April 23, 2009

New Ombuds at York University Defends Impartiality

York Federation of Students president Krisna Saravanamuttu called the recent appointment of John McCamus as University Ombuds “highly problematic,” and said it represents the lack of impartiality within the administration. Saravnamuttu questioned McCamus’s ability to be impartial given his current employment as a part-time faculty member at York. McCamus insisted there is no need for concern. “I’m not dependent on York for my livelihood. I continue to teach part-time because I enjoy teaching so much, but I’m quite independent in terms of my welfare. I’m quite independent of York University, and I would have no trouble offering appropriate criticism if I felt it was appropriate,” he said. (Excalibur Online.)

The student’s concerns are not unique and stem simply from a misunderstanding of the structure and function of an Ombuds office. Indeed, all Ombuds offices are vulnerable to such criticism, but that hasn't deterred hundreds of organizations. More significantly, the situation underscores the need for Ombuds to continually educate the organization to dispel suspicion.

Related post: York University Names New Head of Reformed Ombuds Office.


  1. Seems like the student and the reporter didn't bother to check on the practices of other similar ombuds programs. If they had, they would have found that York's office is consistent with virtually all of the other Canadian college and university ombudsman programs, i.e. funded by the institution. In addition, the Excalibur article should have acknowledged that the York's ombudsman position has been significantly reformed to improve independence.

  2. This is an interesting revisit to the issue of independence and its definition. Is an ombuds office independent if it is dependent on funding from the organization? Is an ombudsman independent if s/he is also serving another function? Although McCamus may not be dependent on the institution for financial purposes, doesn't he depend on them to provide him with the teaching responsibilities that he enjoys so much?