The University Ombuds, works to ensure that all students, staff and faculty are treated in a fair and equitable manner within the institution. They do not advocate for a particular side in a dispute; but rather attempt to reach a fair and just resolution to a conflict. The Ombuds have access to all individuals within the University organization and often assist in resolving disputes between members of the University community by facilitating open and effective communication. Such dialogue frequently leads to mutually satisfactory resolutions.
On occasion, an Ombuds may need to investigate a complaint. Although the office has no power to change a decision or set aside a policy, an Ombuds can make specific recommendations designed to achieve a just, fair and equitable resolution to a conflict. In addition, an Ombuds can where appropriate, make recommendations for changes in university policy and procedures. The Ombuds Office publishes an annual report that records trends and promotes discussion of institution-wide concerns.
By supporting the Ombuds Office, the University and the McMaster Students Union have demonstrated their commitment to enhancing the everyday quality of life for all those enjoying learning and working at McMaster.
1. Who can use the office?
The Ombuds Office is available, free of charge, to assist all members of the McMaster community.
An Ombuds does not address disputes between members of the campus community and private individuals, companies or groups not affiliated with the University. Formal grievances and legal issues are also outside the jurisdiction of the office.
2. What kind of disputes does the Ombuds handle?
An Ombuds is available to handle university related complaints and concerns, especially those that have not been adequately addressed through the usual channels. Students might visit the Ombuds Office with academic or non-academic problems including:
- grade appeals
- academic misconduct (e.g. plagarism)
- student records and transcripts
- course rules and requirements
- problems with Instructors
- requests to withdraw from a program
- fines and refunds
- codes of conduct
- student employment on campus
Faculty and staff issues might involve:
- promotions and compensation
- departmental concerns
- codes of conduct
- conflicts with a student/colleague
- performance evaluations
3. When should I use the Ombuds Office?
- If the normal channels of redress outlined in your handbook are unsuccessful.
- If you are unsure how a policy or procedure applies to you.
- If you feel a policy or procedure has been applied unfairly or erroneously.
- If you are unsure what options exist to solve a problem.
- If you need help pursuing a resolution or facilitating communication with someone.
- If you want to discuss a sensitive issue.
How does an Ombuds solve problems?
- Initiate problem solving discussions with other parties.
- Facilitate effective communication.
- Provide informal third party intervention by acting as a go-between.
- Mediate a dispute.
- Collaborate with other offices.
- Investigate a complaint that is not covered by any existing policy or procedure.
- Bring a complaint to the attention of the appropriate individuals.
- Promote fair and equitable processes and, at times, recommend changes in policies and procedures.
4. How can an Ombuds help me?
An Ombuds will:
- Listen to you in an active and respectful manner.
- Explain University policies and procedures and how they affect you.
- Advise you about formal and informal methods of dispute resolution.
- Objectively review your situation.
- Help you develop a plan of action.
- Suggest approaches for managing conflicts.
- Refer you, when appropriate, to other University or community resources.
- Help you create and analyze workable options.
- Assist you in pursuing a resolution.
5. How is my confidentiality protected?
An Ombuds will not identify you or your confidences or act on them without your knowledge and permission except where required by law (Ombuds are required to protect the physical safety of their clients and the public).