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Office of the Ombudsperson

Fairness and respect are everyone’s concern.

What is the Ombudsperson?

An “ombudsperson” is an independent and confidential dispute resolution specialist who acts impartially in reviewing and when appropriate, investigating complaints about unfair treatment. 'Ombudsperson' is a derivation of the original Swedish term of 'Ombudsman' which was first established in the early 1700’s.  However, the function fulfilled by an Ombudsperson is observable from historical accounts as early as the Control Yuan in China, the dispute resolution structures of aboriginal people and the Ottoman empire.

The SFU community is committed to the fair and just treatment of each and every member of the University. SFU was the first university in North America to establish an Ombuds Office and for close to 50 years the Office has provided confidential, informal, independent, and impartial dispute resolution services to students by providing information, advice, intervention and referrals. 

The Ombudsperson at SFU is an independent, impartial and confidential resource for students. We provide information and guidance on students' rights and responsibilities, and University regulations, policies and procedures. The Ombudsperson may also make recommendations to the University, where appropriate, for changes to policies and procedures and to promote discussion on institution-wide concerns that impact students. The Ombudsperson is an advocate for fairness in general for the benefit of all students and the university community as a whole. 

The Ombudsperson does not act as student advocate in the context of appeal hearings, but may assist students who need to identify potential advocates. The Ombudsperson is available to help students become their own advocates by providing them with information or advice about regulations, policies and procedures and strategies to use constructive ways to raise issues.

Confidential: 

All information provided to us is kept confidential, unless we have explicit permission for names and/or details to be released and it is considered appropriate to do so. 

Independent: 

The Office operates independently of the University, including academic structures and student government. 

Impartial: 

We consider all of the information we receive and collect with the highest degree of objectivity. The Office is committed to the highest principles or administrative fairness. Our goal is to ensure that everyone involved believes their perspectives have been understood and considered fairly. 

When You Should Contact The Office:

•   When you want to discuss a sensitive issue in confidence;

•   When you have a conflict with another party and need help in facilitating resolution;

•   When you have a situation requiring help in to develop a strategy for communication or negotiation with other faculty, staff or others;

•   When you are unsure which policies, procedures, or regulations apply;

•   When you feel a policy, procedure, or regulation has been unfairly applied to you;

•   When you have a complaint about an office or service at the University; and

•   When you don't know who to talk to, where to turn or what options are available.

The Office can help you by:

•   Listening and help to analyze the problem or complaint.

•   Identifying and explaining relevant university policies and procedures

•   Expediting "red tape" tangles

•   Helping to analyze the problem and define options

•   Referring you to the appropriate offices where means exist for the resolution of your complaint

•   Investigating and or reconciling disputes

•   Help you resolve problems informally and expeditiously.

•   Investigate a problem, complaint, or concern.

•   Mediate or facilitate discussions between a student, staff or faculty members, on some occasions (and only with the permission of all parties involved).

•   Initiate discussions with other involved parties (only with your permission).

•   Make referrals to other campus and community resources.

•   Recommend changes in University policies or procedures that may be outdated, ineffectual or arbitrary.

The Office can help with such issues as:

•   Graduate student and supervisor relationships

•   Fear of coming forward or of acting to stop unacceptable behavior

•   Abuse of power, bullying, unfair treatment

•   Help in writing a letter of concern, or help in writing responses or appeals

•   Issues related to non-academic misconduct 

•   Policy issues

•   Problems with rules that govern courses and course requirements

•   Problems with Instructors 

•   Appeals of withdrawals under extenuating circumstances appeals (WE)

•   Issues related to Academic Integrity 

•   Grade appeals

The Office cannot:

•   Order or force any decision to be changed.

•   Circumvent existing policies or procedures to resolve issues.

•   Intervene in conflicts with individuals or groups outside the University. 

•   Intervene in any matter covered by a collective agreement between an individual and the University

•   The Ombudsperson does not act as a lawyer or an advocate, but will work with clients and members of the University to ensure that resolution occurs and grievances are heard and addressed.

The Office does have the right to refuse or discontinue work on any case which the Ombudsperson is of the opinion is not worthy of investigation where such complaint is frivolous, vexatious, not brought in good faith, or is an abuse of the Ombudsperson’s functions.

The Office is jointly funded by the GSS, SFSS and SFU but operates independently. For more details on the principles of Ombuds practice and ethical standards please see the section on professional standards. 


The Office of the Ombudsperson is jointly funded by the SFSS, GSS and SFU

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