Frequently asked questions

See also: FAQ for staff and faculty.

What does the ombudsperson do?

The ombudsperson assists in resolving student fairness issues and in fostering respectful learning and working environments. Depending on the situation, the ombudsperson can:

  • provide information and guidance about resources and procedures, regulations affecting students, appeal processes and students’ rights and responsibilities
  • problem-solve, mediate or facilitate communication between students and administrative staff or faculty
  • contact staff or faculty to clarify information
  • be present at a meeting (other than an appeal hearing)
  • review or investigate concerns about the application of rules, policies or procedures affecting students
  • train and coach groups or individuals in the areas of fairness, conflict and communication, rights and responsibilities
  • provide feedback or recommend changes in procedures or policies affecting students
  • stimulate discussion at the institutional level

What can the ombudsperson do to help me confidentially?

  • Listen to you to understand the problem and your goals.
  • Identify policies, procedures or practices relevant to your situation.
  • Help  you determine your options to solve the issue.
  • Provide guidance or feedback about appeals.
  • Help identify constructive approaches for raising complaints.

Who can go to the ombudsperson?

  • Current, former or prospective undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Other members of the university community, such as administrators or staff and faculty with questions about student-related matters, fair procedures or conflict.

What kinds of problems can the ombudsperson help me with?

The ombudsperson helps students deal with academic or administrative problems or complaints. She can provide guidance if you’re not sure where to begin, or serve as a last resort after you’ve tried other channels. Feel free to discuss your concerns with the ombudsperson when you:

  • want to clarify your options, rights or responsibilities
  • need to understand which policies or procedures apply to your situation
  • feel you have been treated unfairly, or think a UVic policy or rule has been applied erroneously or unfairly
  • have a problem that requires someone to facilitate communication or a resolution between yourself and another member of the UVic community
  • are appealing a grade, a requirement to withdraw or another academic decision
  • have a problem that you think cannot be resolved by following available procedures
  • are seeking information or referrals about non-academic issues affecting your studies (e.g.landlord-tenant, employment, etc.)

What can the ombudsperson do about an appeal?

The ombudsperson does not represent students at appeal hearings but can help you prepare by

  • providing information about appeal procedures, grounds (reasons) for appeal, and your rights and responsibilities
  • facilitating communication, clarifying issues or problem-solving
  • providing advice on organizing and presenting an appeal, or offer feedback on an appeal letter. See “How to write an appeal.”

What kind of coaching and training can the ombudsperson do?

Coaching: The ombudsperson can coach you as you work to solve a problem, appeal a decision or resolve a conflict. She often coaches in constructive and effective communication and in self-advocacy.

Training: The ombudsperson is available to talk to students, staff or faculty about student-related matters. She provides presentations or workshops on request.

Common topics:

  • Practicing fairness.
  • Communication skills for problem-solving.
  • Understanding rights and responsibilities.
  • Dealing constructively with disputes or conflict.
  • Avoiding pitfalls (e.g. plagiarism, grade disputes, human rights complaints).

Is the ombudsperson an advocate for students?

When making recommendations, the ombudsperson is an advocate for fairness. She must review situations impartially.

The ombudsperson does not act as student advocate or as a representative of the university, but she may be able to help students who need to identify potential advocates. She is also available to help students become their own advocates by providing them with information or advice about their rights and responsibilities, regulations and procedures, and constructive ways of raising issues.

What do you mean by independence, impartiality and confidentiality?

Independence: The ombudsperson is co-funded by students and the UVic administration. She reports to an advisory committee with representatives from the undergraduate and graduate students’ societies, staff, faculty and the UVic administration. The ombudsperson produces an annual report which is available to all members of the UVic community.

Impartiality: The ombudsperson does not take sides in disputes or complaints but seeks to protect the rights of all involved. In making recommendations, the ombudsperson is an advocate for fair and respectful treatment. She also strives to ensure that people have the means to advocate for themselves.

Confidentiality: The ombuds office is an off-the-record resource, and contacting the office does not constitute legal notice to UVic, the UVSS or the GSS. Your personal information is considered confidential and will not be shared outside the ombuds office unless:

  • you have provided consent,
  • disclosure is required by law or,
  • in the opinion of the ombudsperson, compelling circumstances affect your safety or that of someone.

For more on these topics, see ACCUO’s standards of practice. 

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