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Release: Immediate

'Civility' on campus is concern of university ombudsperson

IOWA CITY, Iowa - The 12th annual report of the University of Iowa ombudsperson, now available in print or on the world wide web, reports that while the caseload was down somewhat from last year, the office of the ombudsperson has concerns about issues of civility on campus.

Many of the complaints filed by students, faculty, and staff who call the University of Iowa ombudsperson have to do with basic respect, according to the report, which notes that students complain that faculty sometimes treat them dismissively or rudely, staff members say supervisors too often criticize them harshly, and faculty members complain that administrators can be unresponsive.

"Many complaints we hear of lack of civility are well-founded and the university suffers both in terms of morale and productivity as a result," the report says. "Ideally this problem should be solved at the level of the individual employee and supervisor, though support and encouragement from all levels of administration is essential."

According to the report, during fiscal year 1998--the period covered by the report--the office served 324 new clients, including 149 students, 135 staff members, 61 faculty, and 16 others, who were either anonymous or outside the university. The caseload was down overall about 16 percent from the previous year, the report says.

Undergraduate student complaints handled by the office were up about 20 percent from last year, but graduate student complaints were down 20 percent. Most student complaints involved academic issues: classroom behavior, academic requirements, grades, and exams, for example. Staff complaints were down slightly, with most complaints involving job conflicts such as performance appraisals and evaluations, salary disputes, progressive discipline, and termination. Faculty complaints decreased by half, according to the report, with most complaints revolving around promotion and tenure issues. Staff member Maile Sagen and faculty member Lois Cox serve as co-ombudspersons, appointed by the university president.

There were 24 complaints regarding issues of harassment or discrimination, evenly divided among sexual harassment and consensual relationships, disability, and race and gender with eight complaints in each category. All the consensual relationship and sexual harassment complaints involved a relationship between a student--primarily graduate students--and a faculty or staff member. The report calls this pattern "troubling because of the vulnerability of students due to their dependence on faculty and staff for completion of their academic work, grades, graduation requirements, references, and future jobs." The majority of disability issues this year were brought by faculty and staff.

The full text of the report is available on the world wide web at, by email at, or by mail from the University of Iowa Office of the Ombudsperson, C108 Seashore Hall, Iowa City, Iowa 52242.