October 28, 2019

Students' Union Demands Apology from Ombuds at University of Toronto

Last week the UofT Governing Council held its first public meeting of the academic year and the agenda was dominated by student mental health issues with student groups demanding reforms. During her report, University Ombudsperson, Ellen Hodnett, voiced her support for the administration's actions. In response, the largest student union criticized the Ombuds and called for an apology.

The Governing Council's meeting on October 24, 2019 began with an address from the University President and quickly turned to student mental health issues. Student representatives from the University of Toronto Students’ Union and other student groups demanded more academic forgiveness, better access to counseling, and the repeal of the university-mandated leave of absence policy (UMLAP). 

Next up was a report by the Ombuds, Hodnett, who strongly endorsed the UMLAP.
“I was honoured to be asked to review the cases of the eight students to whom the policy was applied in its first year of implementation,” said Hodnett of the policy. “I use the word honoured purposefully. In my 44 years here, I have never been prouder to be associated with the University of Toronto, seeing the extreme care, diligence, respectfulness, and compassion with which the policy was applied [in each case]."
Shortly after the meeting, the Students’ Union released a statement asking Hodnett to issue a formal apology. The statement calls her comments on the UMLAP “offensive and wrong,” and says that they “serve as a way of belittling students and further [emphasize] the ongoing issue of the administration not listening to its students throughout the entire policy-making process.” It criticized her attitude as being demeaning toward the student protestors, and pointed out that a draft of the policy was criticized by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. 

In response to the criticism, Hodnett said that she stood by her statements and said that the policy had been extensively vetted with students before implementation. (The Varsity; UofT Students' Union Twitter.)

Related posts: University of Toronto Appoints New Ombuds, Completes Review of Program; Ombuds at University of Toronto Nears End of Term; University of Toronto Ombuds Reports Steady Caseload; University of Toronto Expands Ombuds Services to All Campuses Job Posting; University of Toronto Now Has Ombuds on All Campuses.

1 comment:

  1. Tough spot there. An org ombuds should be able to identify policies that seem to support fairness but also needs to be seen as a credible resource for all.