The University of Western Ontario

 

Ombuds Office
Annual Report
2004-2005




 

WHAT DID THE OMBUDS OFFICE DO FOR STUDENTS AND OTHERS?

 

In 80 situations, we intervened. Intervention issues tend to be more complex and to take longer to close. For instance, ten percent of these issues were opened in the prior case year (2003-04). These are the results following our interventions:

25 complaint not substantiated
13 complaint substantiated
11 complaint substantiated in part
31 other

Complaint not substantiated cases

In the majority of these situations we reviewed a decision and found that it was not "unfair or unreasonable". The review process is described in our publication, Ombuds Office Inteventions in the Academic Appeal Process, and although that document is specific to academic situations, we follow a very similar procedure with other decisions, too, such as terminations from Residence, Fees, OSAP and so on. In several of the "not substantiated" situations we discontinued an investigation when a decision maker indicated a willingness to reexamine the matter.

Examples:

  1. A student was terminated from a residence and complained that the process was unfair and the decision unjust. On the student's own evidence, the decision was found to be consistent with other similar decisions, and the process was not found to be unfair.
  2. A midterm exam conducted on line ended up having serious glitches. The program decided to set aside the grades from the midterm and base the final grades in the course on other evaluative measures. Several students objected, quite rightly, that the weight of those other evaluative components was significantly changed. However, after investigation the Ombudsperson concluded that the program had carefully considered all possible options and found the solution which, in its opinion, best respected the rights and interests of everyone.

Complaint substantiated or substantiated in part

In these situations, the Ombudsperson tried to find a remedy. In some instances, the recommendation was that the decision maker reconsider the decision, placing more weight on specific information. Other situations called for a review of policy.

Examples:

  1. A student with chronic health issues was denied special exams despite medical documentation. The decision maker was asked to contact the student's health care provider to verify or clarify information and to reconsider the decision.
  2. A student in a Distance Studies program was required to pay the Compulsory Non-Tuition Related Ancillary Fees appropriate for full-time students because her Certificate program was full-time. She objected to the amount of these fees given that she was living in another province and unable to make use of some of the services for which such fees were levied. In fact, the possibility of full-time students in Distance Studies programs had been overlooked in terms of Ancillary Fee policy. A recommendation was made to look for ways to change this. As of writing, the matter is still under consideration.
  3. A student was charged a Late Registration fee despite the fact that he could not have registered earlier through no fault of his own. A recommendation was made to cancel the fee in his case.

In all situations where the Ombudsperson makes a finding, whether that a decision is not unreasonable or unsupportable, or that a complaint is justified, she explains that finding and her reasoning to the affected parties.

Other

In these situations, the Ombudsperson intervened with the intention of clarifying information or facilitating communication. In some cases, a decision maker modified a decision or had modified it before being contacted; in one a student chose not to pursue the matter beyond a certain point. What really characterizes these situations is the fact that the Ombudsperson never has (and often does not attempt to gain) sufficient information to make a finding one way or the other.

Examples:

  1. A student was unable to access her tax receipt on line and also claimed she had failed to connect with the Registrar's Office by telephone despite repeated efforts over several days. The student agreed that the Ombudsperson could provide her phone number to someone in the Registrar's Office who could contact her instead. This was done and the matter was straightened out.
  2. A student in a professional program was required to redo a practicum component. A meeting was scheduled with the supervisor to discuss the conditions. The student felt uncomfortable and unsure of being treated fairly. With the agreement of the faculty member involved, the Ombudsperson attended the meeting as an impartial observer.
  3. A student in a graduate program was not satisfied that he was being appropriately accommodated for a disability. The student agreed to have a meeting with the faculty involved, plus the counsellor from Services for Students with Disabilities if the Ombudsperson set up the meeting. However, the faculty member decided to modify the accommodation instead and thus the planned meeting did not need to take place.


Next Page Back to Table of Contents