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Student ombuds office releases annual report

By Scott Strasser, October 2 2014 —

The University of Calgary student ombuds office released its report to the university community Tuesday, Sept. 23. The report outlines statistics from 2013–14 and recommended office improvements to university administration.

The ombudsperson gives students confidential and impartial counsel on academic and non-academic issues.

“[My role] is to listen to the complaints and provide options to help students understand the system,” said ombudsperson Duncan McDonald. “In a large organization, students generally find themselves in a culture they’re not used to. When they run into conflicts, they’re not really sure how to manage them and move forward.”

Academic appeals — such as changing a grade on an essay or withdrawing from the university — are the most common issues the ombuds office deals with.

McDonald said students often aren’t aware of all the “mitigating factors” that go into administration’s decisions on academic appeals. The ombuds office is meant to ease that process.

According to the report, the ombuds office dealt with 326 undergraduate cases and 64 graduate cases this past year.

Academic appeals made up 37 per cent of undergraduate and 23 per cent of graduate case files.

Housing concerns were the second most common issues undergraduate students came to the ombuds office with. Relationship conflict was the second most common for graduate students.

The report ends with recommendations for university administration. For 2014–15, suggestions included increasing student-support services for international students, reviewing the academic integrity policy and procedures and reviewing the academic appeals process.

The ombuds office operates independently of the university. They report to a board that represents the Students’ Union and Graduate Students’ Association.

SU vice-president academic Hana Kadri said the board wants to make the ombuds office more visible. They’ve considered moving the ombuds office from the education building to a more populated area on campus.

“Right now [the ombuds office] is a service that a lot of students don’t know about,” Kadri said. “One of the things we’ve discussed is potentially moving the office. We don’t know if that’s something we’re going to be doing this year or later on.”

But McDonald said a move wouldn’t fit the ombuds office’s founding principles. He said the current location has a lot of advantages.

“A lot of people in distress want quiet, confidential access to a space. Going through large groups of people isn’t a great idea,” McDonald said.

Kadri said they might also start promoting the office during orientation week.

The ombuds office is located in EDC 176.

 

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