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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 11, 2007

Note: This release was updated on Oct. 15, 2007.

UI ombudsperson office reports increase in workload in 2006-07

The University of Iowa Office of the Ombudsperson experienced a "modest" increase in workload in 2006-07, according to its annual report issued this week. The report showed that in addition to handling a 9-percent increase in the number of faculty, staff, and student cases, the office also saw an increase in requests for informational meetings and workshops in conflict management.

The report suggests that "continued leadership uncertainties and changes" at the UI and heightened anxiety due to the Virginia Tech shootings may be related to the caseload increase. Also related could be what the office perceives as "the university's increasing commitment to addressing problems directly and to supporting informal conflict resolution."

The UI's Working at Iowa survey from 2006, which "reinforced the need for more effective conflict management on campus," was the likely source of the increase in requests from departments for workshops and informational meetings offered by the Office of the Ombudsperson. The office presented more than 40 informational meetings during the year and 15 workshops on conflict management.

The office saw 280 visitors in 2006-07, representing a 9-percent increase over the year before. While faculty visits (59) increased by 37 percent and Professional & Scientific staff visits (88) increased by 29 percent, Merit staff visits (43) decreased by 39 percent. Graduate student visits (48) increased by 50 percent, while undergraduate students visits (36) remained relatively constant.

The report expressed concerns about continued examples of disrespectful behavior, including faculty members' dismissive behavior toward students due to political or religious differences and bullying behavior by staff and faculty. The office also expressed concerns about what it terms "vulnerable populations," including graduate students, postdoctoral trainees, international students and staff, junior faculty, and probationary staff. These groups, the report says, "find themselves in circumstances in which they do not believe they can safely discuss and address their workplace and/or academic concerns. As a result, they can feel trapped in unhealthy and unproductive situations." In particular, the report states that graduate students "are among the most vulnerable populations" because of their dependence on their advisors "for both academic and financial support, as well as future professional opportunities."

The report concludes with an observation about trends over the past three years that concern the office. These include a dramatic increase in graduate student concerns about discipline, increasing faculty concerns about job conflicts, and large increases in discrimination and sexual harassment cases.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Cynthia Joyce, Ombudsperson, 319-335-3608,; Charles S. Drum, University News Services, 319-384-0048,