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Office of the Ombudsperson

The Office of the Ombudsperson is an advocate for fairness and due process. The Ombudsperson acts as a resource for members of the SAIT community to explore their rights and options through policy and other resources.

About the Ombudsperson

The Ombudsperson is:

  • Independent — reviews concerns without direction or influence from any member of the SAIT community.
  • Impartial — considers issues from a third-party perspective and is not an advocate for any one person or for SAIT.
  • Accessible — provides services to all members of the SAIT community.
  • Informal — attempts to resolve an issue at the lowest level possible.
  • Confidential — listens to concerns and discusses your options in strict confidence. The Ombudsperson will not confirm you spoke to her or act on your concern without your consent.

The role of the Ombudsperson at SAIT was developed in collaboration with  Saitsa and receives guidance and support from the Ombudsperson Leadership Committee:

  • Roy Daykin, CFO and VP, Corporate Services (Chair of the Committee)
  • Heather Magotiaux, VP, External Relations
  • Marc Stromme, Executive Director, Saitsa
  • Jasmin Bhatti, Director for Board of Directors, Saitsa

Office of the Ombudsperson Terms of Reference πŸ“

Meet Kamini Bernard

Kamini Bernard, Ombudsperson

Kamini Bernard joined SAIT in the spring of 2021 as the institution's inaugural Ombudsperson.

With a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of South Carolina, she has more than 20 years of experience interpreting policy and legislation.

Prior to SAIT, Kamini worked for the Office of the Alberta Ombudsman for over a decade, most recently as Manager of Investigations for the Calgary office.

A passionate advocate for fairness, she is one of two college/university elected board members for the Forum of Canadian Ombudsman. She is also a member of the Association of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons (ACCUO) and the International Ombudsman Association (IOA).

When not keeping busy with Ombudsperson work, you may find her spending time with her family, travelling or hiking in the mountains.

 

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Why contact the Ombudsperson? 

The Ombudsperson can assist you in navigating SAIT policies and processes and can help you figure out your options. She can discuss any issue related to SAIT with you, such as admission, academic and non-academic misconduct hearings and appeals, grade reviews, concerns with instructors, etc.

The Ombudsperson is not a substitute decision maker for SAIT — she is not able to change a decision and is not another level of appeal for existing processes. However, the Ombudsperson supplements the processes already available. If the Ombudsperson feels a policy/process isn’t fair, she may make recommendations for a resolution or change.

Even if the Ombudsperson is not able to formally get involved in an issue, she may still be able to help by explaining your options or helping you find the appropriate person to speak with — whether internal to SAIT or through other off-campus agencies. 

Office of the Ombudsperson Complaints Process πŸ“

The Ombudsperson can...

  • listen to your concerns as an objective third-party
  • talk to you about the different options you have
  • help you understand SAIT’s rules and processes
  • attempt to informally resolve issues and concerns
  • investigate complaints and systemic issues
  • make recommendations for policy or process changes
  • point you in the right direction when we can’t help.

The Ombudsperson can't... 

  • review or interpret contracts or collective agreements
  • become involved in an issue that is before the courts
  • look at any matter or process that is outside of SAIT
  • consider any legal or pending legal issue that involves SAIT
  • investigate criminal matters.

 

What type of concerns or complaints can I talk to the Ombudsperson about?

 

Essentially, anything SAIT related. If she can’t help, she will try to point you in the right direction. If there are agencies external to SAIT that would be more appropriate to talk to, she will give you that information as well.

 

Who can talk to the Ombudsperson?

 

SAIT employees, students (applicants, current and former), alumni, contractors, volunteers, and parents or legal guardians of minor students.

 

Will anyone know I spoke to the Ombudsperson?

 

The short answer is no, unless there is a legal requirement to provide information or in the case of a serious safety concern.

Otherwise, if you don't specifically give the Ombudsperson explicit consent to talk to someone about your concern, she will not tell anyone about your concern or about your talk with her.

 

How do I meet with the Ombudsperson?

 

Although an in-person meeting is an option, it is not a requirement. The Ombudsperson will accommodate you with a telephone or Zoom/MS Teams meeting, if you would prefer. 

 

How does the Ombudsperson determine a process/decision was fair or unfair?

 

When a person comes to the Office of the Ombudsperson, one reason may be because they feel that a process or decision impacting them was not fair.

