The University of Western Ontario

 

Ombuds Office
Annual Report
2003-2004




 

INTERVENTIONS AND A SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

 

A document entitled Ombuds Office Interventions in the Academic Appeal Process is on the office website, and clarifies the process followed when the Ombudsperson agrees to look into a matter. The difference between a 'suggestion' and a 'recommendation' is basically one of force. Either may be written or oral, and neither recommendations nor suggestions of the Ombudsperson are binding.

Legend:
N = decision reviewed but decision maker concluded No change needed (to original decision)
M = decision maker reconsidered a decision, Made change
R = decision maker Refused to consider Ombudsperson's argument, information

Interventions Resulting in a Recommendation to a Decision Maker

  • Ombudsperson suggested a decision be reviewed.
    Format: original decision; reason Ombudsperson suggested review
    Denial of Dean's Waiver, in light of student's age and family situation. N (Subsequent appeal to SRBA denied.)
    Denial of appeal of progression requirements; in light of new medical information unavailable at time of initial appeal. N
    Scholastic offence finding; Dean agreed with Ombudsperson that evidence of offence was insufficient, withdrew charge. M
    Denial of late withdrawal to student who experienced serious problems during a summer course; Ombudsperson presented evidence in support of claims. M
    Requirement to do extra half credit for student who experienced a sequence of serious problems in an honors program. M
    Decision on a graduate readmission; in light of documented history. M
    Decision on graduate admission; in light of new information. N
    Refusal to readmit graduate student deregistered for failing to pay fees on time; in light of circumstances and lack of clarity around procedures. M
    A student required to withdraw from a graduate program because performance weak; procedures followed appeared inappropriate. R
    Correction of a simple error resulted in adjustment to student record and to amount of fee. M
    Decision on denying student permission for a summer course. N
    Late payment penalty. M

  • Ombudsperson recommended substantive decision or procedural change
    Recommended waiver of a deadline in light of extenuating circumstances. Recommendation rejected by Dean, but another remedy offered when student went to higher level. N, M
    Late submission of thesis, resulting in requirement to pay a term's tuition. Recommended reconsideration on compassionate grounds. R
    Late submission of master's thesis, resulting in requirement to pay a term's tuition and late admission to PhD. Recommended that late registration in the doctoral program be permitted, in light of the circumstances. Decision maker provided an alternative remedy. M
    Recommended decision to deny graduation with Honors be reconsidered in light of various factors. N. Remedy granted when student took matter further, to SRBA. M
    After resolution of a frustrating parking situation involving a campus visitor, suggested an apology. M
    Suggested apology to student whose entry in convocation program was incorrect. M (Hats off to OOR for its determination to offer a meaningful remedy to the student in this case.)
    Recommended that student be permitted to convocate from the program student believed she was in and for which she had met all the requirements. M
    Recommended special exams for a student in light of more ample medical documentation. M

  • Ombudsperson recommended a change to policy, procedure or practice. (These recommendations usually came about because of a specific case, but were independent of the case.)
    Recommended: "The Faculty of Graduate Studies needs to take the lead in reviewing information made available to current graduate students to ensure that that information is comprehensive, specific and clear. The primary authority needs to be identified as such: the one reference to which all (students, programs, FGS, Registrar) agree they can turn." (The FGS website is currently under review.)
    Recommended: review of Honors policy and of Policy on Religious Holidays. (Changes have since been made to both policies.)
    Recommended: that when a rule was enforced without exception, students should not be invited to appeal. This recommendation was rejected on the grounds that someday the rule might be waived, however the unit did agree to word its appeal invitation more carefully.
    Suggested: signage near entrances, loading docks and fresh air intakes, reminding people that policy prohibits smoking within 10 metres of same. (Such signage appears to be in place in many locations.)
    Recommended: that a decision maker follow up on departmental errors in whatever way he deemed appropriate, with a view to avoiding such errors in future.
    Suggested: greater clarity in the Calendar regarding the conditions under which a main campus student may enroll in a course offered at an affiliated college.
    Suggested: that Housing modify its process to make it clearer to applicants for housing that past history and references will be taken into account.
    Recommended: that practices around the late payment penalty be more clearly communicated.

Investigations or interventions which did not result in a recommendation to a decision maker

  • Investigated situation of individual student but found university's decision not unfair
    Student appealed a late penalty applied to a grade on grounds that the delay was not all the student's fault.
    Student not granted preferred accommodation for a disability
    Student entry to graduate program delayed one year because issuance of a student visa was delayed.
    Student had been permitted by instructor to do extra work after course ended to try to raise grade. Dean's Office refused to approve change of grade. Ombudsperson recommended that the Dean undertake measures to ensure faculty members and Departments were more aware of the rules, but did not recommend a reversal of the grade decision.
    Student denied permission to take a certain course at an affiliated college.
    Funding provided to a graduate student.
    Student excluded from University Housing for a period of time due to prior history.
    Student appeal was denied but student claimed the decision maker had never responded to emails. A file review showed that there were no emails received and student was advised to check sent files in case emails were misaddressed. Decision maker agreed to review decision if more evidence forthcoming.
    Reviewed a dean's decision regarding a grade appeal.
    Decision regarding a damage appeal in residence.
    Graduate student was failing to make adequate progress and was being required to withdraw. Upon investigation, it turned out the student had already had a number of chances.
    Student missed exams due to power outage. Subsequently student was not advised about scheduled make-ups. Request for specials denied by Dean's office. Investigation unable to substantiate student claims.
    Student dropped courses and then tried to re-add the courses a few days later. Upon investigation, it was clear that all options had been explained to the student and there were no grounds for allowing the re-add after the deadline.
    Parent of children in day camp sought refund for day of blackout. Unit provided some compensation, but parent felt it was inadequate.
    Student denied admission to program of choice.
    Graduate student required to withdraw for failing to meet progression requirements.
    Denial of scholarship appeal.
    Student record sealed because of indebtedness.
    Residence room assignment.

    Considered situation presented by student and declined to investigate or declined to recommend (5 situations)
    Issues were graduate student funding, student - faculty member conflict, an appeal, and two decisions on deadlines which were not contrary to rules. The Ombudsperson declined to investigate or recommend when the student had other recourses, the matter was better handled another way, or, despite the adverse impact on the student, the decision was not contrary to policy and the Ombudsperson could not provide any new or different information to the decision maker.

    Facilitated an outcome or process (19 situations)
    Typically facilitated communications between students and those in positions of authority. Issues included parking, accommodations for a student with a disability, discipline situations, financial situations (fees, OSAP, rent) and academic appeals.

    Those in authority were aware of Ombudsperson's involvement in the case, but there was no active intervention (2 situations)
    A graduate student with health issues; a professional school student involved in a progression appeal.

    Intervention largely fact-gathering no recommendations appropriate (11 situations)
    Two situations concerned residence staff, one involved fees and the remainder involved academic issues. The reasons why suggestions or recommendations were not appropriate varied from situation to situation: (a) the student had another recourse; (b) the decision maker took appropriate action as soon as the Ombuds Office made an inquiry; or (c) after fact-gathering, Ombudsperson still had too little information to make a determination regarding fairness.

    Ombudsperson acted as agent for student (6 situations)
    One appeal of a Code of Student Conduct decision and three appeals to SRBA in absentia (two of scholastic offences, one to graduate with Honors). There were also two appeals to SRBA of professional program progression requirements, but each student subsequently withdrew the application for hearing.


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