Terms of Reference

Terms of Reference

Mandate

The major role of the Ombudsperson is to receive complaints from members of the University community who believe that they have suffered some form of injustice, particularly of an academic nature. After examining the factual basis of these complaints and determining that all normal avenues of recourse and appeal have been exhausted, the Ombudsperson investigates these complaints and facilitates their solution either using existing procedures, both informal and formal, or by recommending changes to the existing procedures. The Office of the Ombudsperson operates independently of all other offices in the University and may make recommendations in specific cases or recommendations pertaining to the changing of any rule, policy, regulation or procedure which he/she deems appropriate. The objectives of these recommendations will be either to solve an individual problem or to improve the overall operation of the University. The Ombudsperson must investigate all sides of a particular problem, must maintain a neutral stance throughout the investigation and must strive to achieve solutions which are as fair and just as possible given the circumstances involved. At the end of an inquiry, the Ombudsperson will explain the nature of the chosen solution to those who initiated the complaint or, where the complaint has been found to be not justified, explain to the individual or groups involved the reasons for not continuing the investigation. From time to time, the Ombudsperson may also act as a mediator between individuals or groups of individuals in the University community who have been unable to resolve a conflict, particularly where no procedure exists for the resolution of such matters.

Functions

  1. The Ombudsperson shall act to inform any member of the University community1 concerning the nature and operation of any existing rule, policy, regulation or procedure, and further, shall advise them as to which procedure to follow in order to address any concern or complaint involved. In particular, the Ombudsperson shall advise students and faculty of their rights and responsibilities where problems or questions of an academic nature arise.
    1. For the purpose of this document, the term “University community” shall refer in the first instance to the students and the faculty.
  2. The Ombudsperson will receive complaints and grievances from any member of the University, will conduct an independent and objective investigation into such complaints when they are determined to be well-founded and will recommend solutions to these complaints to any individual or group in the University who exercises authority. Such recommendations may be of an informal or formal nature and may pertain to specific cases or to whole groups of cases.
  3. Further, the Ombudsperson, may, upon his/her own initiative, investigate any problem or inadequacy in existing procedures which are found to be unclear, unfair or which may jeopardize the rights and freedoms of members of the University community. With the view to improving the fairness or the operation of these inadequate procedures, the Ombudsperson will direct recommendations to those in authority at the University.
  4. The Ombudsperson shall explain to the individuals involved in any complaint the reasons for any recommended solution. As well, the Ombudsperson will explain the nature of judgements or rulings taken by University decision-makers when complaints are not substantiated.
  5. The Ombudsperson shall not:
    1. investigate any complaint or grievance covered by the Collective Agreement (A.P.B.U.) or the Employee Handbook (BUSA)
    2. investigate any complaint which exceeds the legal authority of the University, or
    3. continue the investigation of any complaint when such an inquiry would place the Ombudsperson in a clear conflict of interest.
    4. In addition, it is understood that if a faculty member has requested or made use of the services of the Ombudsperson, and he/she wishes to discontinue the use of such services, the faculty member may do so at any time without prejudice to the outcome of any investigation or complaint involving that faculty member. It is further understood that no procedure in this document shall act to hinder or restrict any right or privilege accorded to faculty members under the RORs, or the Collective Agreement (APBU).
  6. The Ombudsperson may refuse to investigate a complaint which he/she deems to be frivolous, vexatious or ill-advised. In such an instance, the Ombudsperson will provide a statement of reasons for the refusal to the individual or group involved.

Procedures

Appointment

The Ombudsperson will normally be selected from the current full-time academic staff of the University or an individual who meets the requirements of a member of the full-time academic staff. The latter provision will apply only if a current member of faculty does not apply for the position or if the Selection Committee is not able to appoint a candidate from the applicants from within.

Selection

  1. The Selection Committee shall consist of at least the following individuals:
    • The S.R.C. Vice-President Academic (or designate)
    • one student member of the C.L.U.
    • one full-time faculty member selected by the Senate
    • one full-time faculty member selected by the Faculty Council
    • the Principal or designate, who shall serve as Chair of the Committee
  2. A general notice calling for applications and nominations for the position of Ombudsperson shall be distributed to all members of the faculty. In a situation where an internal candidate is not selected, the Selection Committee will conduct an external search; such an external search will be subject to the approval of the Executive Committee of Corporation.
  3. At the conclusion of its deliberations the Selection Committee shall make its recommendation to the Principal. The appointment shall be for a term of two years and is renewable. The remuneration for the position shall consist of a reduction of one course (3 credits) per semester in the case of a full-time faculty member, and of $_______ in the case of a part-time faculty member.

Confidentiality

  1. The Ombudsperson shall have access to all records, files and documents necessary to carry out the functions of the office. However, the Ombudsperson must respect the confidentiality of these documents and he/she shall not release these documents to anyone without written permission from the individual or groups concerned.
  2. Requests by the Ombudsperson for information pertaining to an on-going investigation must receive priority from all members of the University community and such requests shall be handled in a mutually convenient and expeditious manner by all concerned. The Ombudsperson shall not be required to explain why specific information is being sought but such requests shall be reasonable and must pertain to the functions of the Office of the Ombudsperson.
  3. The Ombudsperson shall maintain suitable records of complaints, findings and recommendations for the duration of the term of office involved. All files shall be destroyed according to the retention schedule as set forth in the legislation of the province of Quebec.

General Operation

  1. The Ombudsperson will, in his/her role as Ombudsperson, report directly to the Principal.
  2. The Office of the Ombudsperson will be located in Majorie Donald House and adequate administrative services will be provided.
  3. If the Ombudsperson decides to inquire into a particular problem, he/she shall make every reasonable effort to consult the relevant parties and give these parties time to reply, should they so wish.
  4. Upon the conclusion of an investigation, the Ombudsperson shall advise all parties to a complaint of the findings and any recommendation which result from the investigation. These findings and recommendation shall be brought to the attention of those in authority according to the jurisdiction involved. Such recommendations may bear either on the actions or decisions of an individual or a group of individuals and they may, as well, bear on the policies, rules or procedures of the University which gave rise to the original complaint.
  5. It shall be a special concern of the Ombudsperson that decisions affecting members of the University community are made with due regard to the adequacy and appropriateness of the procedures involved and that the procedures and criteria used in making such decisions are communicated to those affected and that the decisions are made with reasonable promptness.
  6. The Ombudsperson shall sit as a regular member on all appeals committees dealing with student academic matters.

Conflict of Interest

The Ombudsperson shall avoid any case in which there may be a conflict of interest on his or her part.

Annual Report

The Ombudsperson shall make an annual report to the Principal and it shall be made public. A copy of this report shall be sent to the APBU.  The Principal may from time to time, request special reports or recommendations from the Ombudsperson; such reports shall also become public documents.

Terms of Removal

The Ombudsperson may not be removed from office as a result of having a conflict of belief or interpretation with any individual or group within the University community. However, the usual grounds for dismissal, which may include persistent neglect of duties, incompetence or professional misconduct may constitute “just and proper cause” for dismissal. In this instance, the Ombudsperson will be invited to a meeting to hear complaints against him/her; he/she shall be accompanied by a representation of his/her choice and he/she shall be given the opportunity to provide a defence of his/her actions. In order to be dismissed from the office, a two-thirds vote of a review committee with the same composition as the Selection Committee, shall be required.

Approved by Senate on September 18, 2000.
Updated by Senate on February 19, 2001.