November 13, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 42  

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NEWS

Ombudsperson here to help - use on the rise

By Sarvenaz Kermanshahi
Gazette Staff

The recently released annual report of Western's ombudsperson outlined the general nature of cases brought to the ombuds office in the 2002-03 scholastic year.

"This year's report is different from the reports of previous years because it is more detailed and gives a good idea of the kinds of issues we dealt with," said ombudsperson Frances Bauer.

According to the report, the majority of students who went to the ombuds office last year went to seek advice regarding their rights and responsibilities or to claim unfair treatment. Other common cases involved complaints about another person.

The report also mentioned an increase in the number of "complex issues" or cases involving a whole cluster of issues. "Why this is, I do not know," Bauer said. "It may be because things are more complicated these days."

The number of interventions made by the office is also on the rise, with a two per cent increase from the previous year.

The report encouraged students who disagree with a decision or grade to "be proactive in understanding how the decision was made." It also encouraged students to quickly seek help when in a conflict situation.

"The ombuds office is important to students and to the institution as a whole because the fact that it exists shows the commitment of the university to ensure that students are treated fairly," Bauer explained. "We would like students to understand that the [ombuds] office is a good first step or last resort for any student who has any kind of conflict or complaint.

"It is never wrong to come here," Bauer said. "We can provide people with an efficient path for dealing with their problem."

According to Dave Ford, VP-education for the University Students' Council, the ombuds office provides an important service to student - for example, if they wanted to appeal a grade.

"University policy can be difficult for the average student to understand. The ombudsperson provides that information in a student friendly way," Ford said.

However, not all students - many of whom chose to remain anonymous - were clear as to the role of the ombudsperson.

"I've seen the word, but I don't know what it is," confessed an ashamed first-year student.

One anonymous student reported a positive experience. "She was an insightful listener who provided options on how to go about rectifying my situation," he said.

 

 

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