requirement must provide a student medical certificate, or other documentation in the case of compassionate circumstances. It is best for students in a research program to contact their supervisor to discuss short-term accommodation. Students in course-based degrees should speak to their graduate coordinator.

For complete information regarding parental leave, vacations, and longer leaves of absence, students should view the Registration Information on the Graduate Regulations webpage.

I really disagree with a grade I received. Can I appeal it?

A. Graduate students are permitted to appeal a grade on an examination or other assignment, final grade in a course, or the ruling of an instructor, program or an administrator. Grounds for appeal are medical or compassionate circumstances, extenuating circumstances beyond the student’s control, bias, inaccuracy, or unfairness. You can review the full Appeal Policy for graduate students on the Governance website.

I have been accused of plagiarism, but I didn’t do it. How do I defend myself?

A. Western takes academic integrity very seriously. Graduate students are required to complete the Academic Integrity Module during their first term. The facts and scenarios in this module provide you with the information you will need to make sure you know what Western considers a scholastic offense. However, if you are accused, there is a process you and the University need to follow. The Scholastic Offense Policy is posted on the Governance website.

You can always contact the Office of the Ombudsperson to figure out the options available to you.