How Ombudsperson Tracy Ho is backing students
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
Having an issue with a professor? Perhaps with the college? Feel mistreated on campus? Sometimes, college life has its downfalls. Thankfully, Douglas College has its own ombudsperson to help.
An ombudsperson works to advise and support someone through a formal complaint process; however, an ombudsperson should not be confused with a lawyer.
Douglas’ ombudsperson is autonomous from the college and the student union, and is housed in the Douglas Student Union.
Tracy Ho, who also serves as the College Relations and Membership Outreach Coordinator at the DSU, works as Douglas’ ombudsperson. When she was hired at Douglas in May 2012, she was asked by the 2012 student representatives to take on the role of ombudsperson while they tried to figure out what would happen with the position. She has held the position ever since.
The position, according to DSU bylaw, is usually meant to be held by students who represent the DSU. However, this became problematic. Students elected as DSU representatives serve in their positions for a year. The amount of formal training required of the ombudsperson took up such a large amount of time that a student’s term would be nearing completion by the time it was complete.
Ho was an appealing person for the position, with her experience on educational and grade appeal panels at other post-secondary institutions being an asset.
Ho is not a lawyer or a councillor. Rather, she helps students look through their options for their case. She gives support, advice, and guidance. If a student decides to launch a formal complaint against the college, or a college entity, she offers to accompany the student through the process. This can involve helping the student gather supporting documents, attending meetings with the student, offering to take notes so that the student may focus on what they need to say, and offering support in any way she can. She works with appeals lasting from anywhere from a few weeks, up to over a year.
“How I see the role of the ombudsperson is to be here to provide support and advice to students who may have encountered concerns or issues in the classroom, in the college, if they’ve felt like they’ve been treated unfairly by policy,” explained Ho.
Ho has helped students work through a variety of problems. Some of the most common are grade appeals, concerns about conduct, and how accommodating an educational policy is.
A challenge that Ho faces is balancing her responsibilities as the ombudsperson and her staff position at the DSU.
“I think something I have to be very conscious of is what hat I have on,” said Ho.
While she aids the student representatives on many issues, she is able to put that aside in order to fulfil her role as ombudsperson.
However, the biggest challenges faced by Ho is dealing with discrimination problems, and absorbing the stress and disappointment when a student doesn’t receive the outcome they are looking for. On the other hand, Ho finds it rewarding when a student gets results in their favour.
“It’s absolutely rewarding to see that I have been able to support someone so that they can continue their education, or are able to get into the class. Whatever it is that they were finding as a barrier and a challenge, helping them overcome that is the most rewarding part,” she said.
The ombudsperson may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 604-527-5016.