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Students’ Union threatens to pull funding from ombuds office

By Fabian Mayer, March 19 2015 —

The Students’ Union submitted a six-month notice to withdraw funding from the student ombuds office on March 5.

The student ombuds office was created in 2010. It is jointly funded by the SU, the Graduate Students’ Association and the university. Ombudsperson Duncan McDonald, who declined to comment, provides students with impartial counsel and deals mostly with academic issues such as student appeals and grade re-appraisals.

Former SU vice-president academic Hana Kadri was involved in the decision to submit the letter.

“We’ve identified some concerns. We’re looking to work with the university to tend to those concerns,” Kadri said. “We’re not pulling out of the program, we’ve only submitted a six-month notification.”

The ombuds office has changed location four times in the past four years, and student leaders have said it has issues with accessibility and branding. However, Kadri wouldn’t say what issues caused the SU to withdraw funding, citing privacy concerns.

If the issues raised by the SU are addressed, it will retract the letter and remain part of the program. However, if their concerns aren’t addressed, funding will be withdrawn next fall.

But Kadri is optimistic that the university will deal with the issues identified by the SU.

“Before we get there we want to work to make sure that this office works because we do find value in it and we want to see it continue,” Kadri said.

Current SU vice-president academic Stephan Guscott was tight-lipped on what services the ombuds office was failing to provide.

“There wasn’t support necessarily available to students that should have been available,” Guscott said. “Students weren’t having their needs met when they went to the ombuds office.”

Guscott said that a service that offers free advice to students in dealing with professors or the university is a priority for the SU. He said there will always be something like the ombuds office on campus for students.

In a prepared statement, the university said they would issue a formal response within two weeks.

“We have received correspondence from the Students’ Union outlining their concerns related to the ombuds office being able to adequately meet the terms of reference that has been agreed upon by all three parties that fund this important function.”


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