CONTACT: MARY GERAGHTY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0011; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Aug. 13, 1999
UI should offer training in managing workplace conflict,
IOWA CITY, Iowa The University of Iowa needs
to provide its department managers with better training in handling workplace
conflicts, according to the 13th annual report from the Office of the Ombudsperson.
For two years in a row the most frequent complaint
the office has heard from faculty and staff members has been related to "workplace
issues," said Maile Sagen, university co-ombudsperson. To address these complaints,
the ombuds office is recommending that the UI Human Resources department work
with the university ombudspersons to develop an "integrated conflict management
system" through which managers could receive training in how to diffuse conflicts
and tensions among their employees.
This initiative along with assessing the unmet needs
of UI graduate students will be focus areas for the next year in the ombuds
office, Sagen said.
During the last year, the office saw a significant
rise in the number of student contacts, primarily due to an increase in graduate
student complaints. Among the 332 new cases reported to the office in 1998-99,
106 or 32 percent had to do with graduate students. The office
also responded to 63 undergraduate cases, 52 faculty cases, 105 staff cases,
and 6, who were either anonymous or outside the university. Overall, the office
handled 37 percent more student cases than in the 1997-98 academic year and
31 percent fewer staff cases than in the previous year.
Most student complaints involved academic issues,
with undergraduates primarily concerned with exams and grades and graduate
students primarily concerned about committee members and the lack of clarity
regarding their qualifying exams.
This year's report also notes that the university
needs to be more timely in responding to questions and concerns. "Many of
the complaints we hear come from people who are frustrated after running from
one office to the next looking for an answer and not receiving one," Sagen
said. "People deserve answers. They may not like the answer they get, but
they at least deserve to get a prompt response."
The report notes that some problems are more complex
and therefore may take longer to resolve, but that when this is the case an
explanation of the delay should be provided along with some indication as
to when a decision might be made. "We look to the administration for leadership
in reminding those at every level of the university of the need to increase
their responsiveness to internal concerns," the report states.
The ombuds office also reports that after spending
time in the last year assessing the needs of transfer and non-traditional
students, it found that the existing orientation programs and support services
sometimes "prove ineffective for these students, which can affect their educational
The office recommended that the Provost Office conduct
"a detailed needs assessment of transfer and non-traditional students, with
special attention to their orientation needs."
UI President Mary Sue Coleman appoints university
ombudspersons. Sagen serves as the staff ombudsperson, and Lois Cox has just
completed a two-year term as faculty ombudsperson. Bernard Sorofman, a UI
associate professor of pharmacy, has been appointed to replace Cox.
The full text of the 13th annual report is available
on the Web at http://www.uiowa.edu/~ooombuds/
or by mail from the UI Office of the Ombudsperson, C108 Seashore Hall, Iowa
City, Iowa 52242.