The Office of Student Conflict Resolution, situated within the Division of Students since the early 2000s, has changed its name to Office of Student Community Relations. While the office will continue to be known by its catchy acronym, OSCR (pronounced “Oscar”), the name now abbreviated by those four letters reflects a significantly broader mandate, one with a wider focus on the care and support of students facing difficult circumstances.
Advisers at OSCR, says Office Director Debbie Hansen, help students find the services they need to deal with and overcome complex challenges in their lives.
“We’re student advocates,” she says.
Hansen and her colleagues are there to listen, assist and coordinate when students struggle with issues ranging from critical illness or injury; sexual assault or mental health challenges;or difficulties stemming from homelessness or poverty. Assistance can take the form of advising, referrals, coordinating accommodations or providing emergency funding or housing.
Given the breadth of issues students may face, and the sometimes individualized solutions they require, OSCR works closely with partners on and off campus.
“To provide the best assistance we possibly can, we collaborate with other essential resources at York,” says Hansen, inculding Counselling & Disability Services (CDS) on the Keele campus and Counselling Services at Glendon, the Centre for Human Rights, the Centre for Women and Trans People (CWTP) and the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Support Line (SASSL).
External partners include local distress centres, shelters, food banks, community legal clinics, police services and hospitals.
In 2015, OSCR supported close to 800 students How do students in distress access OSCR’s services?
“Many students reach out to us when they feel overwhelmed by their circumstances,” says Carolyn Cannon, the critical incident coordinator and dispute resolution advisor with OSCR. “But sometimes they’re in too deep, and that’s when the larger community really has an important role to play.”
Through their daily or weekly exchanges, faculty and staff often gain keen insights into students’ circumstances or state of mind. Repeated requests for extensions on assignments might mask a much larger problem, for example, and it is worth paying close attention. To help faculty and staff members assess a possible distress situation with a student, OSCR has put together useful guidelines, available online and in print. These also outline next steps for the concerned individual, indicating when it might be best to speak to the student directly or who to contact instead, and when.
Faculty and staff are also encouraged to connect directly with OSCR regarding students of concern.
While OSCR may have a new name and an expanded role, it remains the keeper of the Code of Student Rights & Responsibilities (CSRR), educating the community about non-academic behavioural standards at York University and facilitating various forms of conflict resolution with regard to inappropriate student conduct. All interventions, which range from a formal complaint process involving University tribunals to alternative forms of dispute resolution, centre around York University’s core values – civility, diversity, equity, honesty, respect – and can vary depending on the incident.
Any student, staff or faculty member may lodge a complaint with OSCR. In finding resolutions, a priority is placed on dialogue and de-escalation, creating an important role for student peers at OSCR. The Peer Support Team (PST) advises students during conflict-resolution processes, educates them on resources and does community outreach.
You can learn more about the Office of Student Community Relations at www.yorku.ca/oscr. The OSCR offices are located at W128 Bennett Centre for Student Services and can be reached by calling 416-736-5231; by emailing email@example.com; or by faxing 416-736-5565.