Policy 127 - Ombudsperson

Adoption


Date: 2009-05-25
Instance of Approval:Board of Governors

Date: 2009-05-04
Instance of approval: Senate


Modifications

Date: 2020-06-18
Instance of approval: Board of Governors

Date: 2020-06-15
Instance of approval: Senate


Responsible service: Office of the Secretary General


1.    PURPOSE:

1.2    The University of Ottawa commits to building a fair and equitable campus and to establish and maintain the function of Ombudsperson at the University of Ottawa in accordance with the principles of independence, impartiality and confidentiality that govern this function.

The main purpose of this policy is to define the framework for the function of Ombudsperson and its roles and responsibilities.

2.    DEFINITIONS:

The following definitions apply in this policy:

"Advisory Committee" means the Ombudsperson Advisory Committee created pursuant to section 13 of the present Policy.

"Ombudsperson" means the Ombudsperson and the staff working for the Ombudsperson, unless the context indicates otherwise.

"Student Unions" means the association representing undergraduate students at the University of Ottawa and the association representing Graduate Students at the University of Ottawa.

"University" means the University of Ottawa;

"University Community" means students and employees of the University, in particular:

a)        students, meaning individuals registered as students at the University, whether full-time or part-time (including special students, visiting students, applicants for admission, former students and alumni), at the undergraduate or graduate level;

b)         employees, including all unionized and non-unionized academic and support staff as well as those whose salary is paid through sources other than the University’s operating funds, such as grants, research grants and external contracts;

c)        clinicians and physicians with an academic appointment; adjunct, visiting and emeritus professors; post-doctoral or clinical fellows; research trainees; and medical residents.  

3.    GENERAL PRINCIPLES:

3.1. The Ombudsperson shall be independent of the University and Student Unions.

3.2. The Ombudsperson shall act in a confidential, fair and impartial manner.

3.3. The Ombudsperson provides recommendations and advice to members of the University Community to help resolve concerns in an informal, effective and accessible manner.

3.4. The Ombudsperson adheres to the Standards of Practice of the Association of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons and to the Statement of Ethical Principles of the Forum of Canadian Ombudsman.

3.5. The Ombudsperson considers administrative fairness principles: relational, procedural and substantive fairness.

4.    MANDATE

4.1. The mandate of the Ombudsperson is to provide an independent, impartial and confidential process to help members of the University Community pursue the just, fair and equitable resolution of disputes.  

4.2. The work of the Ombudsperson supports academic and professional activities of the members of the University Community and contributes to their well-being.

4.3. The Ombudsperson may also make recommendations, where appropriate, for changes in policies and procedures and promote discussion on institution-wide concerns.

5.    JURISDICTION:

5.1. The Ombudsperson may receive inquiries or complaints from any member of the University Community. The Ombudsperson shall not receive complaints from any person (for example, a parent or friend) on behalf of a member of the University Community.

5.2. The ombudsperson does not have jurisdiction on matters of internal governance of the Student unions.

5.3. The Ombudsperson shall not interfere with any matter covered by an existing collective agreement.

5.4. The Ombudsperson does not replace the mechanisms of the University or the Student Unions but may assist members of the University Community with information or advice about the process to be followed and about problem-solving options, or with an intervention (see section 6).

5.5. The Ombudsperson shall not undertake an investigation until all established channels of appeal have been exhausted.

5.6. The Ombudsperson may refuse or discontinue an intervention where there exists a recourse mechanism with the University or Student Unions; or in any matter which is considered frivolous, vexatious, not brought in good faith, or an abuse of the Ombudsperson's functions; or if the matter is already the subject-matter of a legal proceeding.

5.7. If the Ombudsperson refuses or discontinues an intervention, written reasons explaining the refusal or discontinuation shall be provided to the complainant.

5.8. The Ombudsperson's decisions to intervene or not, and his or her recommendations, shall be final and without appeal.

5.9. The Ombudsperson shall not intervene in cases where she or he may be in a conflict of interest. In such cases, the Advisory Committee may appoint another person to act temporarily as Ombudsperson.  

6.    ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

6.1. The Ombudsperson receives and handles inquiries and complaints, and has the power to investigate, as appropriate. The choice of which methods or which modes of intervention are the most appropriate in the circumstances is at the discretion of the Ombudsperson.

6.2. The Ombudsperson shall serve as a resource for the members of the University Community by providing information on policies and procedures, rights and responsibilities, and general guidance on where, how and to whom complaints and inquiries are properly directed.

6.3. The Ombudsperson may also use various modes of intervention, including:

6.3.1. facilitating communication between the parties;
6.3.2. facilitating a meeting between the parties;
6.3.3. reviewing any relevant record;
6.3.4. making informal inquiries into a matter;
6.3.5. meeting directly with the parties, jointly or separately;
6.3.6. engaging in shuttle diplomacy;
6.3.7. mediating a dispute;
6.3.8. offering recommendations for a fair resolution;
6.3.9. reviewing the essential elements of a file;
6.3.10. investigating after recourses are exhausted.

6.4. The Ombudsperson shall have access, subject to applicable laws and policies relating to confidentiality and protection of privacy, to all files, records, reports, documents and information needed to fulfil the functions of the Ombudsperson. Requests by the Ombudsperson for information shall be handled in a mutually convenient and expeditious manner by all members of the University Community.

6.5. All investigations shall be carried out in a fair manner and allow any person or unit implicated to provide information and respond to the Ombudsperson before a recommendation is made.

