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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 23, 2009

UI Office of the Ombudsperson issues annual report

The University of Iowa's Office of the Ombudsperson released its annual report today, noting several encouraging developments despite a 15-percent increase in visitors using the services of the office.

The report attributes the increase, in large part, to the flood of 2008 and the ongoing economic crisis.

Some challenges actually united the campus community last year, as in the case of the community's response to the flood. Additionally, the UI's receipt of federal stimulus money "cushioned the harsh effects of the economic downturn at least slightly, and will allow for better planning and minimization of involuntary job loss," according to the report.

Other encouraging trends noted in the report include:

-- A drop from 34 percent last year to 2 percent this year in the number of undergraduates complaining about disciplinary issues. Ombudsperson Lois Cox said the drop may be attributable to procedural changes in the Office of Student Services that give students a better understanding of the disciplinary process.
-- Fewer graduate student concerns related to conflicts with other graduate students.
-- A decrease in faculty concerns about job conflicts.

UI employees and students come to the Office of the Ombudsperson to resolve disputes concerning the university, university personnel or university policies. Its services are confidential and informal. The office also observes the life of the university, noting trends and instances of substantive or procedural unfairness, and reports such trends to university administration.

Of the 487 new cases taken by the office last year, 81 (17 percent) involved disrespectful behavior, compared to 12 percent in 2007-08 and 8 percent in 2006-07. UI ombudspersons Cox and Cynthia Joyce said the ongoing flood recovery and worries about potential furloughs, layoffs, early retirement, pay cuts and diminishing resources may have increased anxiety levels and led to more disputes on campus.

"Clearly, these difficult times have resulted in extreme stress for administrators, faculty, staff, and students, and it is our worry that this stress has contributed to disrespectful behavior on campus," Joyce and Cox said in their report, which can be found in PDF form at

Additional areas of concern noted in the report include:
-- Patterns of avoidance of long-standing problems
-- Issues of privilege on campus
-- Health-related concerns.

"We urge all members of our community to rise above the stress and challenges and to strive to treat one another with respect, understanding and kindness," Joyce and Cox said in the report.

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Office of the Ombudsperson, 319-335-3608; George McCrory, University News Services, 319-384-0012,