Sir George Williams Campus
GM Building, Room: 1005.00
514-848-2424, ext. 8658
TERMS OF REFERENCE OF THE OMBUDS OFFICE
- The Ombuds Office shall be independent of all existing administrative structures of the University.
- For the purposes of these Terms of Reference:
“Member” means faculty members, employees, administrative and support staff, postdoctoral fellows, members of the administration, students, student applicants, interns, academic visitors, stagiaires or researchers including but not limited to exchange students and visiting students.
- The Ombudsperson shall provide an impartial and confidential service to Members who have been unable to resolve their concerns about the application of any policy, rule or procedure.
- The Ombudsperson may not inquire into the application or interpretation of a collective or employee agreement nor into the alleged violation of the duty of fair representation against a certified union.
- The Ombudsperson shall have no actual authority to impose remedies or sanctions, or to enforce any policy, rule or procedure. However, he/she may make any recommendations that he/she deems appropriate with regard to resolving complaints or improving policies, rules or procedures.
Functions of the Ombuds Office
- Specifically, the Ombudsperson shall:
- actively promote these Terms of Reference and the services offered;
- inform Members about existing policies, rules and procedures and advise them as to the appropriate channel of redress for any concern or complaint they may have;
- assist Members to resolve complaints informally and quickly;
- at his/her discretion, conduct an independent and objective inquiry into complaints when normal channels of recourse have been exhausted;
- at his/her discretion, conduct an independent and objective inquiry into the application of any policy, rule or procedure of the University;
- explain decisions taken by University authorities when complaints are not substantiated;
- at his/her discretion, recommend solutions to help resolve complaints;
- bring to the attention of University authorities any policies, rules or procedures which appear unclear or inequitable or which might jeopardize the rights or freedoms of any Member. The Ombudsperson may suggest changes to the existing policies, rules or procedures or offer advice on the development of new policies, rules or procedures.
Special Concerns of the Ombuds Office
- In dealing with complaints, the Ombudsperson shall be concerned that all Members are dealt with and deal with others fairly and more specifically that:
- decisions affecting Members are made with reasonable promptness;
- procedures used to reach decisions are adequate and the criteria and rules upon which such decisions are based are appropriate;
- procedures and criteria used in making decisions are clearly communicated to those affected.
- In dealing with complaints, the Ombudsperson shall act in an impartial fashion, acting neither as an advocate for the Member making a complaint (“the Applicant”) nor as a defender of the University but rather he/she shall seek to promote procedural fairness and a reasonable outcome. In so doing, he/she shall endeavour to maintain harmonious relations with all Members using tact, diplomacy and sensitivity.
- The Ombudsperson shall have prompt access to such University records, reports or documents as are required to fulfill his/her functions. Requests for such access shall receive priority from all Members.
- A complaint should be brought to the attention of the Ombudsperson within six (6) months of the Applicant becoming aware of the situation giving rise to the complaint. This period may be extended at the discretion of the Ombudsperson.
- If the Ombudsperson decides to inquire into a matter, he/she shall make every effort to consult the relevant parties and give such parties the opportunity to reply, should they so wish.
- Upon the conclusion of an inquiry, the Ombudsperson shall advise all parties to a complaint of his/her findings and any recommendations that he/she has formulated.
- In addition, the Ombudsperson may bring his/her findings to the attention of the University authorities and make whatever recommendations he/she deems appropriate and to whomever within the University he/she feels should receive them. Such recommendations may bear either on the actions or decision of an individual or a group, or on the policies, rules and procedures which gave rise to them. If, upon receipt of such findings or recommendations, a University authority proceeds to disciplinary action in order to resolve the matter, the procedure of any relevant University policy, collective or employee agreement shall be followed.
- The Ombudsperson may refuse to take up any case where he/she judges his/her intervention would be inappropriate and may withdraw from a case if continued involvement is ill-advised. In such cases, the Ombudsperson shall inform the Applicant as to the appropriate channel of redress, if applicable.
- If the Ombudsperson refuses to take up a case or withdraws from a case, he/she shall, upon request, provide the Applicant with a written statement of the reason.
- The Ombudsperson shall not inquire into any matter that is before a court of law or is pending at or before any administrative tribunal outside the University. In addition, upon being informed that a legal claim or that a notice of a potential legal claim has been received by the University, the Ombudsperson shall immediately withdraw from a case and shall cease any communication with the Applicant.
- Under no circumstances shall the mere fact of bringing a complaint to the attention of the Ombudsperson constitute a formal notification, for legal purposes, to the University.
- The Ombudsperson shall avoid involvement in cases where there may be a conflict of interest.
Confidentiality and Protection from Reprisals
- Should the pursuit of any inquiry necessitate the disclosure of details that identify an Applicant, the Applicant shall be informed. Any disclosure shall be limited to those who have a need to know.
- Should an Applicant decide to withdraw an application in order to protect his/her anonymity, the Ombudsperson shall respect this decision.
- The Ombudsperson shall respect the confidentiality of any confidential information or materials to which he/she has access.
- Should the Ombudsperson consider that the response to his/her recommendation has been unsatisfactory, he/she shall be entitled to make the recommendation public, provided always that, subject to Article 19, the confidentiality of the Applicant is respected.
- Notwithstanding articles 19-22, confidentiality rights are subject to disclosure required by law and specifically situations outlined in the Policy on the Emergency Release of Personal Information (SG-5).
- No Member who seeks the services of, files a complaint with, or cooperates in any manner with the Ombudsperson, shall be subject to any reprisals for so doing. The procedure set out in the relevant University policy or collective or employee agreement shall be followed in cases of alleged reprisals.
- The Ombudsperson shall maintain suitable records of complaints, findings and recommendations which shall be accessible only to the staff of the Ombuds Office or as required by law. Such files shall be destroyed according to a retention schedule determined in accordance with provincial legislation.
Appointment of Ombudsperson
- The Ombudsperson shall be appointed by the Board of Governors (“the Board”) upon the recommendation of a representative advisory committee struck for this purpose by the Board. The Committee shall be composed of representatives of the University constituencies, including at least one (1) undergraduate and one (1) graduate student and shall be chaired by the Secretary-General.
- The Secretary-General shall act as the link between the Board and the Ombudsperson for administrative purposes.
- The appointment shall be made for an initial term of two years, renewable for further terms of five years. During the fourth year of each such term, the Board shall appoint an appraisal committee, chaired by the Secretary-General, and composed of representatives of the University constituencies, including at least one (1) undergraduate and one (1) graduate student which shall:
- review the operations of the Office;
- make recommendations with respect to the Office;
- make a recommendation with respect to the renewal of the Ombudsperson.
- The Ombudsperson shall submit an annual report to the Board by November 1 of each year covering the previous academic year. The report shall detail activities of the Ombuds Office, including statistics on the concerns and complaints received, and shall make recommendations, as necessary. The Secretary-General shall ensure that the appropriate University authorities consider and respond to the recommendations contained in the report.
- The annual report shall be published in the University’s newspaper and submitted, for information purposes, to the Senate.
Complaints Relating to the Operations of the Ombuds Office
- If a Member considers that the Ombudsperson has committed a procedural or substantive violation of these Terms of Reference, with respect to any matter to which the Member has been a party, he/she may submit a written complaint, detailing the alleged violation, to the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General shall investigate the complaint and inform the Member of the results of the investigation.
- If the Member is not satisfied with the response of the Secretary-General, he/she may request, in writing, within fifteen (15) working days of receiving the response, that the Appeals Committee of the Board review the complaint against the Ombudsperson.
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