The Ombudsperson may ask you why you feel a process or decision was unfair. You may not know — you may think something seems unfair or simply doesn’t “feel right.” This is a valid reason to ask for a third-party, like the Ombudsperson, to review your concern.

When you make a complaint to the Ombudsperson that a decision or process was not fair, the Ombudsperson will objectively look at all sides of the issue to determine if the decision, process or policy is fair/unfair. This means she not only considers your perspective, but also the other party’s perspective, as well as any applicable SAIT processes or policies.

As part of her review, the Ombudsperson will consider a number of different questions, including but not limited to:

  • Did you understand why the decision was made or in the case of conduct concerns, were you told the case against you?
  • Did you have a chance to provide your side of the issue?
  • Did the process follow the normal course of events or as required in a policy?
  • When a decision is made, were reasons for that decision explained to you?
  • Did the decision make sense in light of the evidence and was it in line with any applicable policy requirements?
  • Was there any bias or conflict on the part of decision maker?
  • Did the decision-making follow a fair process?

If the Ombudsperson determines that you were treated unfairly, she may make a recommendation to resolve the issue. If she feels changes could be made that would improve the experience for all students or for the SAIT community overall, she may also make recommendations for more broad changes to policy/process.

At the end of the process, the outcome of your situation may not change, but you should be able to understand the reason for the outcome or decision. It is important to keep in mind that you may not agree with a decision that a person has made that impacts you, but disagreeing with that decision doesn’t necessarily mean you were treated unfairly.

 

Can the Ombudsperson make SAIT overturn a decision?

 

An Ombudsperson does not have the ability to make anyone at SAIT do something or to change a decision or policy. The Ombudsperson’s role is to consider issues and concerns from an independent, neutral position. If she feels a decision or process was not fair to an individual, she can attempt to informally resolve the situation. She may decide she needs to investigate an issue more formally.The Ombudsperson can also make recommendations for broad changes to policy or process.

 

What are some examples of situations the Ombudsperson would look at?

 

The Ombudsperson may decide to act in certain situations, some examples* include:

Example 1:

A prospective student from another province has questions about their admission. The student has sent a number of emails, but no one has responded. It has been a number of weeks and the student needs to speak to someone before signing a lease in Calgary.

With the prospective student’s permission, the Ombudsperson may reach out to someone in the Office of the Registrar (OTR) to explain the situation and finds out the OTR had not received any messages from this student due to a technical issue. The Ombudsperson obtains a name for the student to contact directly and a commitment from the OTR that someone will respond to the student’s questions within two days.

Example 2:

A student has been charged with their second academic misconduct. The student completes the appeal hearing and was suspended. The student then contacts the Ombudsperson after the appeal and explains they did not feel they had a chance to explain their side of the situation. The student believes the information may have changed the outcome of the appeal.

The Ombudsperson will gather the information from the student and with the student’s permission, may contact the other parties to the appeal. In this example, the Ombudsperson determines the appeal hearing was cut short due to an urgent family matter involving one of the parties. The Ombudsperson learns the student was not advised of this issue, but the appeal hearing did end sooner than expected. The Ombudsperson may consider requesting the student be provided with a brief explanation of what occurred and she may request a rehearing of this appeal to allow the student a full and fair opportunity to be heard.

Example 3:

An employee makes a complaint to the Ombudsperson that they accepted a gift card for presenting at a workshop and later learned they should not have done so, but indicates they feel the policy is not clear.

The Ombudsperson will discuss the issue with the employee, review the policy and, with the consent of the employee, may speak to Employee Services to learn further details with respect to this policy. After the review, the Ombudsperson determines the policy explicitly explains that gift cards may not be accepted. In this case, the Ombudsperson would explain this to the employee, but make no further recommendation for resolution or changes to policy.

In this example, if the Ombudsperson determined the policy was not clear or information was lacking that could cause confusion, the Ombudsperson may recommend this section of the policy be amended to improve understanding and clarity for employees.

*Note: these examples are for illustrative purposes only. Your case may be different and may not be handled in the same way.

 

Contact the Office of the Ombudsperson

Appointments are currently being held virtually.

Book an appointment by clicking the button below. Please indicate whether you would like to meet by video conference or telephone. You can also contact the Office of the Ombudsperson by email at Ombudsperson.Info@sait.ca

There is no cost to access the services of the Ombudsperson.

 

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