The University of Western Ontario

 

Ombuds Office
Annual Report
2003-2004




 

OTHER ACTIVITIES

 

Acting as Agent
As has been pointed out in previous annual reports, acting as agent is in fact a conflict of interest for the Ombudsperson, as it violates the commitment to impartiality. In the past year, the University agreed that the Ombudsperson should no longer undertake to act as agent. The situations described above represented existing commitments. I would like to express my thanks to Dean Marty Kreiswirth and Associate Deans George Emery and Tony Vandervoort of the Faculty of Graduate Studies for championing this change.

Knowing that it is often important for a student appealing to the Senate Review Board Academic or to other university bodies to have an agent, I agreed to offer coaching and consultation to student appellants and their chosen agents. In addition, I drafted a guide entitled Agents and Colleagues: Students Helping Students. All Ombuds Office guides are available in hard copy and on the web.

Despite the fact that it was a conflict of interest to act as agent, I want to say that my experience with the Senate Review Board Academic was very rewarding and instructive and contributed hugely to my understanding of the academic appeal process. On numerous occasions I have spoken to ombudsman colleagues both in Canada and the States about the importance of having a body like SRBA. The merit of spending many person hours to hear the probably doubtful case of one student may be questioned. But in my opinion, the very existence of the SRBA helps to ensure fair decision making throughout the University, and for all –not just the few students whose appeals reach that level.

Service at Western
Frances continued to serve as a member of the Professional and Managerial Association (PMA) Support Group, and on Western's Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (WODAC).

Professional Contributions
Frances served on the Board of Directors for the Forum of Canadian Ombudsman (www.ombudsmanforum.ca) and as Chair of its Education and Training Committee. She was part of the instruction team for the first ever FCO training course in March – it was a huge success, demonstrating that ombudsmen from different fields have many similar needs. Participants came from government, college, university, industry and private sector offices, and from five provinces and the North West Territories.

In April, Frances was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by the University and College Ombuds Association for her service to that organization.

Frances and Anita attended the meeting of the Association of College and University Ombudspersons in Montreal in May. That organization awarded Frances the Distinguished Service Award for twenty-five years of service "to ACCUO and other ombuds organizations nationally and internationally." Frances was one of the founding members of ACCUO, and helped to organize the first Canadian conference of academic ombudsman at Concordia University, 1979.

Anita continued to serve ACCUO as Treasurer. She also maintains the ACCUO website.

Advisory Committee
The members of the Advisory Committee in 2003-04 were Debra Dawson, Isabelle Giroux, Adrienne Kennedy, Dan McKinlay, J.B. Orange and Daryl White. The committee met twice in person, and had email discussion and contact on a number of issues. In response to a complaint about the Ombudsperson, a guideline on how to handle such complaints was developed. This will soon be posted on the Ombuds Office website.

The Committee provides an important link between the Ombuds Office and the community. Members read and comment on draft documents, plans, the proposed office budget, and promotional activities, and often make helpful suggestions. Anita and I offer our sincere thanks to each for his or her efforts over the year.

The Year Ahead
Change is in the air! The Ombuds Office is in the process of adopting a new data base. In the future we hope to be in a position to make reports to particular units about problems arising in the unit, much as government ombudsmen do. Frances will retire in 2006, and is working hard to prepare the office for a successor.

In addition, in 2004-05, there is a new member of the Ombuds Office team – Mandy Murray, a King's student, is going to act as King's Ombuddy. This pilot project is intended to provide a more effective service to King's students and the King's community.

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