Mention the term “ombudsperson” to most people and you’ll be met with blank stares. Sounds like it could vaguely be some sort of government official. But do you actually know what an ombudsperson is and what they do? (Quick answer: It’s someone who can help you with certain issues when you have no idea where to go.) And did you know we have an Ombudsperson Office right here at Dalhousie? Here’s what they do and why you’d want to contact them.
What does Dal’s Ombudsperson do?
In official terms, an ombudsperson is a confidential and impartial resource to ensure fairness. At Dal, the work of the Ombudsperson relates to services for students. Basically, they’re independent from the university and the DSU, and are there to ensure support and accountability when you’re trying to deal with pretty much any university-related concern. So how do they do that?
- They help you understand your rights and responsibilities as a student, and the procedures you need to follow to resolve university-related concerns.
- Once hearing about your concern and figuring out how best to tackle the situation, they might refer you to the appropriate offices and resources within the university to help resolve it.
- They also might talk to other people in the university about the problem and work towards resolving it. But they won’t talk to anyone else without your consent.
- They identify problems and offer solutions—which can include making recommendations for changes in university policies and procedures based on any trends and patterns they see in the issues students bring to them. (So if you think something really needs to change, you should meet with the Ombudsperson!)
What types of issues can you talk to them about?
Well, pretty much anything that has to do with your dealings with the university. A lot of students will come to the Ombudsperson if they’re not sure who to talk to about their issue (whether it’s related to your academics, like you’ve been accused of cheating, or been reprimanded for something you’ve done in residence that you don’t agree with). Here are a few reasons why you might want to meet with them:
- To confidentially discuss a sensitive issue like: your relationship with a supervisor/instructor/professor; you’ve noticed abuses of power, bullying, or unfair treatment; you’re afraid of coming forward or of acting to stop unacceptable behaviour you see.
- You’re not sure which rules, policies, or procedures fit your situation.
- You feel you’ve been unfairly targeted with a particular rule or policy.
- You’re worried your learning has been affected by the conduct and behaviour of another person.
- You need someone to act as a go-between with you and a university administrator.
- You’re on academic probation and need help to set things right.
Where can you find them?
There’s actually an office right here at Dal in the Student Union Building on the 4th Floor in room 452. You can also reach out to them at email@example.com or 902-494-2665, especially if you’re not in Halifax.
Kauri wasn’t sure what an ombudsperson was either, now we both know!