What does “ombuds” mean?

Ombudsman is a Swedish term defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “an official appointed to investigate individuals’ complaints against public authorities.” It is used world-wide to designate independent, impartial and confidential offices that receive inquiries and complaints from the public. At UVic, the ombuds office is mandated to deal with student-related issues and may provide information and referrals; offer confidential advice, feedback or coaching; problem-solve or facilitate communication; review or investigate.

“With a focus on fairness, equity and respect, the ombudsperson builds capacity to help the institution be accountable to its own value and mission statements. In working with individuals, the ombudsperson facilitates fair resolutions that build trust and fortify the relationship between individual and institution.” 
– Association of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons (ACCUO)

When was the UVic ombuds office created?

The ombuds office was created in May 1978 by the UVic Students’ Society, under the aegis of the Ombudsperson Advisory Committee (with representation from students and faculty). It is now funded by undergraduate students, graduate students and UVic. You can read more about the history of the office in the 1978-2008 Special Anniversary Report: Building a Culture of Fairness at UVic.

What kind of authority does the ombudsperson have? 

The ombudsperson makes recommendations to persons in authority, produces an annual report and can bring matters to the attention of the university community. They do not have the authority to make or replace policy, and do not have decision-making power for UVic, the UVSS or the GSS.

Who does the ombudsperson report to?

The ombudsperson reports to the Ombudsperson Advisory Committee, with representatives from undergraduate and graduate students, staff, faculty and the University Administration. The committee reviews budgets and reports from the office. Committee members are not involved in case reviews and do not have access to confidential information.

Where do I bring comments, praises or complaints about the ombudsperson?

I am always interested in your feedback. Please contact me or use the Ombuds User Survey and return it to me. The office functions according to the Terms of Reference for the Office of the Ombudsperson. Comments, praises and complaints about the ombudsperson can also be addressed to the chair of the Ombudsperson Advisory Committee (also chair of the UVSS) at chair[at]uvss.ca.

Is the office associated with an ombuds network?

The office adheres to the Standards of Practice of the Association of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons (ACCUO). One of UVic’s former ombudspersons served as the association’s president from 2006 to 2010.

Over time, the ombudsperson has been a member or contributor to the California Caucus of College and University Ombuds (CCCUO), the European Network of Ombudsmen in Higher Education (ENOHE), the Red de Organismos Defensores de los Derechos Universitarios (REDDU), the cross-sector Forum of Canadian Ombudsman (FCO), and the NorthWest Ombuds Group (NWOG).

What does the office logo mean?

Without beginning or end, the circle is a symbol of infinite or all possibilities. It is a safe, welcoming space where participation is encouraged and listening is practiced. It indicates confidentiality and respectful communication. As a representation of wholeness, it is also a reminder to view individual situations in relation to the whole when searching for the appropriate resolution of problems or grievances.

With its three equal sides, the equilateral triangle is a symbol of balance and strength. It signals the office’s commitment to fairness, impartiality and the absence of bias. It also represents the dynamic processes of transformation and creation: from the tension between two opposites, the addition of a third element brings new forms of engagement, new connections and different possibilities.

Flying up through the circle and triangle, the bird is a manifestation of spirit, transformation and growth. It represents aspirations and potential. It is also a symbol of freedom and peace, illustrating the independent nature of the ombuds function, and the ombuds role as agent for constructive change.

The bird casts a shadow, a representation of the process of integration in terms of personal development. It signals a commitment to reflective practice for the ombudsperson, and offers that same reflective lens to the community served by the office.