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Lucie Allaire, the U of O’s first Ombudsperson, released her fifth annual report. Photo: Courtesy of the Office of the Ombudsperson

University willing and open to discuss, while STO U-Pass holders out of luck

The Office of the Ombudsperson, once again, has highlighted procedural fairness issues at the University of Ottawa, in its fifth annual report.

The report remarks on the lack of clarity on the right of appeal, as well as decision making about academic penalties for non-academic issues, and poor procedures for dealing with formal discrimination complaints by students.

An additional observation is directed at  the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) about the U-Pass for students residing in the Société de transport de l’Outaouais (STO) bus service territory.

The purpose of the ombudsperson’s annual report, which examines the period of June 1, 2014 to May 31, 2015,  is to recommend changes to rules and policies and simplify procedures to make systems more effective.

Clarity and fairness continue to be university’s biggest issues

The procedural fairness issues include academic sanctions for non-academic conduct and the role 
of Protection Services, examination of formal complaints of discrimination made by students, and inconsistent information on the right to appeal.

The fourth observation the report observes is delays in the implementation of the accommodation and accessibility policies.

Ombudsperson Lucie Allaire, said she refers to these remarks as observations rather than recommendations because they are based on prior suggestions that the university has not adopted. Allaire said the university did not give a reason for not implementing some of her previous recommendations.

“I think just it fell off the radar for a while and it’s my job to bring it back on the forefront,” she said.

While these four issues require further consideration on the university’s part, many other issues had adequately been addressed and Allaire said she is pleased overall with the university’s implementation in other areas, such as the process and regulations for academic fraud. However, Allaire also stressed the importance of the four she had flagged and the attention they require.

While the university did not respond to the Fulcrum’s specific questions at this time, they stated that the recommendations are important to the university, and it will “carefully review (the report) to determine best course of action.”

No Change for STO U-Pass users

In contrast to other areas mentioned in the report, STO area residents won’t see much change.

Vanessa Dorimain, vice-president of university affairs at the SFUO, said after discussions with Allaire she had considered the suggestion of a U-Pass referendum question specifically for STO residents, but that it wasn’t possible.

“We legally can’t do that because our by-laws and the way in which the referendum’s set up, because with the referendum we can’t just ask the questions to a specific group. It needs to be open to all students even though it is affecting students that live in the STO greatly,” said Dorimain.

Dorimain said the SFUO was not considering re-assessing the U-Pass program for STO residents as the complaints received were not adequate in number. More STO-related complaints were from students with valid U-Passes being removed from STO service, which Dorimain said they would address in talks with STO provider.

Allaire is optimistic about further discussions with the university. She spoke of president-designate Jacques Frémont’s human rights background, and said she has already scheduled meetings with the vice-president of academic and provost, Christian Detellier.

“I’m optimistic. And, you know, optimistic or not, I will continue to ask questions until they say ‘no, we’re not implementing it’, in which case I’ll report they’re not implementing it,” said Allaire.