In 2016, the Association of Canadian College and University Ombudsperson commissioned, “a project to explore and portray in its various guises the work carried out by ombuds offices, with the aim of achieving some clarity on its impact on Canadian colleges and universities.” A report on the project byJayson MacLean and Lucie Allaire was published by ACCUO earlier this month.
Looking at Ombuds success stories over the past five years, the authors found five common themes (in rough order of popularity):
1. Policy-related impacts — this was by far the largest category of impacts, with responses pointing to ombuds’ efforts to usher in new policies or to change existing ones on a range of topics, from academic and discipline regulations to discrimination and human rights policy
2. Casework — a number of offices saw their daily work helping to resolve student concerns as their major contribution
3. Communication-related impacts — such as the development of conflict resolution programs and nurturing relationships on campus
4. Mental health and student services impacts — such as helping to develop a mental health awareness campaign or improving the student experience (for student groups, graduate students or international students, for example)
5. Education-related impacts — through workshops on fairness, equity and diversity, for example, or orientation sessions on the work carried out by the ombudsperson
The report also looks at Ombuds’: recommendations to their campuses; work on committees; advancing human rights, equality and diversity; and annual reports. It’s an important look at how college and university Ombuds function in Canada and which is distinctly different than the role in most U.S. schools. (ACCUO Ombuds Impact Report.)