Who can use the Ombudsperson?
All the members of the University community, including:
- students at all levels of study;
- candidates for admission;
- employees, support staff, administrators;
- graduates and alumni;
- professors, fellows, affiliated researchers.
Requests for services and complaints must be made by the individuals themselves and not by friends, parents or third parties.
What is an Ombudsperson?
The Ombudsperson is a confidential and impartial resource to assist you with the fair resolution of problems and complaints at the University.
- The Ombudsperson operates independently of the University and Student Unions.
- The Ombudsperson provides a range of services, including information, confidential advice or interventions, depending on the nature of the situation and the steps you have taken.
- Services are free and bilingual.
For more information on how the Office of the Ombudsperson is structured at the University of Ottawa, see Policy 127 on the Ombudsperson.
For more information about ombuds in universities, see ACCUO.
When can you use the Ombudsperson?
You can consult with us before, while or after taking steps yourself. For example:
- When you need information about your rights, responsibilities and options to resolve a problem or complaint.
- When you need advice or informal assistance to help resolve a problem or complaint.
- When you think you have been treated unfairly.
- When you need information or advice on existing channels of appeal or complaint.
- When you want to make a complaint after exhausting the established channels of appeal or complaint.
What types of issues can commonly be brought to the Ombudsperson?
University-related issues (academic, administrative, service, workplace, etc.). Examples include:
- Academic issues or questions related to academic rules (refusal of admission, exclusion from a program, recognition of prior knowledge);
- Academic supervision;
- Application of rules of discipline;
- Interpersonal problems with co-workers or supervisors;
- Human rights concerns;
- Problems with administrative processes or services of the University or Student Unions (e.g. financial issues, administrative procedures, services, etc.).
Depending on the issue and the steps you have taken, we can provide you with information, referral, advice or more direct assistance.
What can the Ombudsperson do?
The Ombudsperson does not replace existing mechanisms but can help you navigate them by providing information or confidential advice. Where appropriate and with your written consent, she may contact other offices to facilitate communication or problem-solve; if you have exhausted your recourses, she may review your complaint.
- The Ombudsperson will listen to you impartially and confidentially.
As needed, she can:
- Provide information on policies, procedures, rules and standards. Explain your rights and responsibilities.
- Help you identify how to proceed, whom to talk to, where to get help, where and how to address concerns or appeals, how to appropriate services.
- Help you identify and assess your options for managing a conflict or complaint; help you clarify the nature of the problem and options to address it constructively.
- Coach or advise you about communication and conflict management tools in preparation for a meeting or process.
Depending on the situation and step you have reached, she may:
- Make informal requests for information to clarify facts, facilitate communication explore available options or problem-solve, where appropriate.
- Act as a facilitator or mediator, if appropriate.
- Once all channels of appeal have been exhausted, examine a complaint.
The Ombudsperson needs your written consent before contacting other offices. She can then have access to all files, records, reports and information required to carry out her functions. Where needed, she can make written recommendations to the appropriate persons. She can also recommend changes to policies and procedures to improve fairness, usually in her annual report.
What are the restrictions on the Ombudsperson’s ability to act?
- The Ombudsperson may not make decisions for the University or Student Unions.
- The Ombudsperson may not formally investigate a complaint until the complainant has exhausted all available channels.
- The Ombudsperson may not intervene in situations covered by a valid collective agreement.
- The Ombudsperson does not have jurisdiction on matters of internal governance of the Student Unions. I.e.: The Ombudsperson can assist students with issues related to services and procedures of their student union; for issues decided by student democratic processes, the Ombudsperson will refer you to the relevant constitutional, bylaw or other Student Union process.)
What measures are taken to protect confidentiality?
Any discussion with the Office of the Ombudsperson, including the fact of having contacted the Ombudsperson, is considered confidential information. Neither senior University authorities nor Student Unions may access this information or the files held by the Ombudsperson.
The Ombudsperson requires your written consent before contacting the University or Student Unions about you.
However, the Ombudsperson is required to respect the law, and must disclose information contained in her files when compelled by law. In addition, the Ombudsperson is not required to maintain confidentiality if she has reason to believe that the life or safety of a person or persons may be at risk, or that a serious crime has been or may be committed, and must by law provide the appropriate authorities with the information required.
Does the Ombudsperson have to issue reports?
Can someone submit a complaint to the Ombudsperson on my behalf?
No. Requests for services and complaints must be made by the individuals themselves and not by friends, parents or third parties.
Does it cost anything to complain to the Ombudsperson?
No. The Office of the Ombudsperson does not charge a fee for its services.
How is the Office of the Ombudsperson financed?
The Office of the Ombudsperson is financed 50% by the Student Unions (UOSU and GSAED), and 50% by the University of Ottawa. It functions independently from the University and Student Unions. For more information, see Policy 127 on the Ombudsperson.