The President has appointed Dr. Paul G. Harrison to lead a review of the Office of the Ombudsperson for Students. Members of the UBC community – students, faculty, and staff – are invited to read the Terms of Reference for this review and the Terms of Reference of the Office and provide their comments to Paul via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments on any aspect of the Office (as detailed in the Terms of Reference for the review) are welcome but the following questions may help to focus your input:
- How effective is the Office of the Ombudsperson for Students in fulfilling its current mandate?
- Does the Office effectively communicate its services to members of the University community on both campuses?
- Is the Office suitably structured, governed, and resourced?
- Are there new directions or priorities that should be considered for the Office?
Comments are welcome until January 31, 2019. There will also be opportunity for interested stakeholders to meet with Paul.
About Paul Harrison
Paul Harrison has served UBC for over 40 years as a faculty member and administrator. As a student advisor and as Associate Dean, Students, in the Faculty of Science, he became broadly aware of the issues that students bring to an ombuds office. As an elected senator, he has focussed efforts on clarifying University policies and procedures.
About the Office of the Ombudsperson for Students
The Office of the Ombudsperson for Students (hereafter “the Office”) was created in 2009 to “help to ensure that fairness and respect are core values that enrich every student’s educational experience at the University of British Columbia” (https://ombudsoffice.ubc.ca/who-we-are/our-vision-and-mission/). “Reporting to the President, the Office is an independent, impartial and confidential resource for students at UBC, jointly funded by the AMS, GSS and UBC” (https://ombudsoffice.ubc.ca/). The Office has responsibility on both the Okanagan and Vancouver campuses and is now also funded by the UBC Students’ Union Okanagan (UBCSUO).
Shirley Nakata (BA, LLB) is the Ombudsperson and is supported by two Ombuds Officers, Joy Coben in Vancouver and Michael Jud in the Okanagan.
Scope of the Review
The scope of the review, in general terms, will be to review the effectiveness of the Office of the Ombudsperson for Students, the awareness of the Office by members of the University community, the communication of its services, and the future directions appropriate for the Office.
Without limiting the general nature of the above, the review will examine the following:
- The adequacy of the terms of reference of the Office (Appendix 1)
- The effectiveness of the Office in fulfilling its terms of reference as demonstrated by stakeholder and user perception and established metrics and reporting
- The appropriateness of governance structures with respect to the Office including recommendations on alternative structures with reference to practices elsewhere
- The effectiveness of the Ombuds Advisory Committees, including their composition
- The relationship of the Office to the mandate and function of the Ombuds office of the AMS and the Advocacy Offices of both the AMS and GSS, with a view to ensuring that the appropriate lines of communication, protocols and other tools are in place to optimize the effectiveness of the offices, working together, in fulfilling their duties and responsibilities
- The sufficiency of budgetary resources, personnel and space assigned to the Office.
- An assessment of best practices that might be appropriate for adoption by UBC, informed by consultation with leading Canadian Ombuds offices and by reference to the Association of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons Professional Standards of Practice (http://accuo.ca/resources/publications/standards-of-practice/ and the Forum of Canadian Ombudsman Statement of Ethical Principles (http://www.ombudsmanforum.ca/en/?page_id=157/).
In general, the review will make recommendations for addressing matters of substance and, where necessary, for strengthening governance and assurance arrangements and should not be constrained by the foregoing. Accordingly, the reviewer will be free to make any observation or recommendation that he considers to be appropriate arising through the consultations or otherwise in the course of the review.
The reviewer will invite submissions from the University community and external experts and will meet with key stakeholders.
Expectations of Privacy
Contributions to the report, either written or through interviews, will be considered as anonymous and confidential unless approval is granted for comments to be specifically attributed in the report. Anonymous comments will be written so as to avoid possible identification of the individual or group. All submissions and notes will be destroyed once the final report is accepted by the President.
Delivery of the Review
The review will be undertaken by Dr. Paul Harrison, faculty member and former Associate Dean, Students, in the Faculty of Science, who will report his findings to the President.
The reviewer will be provided with full access and the resources necessary to complete the review. The reviewer will have unrestricted access to all Ombudsperson Office staff and all necessary documents.
The review will be completed in time for presentation to the President by March 15, 2019.
UBC Vancouver Office of the Ombudsperson for Students
(Amended November 2018)
The jurisdiction of the Ombudsperson encompasses the activities of the Vancouver and Okanagan Campuses of the University and all references to the University in this document are to be read in that context.