6.6. The Ombudsperson may, without receiving a complaint, identify and investigate inadequacies in existing procedures and policies that might jeopardize the rights of members of the University Community. The Ombudsperson may also make recommendations and bring them to the attention of the University or Student Unions.

6.7. The Ombudsperson may, at any time, draw to the attention of the University or Student Unions policies, rules or procedures that appear unclear, inequitable or unfair.

7.    CONFIDENTIALITY

7.1. Confidentiality is essential to ensure access to the Ombudsperson and to informal dispute resolution options.

7.2. Information collected by the Ombudsperson and the files of the Ombudsperson are not under the custody or control of the University or Student Unions.

7.3. The Ombudsperson does not act in the name of the University or Student Unions, and the information received by the Ombudsperson is not notice to the University or Student Unions.

7.4. The files of the Ombudsperson shall be for the exclusive use of the Ombudsperson and shall not be released to anyone else for any purpose, unless compelled by law.

7.5. All dealings with the Ombudsperson shall be confidential and may only be revealed, when the Ombudsperson intervenes, with the written consent of the complainant.

7.6. The Ombudsperson shall not be required to maintain confidentiality in cases involving the commission of a serious crime or where there is a serious and imminent risk of harm.

7.7. The Ombudsperson shall establish a system to handle and dispose of records of inquiries and complaints in compliance with applicable laws.

8.    ACCOUNTABILITY

8.1. The Ombudsperson shall submit an annual report to the University Community, and in particular to the Senate of the University, the Board of Governors of the University and the Student Unions. The Ombudsperson shall make the report public via the Ombudsperson's website.

8.2. The report shall detail the activities of the Ombudsperson, including statistics on all complaints received, and shall make recommendations, as necessary.

9.    NO RETALIATION

9.1 All members of the University Community shall have the right to seek the assistance of the Ombudsperson without reprisal or threat of reprisal from any other University Community member.

10.    APPOINTMENT OF THE OMBUDSPERSON

10.1. The Advisory Committee shall select the person who will occupy the position of Ombudsperson.

10.2. An Ombudsperson's initial appointment shall be for a term of five years, renewable for further terms of five years.

11.    FUNDING FOR THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSPERSON

11.1. The University and the Student Unions shall share the costs of the operations of the Ombudsperson. The University shall contribute 50% of these costs.

11.2. The Ombudsperson shall be provided with adequate administrative resources to fulfill his or her functions.

12.    COMPLAINT ABOUT THE OMBUDSPERSON

12.1. If a member of the University Community believes that the Ombudsperson has violated the present Policy, he or she may submit a written complaint, detailing the alleged violation, to the Advisory Committee care of the Office of the Secretary General.  The Advisory Committee shall inform the Ombudsperson and respond to the complaint. It may investigate the allegation while respecting the confidentiality of files and may appoint a person to conduct this investigation. The Advisory Committee shall inform the complainant of the result of the investigation.

13.    THE ADVISORY COMMITTEE

13.1. Role: The Advisory Committee of the Ombudsperson provides support to the Ombudsperson in his or her functions, with particular attention to ensuring the independent and confidential nature of that function.

13.2. Responsibilities:

13.2.1 To select the person who shall hold the title of Ombudsperson of the University of Ottawa;
13.2.2 To provide advice to the Ombudsperson, as needed;
13.2.3 To recommend the budget of the Ombudsperson;
13.2.4 To ensure the wide distribution of the Ombudsperson's annual report;
13.2.5 To respond to complaints relating to the work of the Ombudsperson;
13.2.6 To evaluate the performance of the Ombudsperson;
13.2.7 To propose the termination of the person who holds the title of Ombudsperson of the University of Ottawa;
13.2.8 To review this policy every five years or as needed.

13.3. The Advisory Committee shall respect the confidentiality of the Ombudsperson's files and shall not have access to information that could identify an individual complainant.

13.4. The Advisory Committee shall be composed of eight members.

13.4.1 Four members shall be designated by the University, including at least one regular full time member of staff and one full time professor.
13.4.2 Four members shall be designated by the Student Unions: two by the undergraduate Student Union and two by the graduate Student Union.
13.4.3 The appointment of members designated by the Student Unions shall be for one year renewable.
13.4.4 The appointment of members designated by the University shall be for three years renewable.
13.4.5 The Ombudsperson shall not be a member of the Advisory Committee but may attend meetings of the Advisory Committee, except for in-camera meetings pursuant to sections 13.2.5, 13.2.6 and 13.2.7.
13.4.6 The Advisory Committee shall meet at least three times per year.
13.4.7 Four members of the Advisory Committee shall constitute a quorum, including two representatives of the University and two students (one graduate student and one undergraduate student).
13.4.8 A meeting chair is elected by the members at the beginning of each meeting.

13.5. Members of the Advisory Committee shall vote on motions that are properly submitted to it in accordance with the following rules:

13.5.1 In cases of tied votes, the motion is defeated;
13.5.2 A proposal to terminate the person who holds the title of Ombudsperson of the University of Ottawa shall be approved by two thirds of the members of the Advisory Committee.

13.6. If the Ombudsperson intervenes in a matter involving one of the members of the Advisory Committee, that member shall temporarily withdraw from the Advisory Committee.  A temporary member of the Advisory Committee from the same category (designated by the Student Unions or by the University pursuant to section 13.4) shall then be appointed.

 

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