Western's independent arbitrator reported many more visits from students in the 2018-19 school year than previously.
The Office of the Ombudsperson published their annual report last month which said student visits increased from 681 to 814 students last year. This is a jump from 1.8 per cent to 2.1 per cent of the overall student population.
Students can approach the ombudsperson with concerns like grade appeals, fines, parking and code of conduct issues. While they are independent in their work from the rest of Western University, they only make recommendations to the school, which are not binding.
The office is funded equally by student fees from the administration and the University Students' Council, which is meant to keep them independent from Western.
Only 35 of the cases saw intervention, meaning at minimum that the office got the student's permission to contact someone in Western involved in the issue, like a professor who gave a grade.
Students pressing for more, ombuds says
Jennifer Meister, the ombudsperson, said that in her nine years in the role she has seen students get only more determined when they hit a roadblock with Western — and only more willing to seek help in getting past it.
Professional schools are also much more competitive than before, said Meister, and students face a lot of pressure — either externally from parents or internally — to try and get in.
“Let’s say your dream is to be a lawyer or a doctor and your marks just aren’t good enough," she said. “[They’re] much more likely to say 'I’m not going to put up with that, I’m going to look into it.’”
Meister's report mentions some think students are declining in "resiliency," in part because they can't accept failure. Meister said there is more to the story.
Meister cites the word-of-mouth capabilities of social media in the higher traffic through her office; if word spreads around campus that the ombudsperson successfully helped a student intervene or appeal a grade, more students are likely to go to her office, she said.
“Students talk. I think that is a reason for students walking through our doors,” she said.
Some students are also referred to the office by academic counselling, if the student is looking for a more autonomous body.