The Office of the Ombudsperson
Advocating for Fairness
What is the Ombudsperson?
The SFU community is committed to the fair and just treatment of each and every member of the University.
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 advocate or represent students directly, but acts as a confidential and impartial resource to learn self-advocacy skills. 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.
SFU was the first university in North America to establish an Ombuds Office in 1965.
The Office is:
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.
The Office operates with a high degree of independence within the University, and is seperate from all academic structures and student government.
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 to contact us:
- 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 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 concern.
- Identifying and explaining relevant university policies and procedures.
- Helping you learn the skills to resolve conflicts or concerns.
- Helping to analyze the problem and define options.
- Referring you to the appropriate offices where means exist for the resolution of your concern.
- Help you resolve problems informally and expeditiously.
- Investigating a problem 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 if appropriate and all other options have been exhausted (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.
- Guidance on your rights and responsibilities related to non-academic misconduct.
- Interpretation of university policies and procedures.
- 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 students and members of the University to ensure that resolution occurs and concerns 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. The operation of the Office and the duties of the Ombudsperson are governed by the Terms of Reference posted on this site. For more details on the principles of Ombuds practice and ethical standards please see the section on professional standards.
- Through individual cases we identify trends or concerns that are affecting a larger group of students;
- We analyze individual complaints to see if they are indicative of a larger system wide concern
- We provide impartial consultation on policy development for staff and faculty
- We facilitate workshops and training for students, faculty and staff on a wide range of issues related to fairness and conflict resolution.