The Ombudsperson shall be independent. The Ombudsperson reports to the President, as defined below. Requests by the Ombudsperson for information should be handled in a mutually convenient and expeditious manner by all members of the campus community.
The role of the Ombudsperson is to provide guidance to students on existing resources, provide advice to students and to faculty members and staff members who deal with students, to carry out investigations in response to complaints from students, to report on findings resulting from such investigations, to make recommendations where appropriate based on such findings, and, through such recommendations, to serve as an effective influencer for positive change. The Ombudsperson will carry out all investigations in a fair manner, which will include permitting all persons or University units to have the opportunity to respond to any allegations made against them. While the Ombudsperson does not have the power to compel disclosure of files or the power to compel people to give evidence in an investigation, faculty, staff and students are expected to cooperate with the Ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson, and other members of the UBC community, may consult with the Office of the University Counsel regarding issues related to file disclosure. In addition, all members of the UBC community are entitled to request information in the manner provided for by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The Ombudsperson may consider whether or not the overall structure of processes used by the various internal tribunals is fair, equitable, and appropriate. However, the UBC Office of the Ombudsperson for Students does not function as an appeal body regarding decisions made by existing UBC internal tribunals and it is not the role of the Ombudsperson to second-guess the findings of UBC internal tribunals or to comment on the merits of any particular decision of an internal tribunal.
The services of the Office of the Ombudsperson for Students will be available to students enrolled in a program of study or registered in credit or non-credit courses and, at the discretion of the Ombudsperson, former students and student applicants.
The functions of the Ombudsperson are:
- To investigate, in an impartial fashion, any complaints brought forward by any student. Complaints dealt with by the Ombudsperson are restricted to complaints about UBC and UBC employees or agents although the Ombudsperson may provide advice to students on how to seek assistance in other types of cases (i.e. from the BC Ombudsperson). The Ombudsperson will ensure that all other avenues for referral or resolution have been exhausted prior to initiating an investigation.
- To serve as a general information centre for students about university resources, procedures, policies, practices and rules. The Ombudsperson will advise students of their rights and responsibilities in university situations. The Ombudsperson is expected to search actively for the answers to any pertinent questions with reasonable promptness.
- To make written recommendations to those in authority with a view to remedying unfairness in the situation of an individual student, as appropriate. The Ombudsperson will ensure that, prior to issuing written recommendations, all persons or University units will have had an opportunity to respond to any allegations made against them.
- To recommend to those in authority changes or procedures that would have the effect of making UBC fairer to students in its operations and to address or investigate systemic problems within UBC.
Access to Information
University members and staff are encouraged and expected to work with the Ombudsperson by providing relevant information to the Ombudsperson including copies of relevant documents.
The Ombudsperson will treat all information obtained through the course of her or his duties in a professional and discreet manner such that utmost care and respect will be held for all individuals concerned. The Ombudsperson shall conduct her or himself in a manner consistent with UBC’s standards for privacy protection.
The Ombudsperson shall not disclose the names of complainants without the express permission of the complainant(s). Certain disclosure of information on a need-to-know basis may be required and in such cases, the complainant will be notified prior to disclosure as required by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. In most cases, investigations require certain disclosures of information in order to proceed, such as releasing the identity of the complainant and circumstances of the complaint to the person against whom the complaint has been filed.
The Ombudsperson, and her or his delegate, will not be compelled to give evidence or release information acquired in the course of their duties, in an internal University process. The University will also endeavour to protect the Ombudsperson and her or his delegate from subpoena issued by parties within or outside the University.
Appointment and Reporting
The Ombuds Advisory Committee will make a recommendation regarding the selection of the Ombudsperson to the President, who shall make the final hiring decision. In making its recommendation, the Ombuds Advisory Committee will include at least two (2) representatives from the Okanagan Ombuds Advisory Committee. In the event that the President deems a candidate unsuitable, the Ombuds Advisory Committee shall be given the opportunity to put forward a second name.
The Ombudsperson will be provided with administrative assistance and adequate, accessible office space and computer resources. Note that the Ombudsperson will be subject to UBC’s employee probationary review to be conducted after one year. The Ombuds Advisory Committee may give input but this review is independent of the Ombuds Advisory Committee annual review (discussed below).
