University’s pioneer mediator says goodbye

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By Kevin Ritchie

Andy is a Shi-poo, a cross between a shih-tzu and a poodle. The little dog with curly grey hair and a slight underbite used to calmly stroll across the Ryerson Ombudsperson’s office and greet visitors as they entered.

But in August, the welcoming pooch and his owner, former Ombudsperson Liz Hoffman, left Ryerson for good.

Hoffman, who became Ryerson’s first ombudsperson in 1996, departed in August to work as a senior investigator for the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces.

In her time at the school Hoffman acted as the campus mediator for students and staff who had complaints about the university.

Although Ryerson’s policy is “no dogs allowed,” Andy was the worst-kept secret on campus, helping Hoffman open up the lines of communication with students.

“The office is an odd office,” Hoffman said. “People do not come to the office to say what a wonderful time they’re having at university. They come to the office when they have a problem and [Andy]’s really been an ice-breaker.”

Ryerson’s administration didn’t complain about Andy either. They knew the dog helped Hoffman do her job better.

Although Hoffman spent between 40 and 50 hours per week at the university, she was able to fit a slew of other activities into her busy schedule.

She is the president of the Ontario Library Association and an executive member of the Canadian Commission for the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

She also worked part-time as ombudsperson for the student union at the Ontario College of Art and Design, and takes in 60 movies every year at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Despite her love for films, books and the occasional weekend at the cottage, working with people is what satisfies her the most.

“I enjoy people who are prepared to come forward with a complaint,” Hoffman said. “I think I have a lot of respect for people who do that.”

Diane Dyson, who is the acting ombudsperson until Oct. 31, when a replacement is scheduled to be announced, said Hoffman has a knack for dealing with everyone.

“She was good at helping people unwind their problems and find out what contributed to them,” Dyson said.

Since Hoffman took office, the appeals policy and code of student conduct were also reviewed and completely overhauled.

“Those things were closely linked to Liz and her recommendations,” said Frank Cappadocia, current chair of the ombudsperson review committee. “That was a huge undertaking. I think it probably hadn’t been touched in about 15 years.”

Hoffman leaves Ryerson knowing she had some affect on people.

“The power of one person and the effect you can have on other people’s lives—I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve really enjoyed my life so far.”

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