Ombuds Office offers students confidential, impartial assistance

Brock University’s Interim Ombudsperson wants students to know she’s available to help them with any concerns or complaints they may have.  

Marla Terreberry-Portfillio joined the Office of the Ombudsperson in November and is filling the role until the end of April.

As a confidential and neutral resource for the Brock community independent from University administration, the Ombudsperson helps students understand Brock policies and procedures, connects them with on-campus resources and helps them explore options for resolution. 

The position is jointly funded by Brock University, the Brock University Students’ Union and the Graduate Students’ Association, and is overseen by a Joint Oversight Committee that advocates for fair policies, procedures, practices and decision-making on campus. 

The most common concerns the Ombudsperson assists students with are related to academic misconduct issues and appeal processes. 

Terreberry-Portfillio said most students are unaware there is support for them, and when they do finally seek her assistance, they come to her stressed and in despair.  

“Whatever happened to them usually comes by surprise, and understanding a university policy at a stressful time can be overwhelming,” she said. “I can help them understand their rights and required actions, offer an objective view of the concern and suggest information and resources throughout the process.” 

With 15 years of experience working in the post-secondary sector, Terreberry-Portfillio feels her knowledge of the academic environment can help students navigate University policies and procedures.  

“Plus, I’m a great listener,” she said. “I’m able to listen to somebody — to hear fully what they’re saying — and then help them distil the parts of their concerns and identify various avenues to resolution.” 

After listening to a student’s concerns, Terreberry-Portfillio will often explain processes, set expectations and offer resources. She will also help prepare the student to meet with University administrators and coach them in effective communication and assist with conflict mediation.   

No matter the issue, students who feel they have been treated unfairly are encouraged to contact Terreberry-Portfillio for a confidential conversation.  

“Even if the Ombuds Office is not the correct avenue of resolution, I can help the student better understand the context of their concern and connect them with on-campus resources that will meet their needs,” she said.  

Students interested in seeking Terreberry-Portfillio’s assistance are asked to fill out an advising intake form. More information on the role of the Ombudsperson is available on the Office of the Ombudsperson website. 

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