The Ombudsperson shall submit an annual report to the President, the Vancouver and Okanagan Senates, the Alma Mater Society and the Graduate Student Society at the Vancouver Campus and the Student Union at the Okanagan Campus. The annual report will then be made public to the rest of the University community via the website of the Ombudsperson. The report shall include statistics of usage and recommendations that have been made to UBC authorities. The Ombudsperson may at any time make a written report and/or recommendations to the Ombuds Advisory Committee and the President regarding recurring or systemic issues encountered by the Ombudsperson.
Ombuds Advisory Committees
The Vancouver and Okanagan Ombuds Advisory Committees have the following functions:
- To act as a Selection Advisory Committee to make a recommendation regarding the selection of an Ombudsperson to the President. The Committee may make a recommendation for termination if necessary, which will be considered by the President. In performing this function, the Selection Advisory Committee will include at least two (2) representatives from the Okanagan Ombuds Advisory Committee.
- To receive, review and respond to the complaints or comments concerning the performance or function of the Ombudsperson, which shall be submitted directly to the Chairs of the Committees, provided that the Committee will not be permitted to review, overturn or otherwise interfere in any finding or recommendation of the Ombudsperson with respect to any individual case.
- To conduct service reviews at least annually and make recommendations as appropriate.
- To recommend changes to these Terms of Reference to the President as needed.
- To meet at least once per term in the winter semester to address any concerns, questions or issues relating to the UBC Office of the Ombudsperson for Students.
- For privacy reasons, the Committee will not hear details that would reveal the identity of individuals involved in specific cases.
The Vancouver Ombuds Advisory Committee will be comprised of nine (9) voting members, upon appointment by the President:
- Five (5) Members from offices such as VP Students, Centre for Accessibility, Equity & Inclusion, Office of the University Counsel, and the Faculties.
- One (1) Faculty Association designate (to be nominated by the Faculty Association)
- One (1) Graduate Student Society designate (to be nominated by the GSS Council)
- Two (2) Alma Mater Society designates (to be nominated by the AMS Council)
The Okanagan Ombuds Advisory Committee will be comprised of six (6) voting members, upon appointment by the Deputy Vice Chancellor:
- Four (4) Members from offices such as AVP Students, Disability Resource Centre, Equity & Inclusion, Aboriginal Programs and Services, and the Faculties.
- One (1) Graduate Student Committee designate (to be nominated by the Graduate Student Committee).
- One (1) Student Union Okanagan designate (to be nominated by the Student Union Okanagan Board of Directors).
Appointments to the Ombuds Advisory Committee will be staggered such that half of the members will remain each year so as to maintain continuity and institutional memory.
The Ombudsperson and the Ombuds Officer may attend meetings of the Committee unless requested otherwise, but they are not members of the Committee.
The Chair will be chosen from the Committee members by majority vote of the Committee and may be any member of the Committee. Members are appointed to the Committee for two-year terms, which may be renewed. If a case comes to the UBC Office of the Ombudsperson for Students concerning any member of the Ombuds Advisory Committee, that person will be temporarily recused from the Committee until such time as the case is closed or the annual term of the Committee is ended. The Committee will select a temporary member from whatever representative group the member in question has been designated from.
If any designate member of the Committee misses more than two (2) scheduled meetings in a row, her or his representative group shall be notified by the Chair of the Committee. Representative groups have the authority to replace their voting member in the event that she or he is not fulfilling the duties of a Committee member in an adequate manner. Members of the Committee are eligible for a renewed seat at the end of their terms, subject to the approval of or election by their representative groups.
The Vice-President Students or Associate Vice-President Students and the Provost may sit on the Committee as regular members but may not serve as chair of the Committee.
The Ombudsperson may decline to initiate an investigation or pursue informal enquiries on the grounds that the complaint is not in her or his jurisdiction, is out of time, frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith.
The Ombudsperson does not make University policy or replace proper legal channels; she or he acts solely in an advisory or intermediary role.
The Ombudsperson exercises no powers that are beyond the legal scope of the University. She or he can only make recommendations regarding actions or policies that fall within the authority of the University.
The UBC Office of the Ombudsperson for Students is not an office of record and information received by the Office does not constitute notice to the University of British Columbia.
No person who files a complaint or participates in an investigation in good faith should be subject to reprisal.
The composition of the Committee as noted above is predicated upon ongoing financial contributions to the operation of the UBC Office of the Ombudsperson for Students by the Graduate Student Society, the Alma Mater Society, the Student Union Okanagan and UBC itself. Despite this, student seats on the Committee will be retained even if the student financial contribution is reduced.