The University of Western Ontario

 

Ombuds Office
Annual Report
2004-2005




 

ISSUES

 

Forty different issues are identified in our data base system, some open-ended or catchall categories like "Undergraduate Other Academic" (meaning, other than grading concerns, scholastic discipline, etc.) or "External Miscellaneous" (meaning something outside Western that doesn't fit any other "External" category).

In terms of numbers, the top five are academic issues involving undergraduates:
Grade Issues 79
Req'd to Withdraw 54
Other Academic 39
Exam Problems 37
Course Management 26

About one-third of the issues involving grades were inquiries; the balance were complaints. A complaint is defined as a situation where the student has clearly expressed dissatisfaction and is seeking change. Only four grading issues involved intervention by the Ombuds Office all the rest were handled by providing advice and information.

Students required to withdraw who used the Ombuds Office came from Social Science, Science, Arts & Humanities, Engineering, Health Sciences, Brescia, King's, Huron and the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. About two-thirds made inquiries regarding the process, while the remainder were looking for a way to appeal or otherwise change their situations. Many students who approach the staff with a "quick question" end up recounting the story of their year and what went wrong in considerable detail. We strive to be empathetic but honest, too, in giving the student our opinion about the merits of an appeal. There were several cases in which we intervened, but none where we made recommendations.

"Other Academic" a catchall category was used for diverse issues, such as complaints about academic counselling and misinformation; concerns about how student information was stored and who had access to it; and various academic rules and processes and how they work or how outcomes can be appealed. One person complained that the length of the Christmas break was too short; another was concerned because a well-liked instructor was not successful in a hiring process.

In the past we distinguished academic and non-academic issues. Some are clearly one or the other. However, many so-called non-academic issues have an academic connection or impact and in the new system we have abandoned this distinction. What we have instead is a breakdown of the loci, or places where issues arise. They are tagged "academic" or "administrative" to reflect the University's organizational structure. The loci for all student issues were
72% academic
23 % administrative
5% external

We try to record the policy or policies which have a bearing on an issue. When we do record this, it usually means we have pointed out the existence of the policy to the student, possibly furnished a copy of it to him or her, and outlined how it applies in the student's situation. The policy is a good indicator of the type of issue raised.

Number of issues involving the most frequently cited policies:
138 Student Academic Appeals
35 Scholastic Discipline Policy
13 Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
12 Deadline policies regarding adding, dropping courses
8 Non-Discrimination/Harassment
8 Code of Student Conduct
8 Access to Information/Protection of Privacy
6 Absences Due to Illness
6 Access to examination papers, other work
5 Course Outline Policy
5 Residence Handbook
4 Religious Holidays
4 Academic Sanctions

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