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CONTACT: MARY GERAGHTY KENYON
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Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0011; fax (319) 384-0024
e-mail: mary-kenyon@uiowa.edu

Release: Aug. 27, 2002

Annual report from UI Ombudsperson reflects campus climate

A number of factors, including the tragedy of Sept. 11, the fire at the Old Capitol, and the uncertainty caused by severe budget cuts, probably contributed to the largest volume of business in the history of the University of Iowa Office of the Ombudsperson, according to the office's 16th Annual Report.

"It's been a year full of tension for everybody," said university ombudsperson Maile Sagen (left). "From world events to local issues like the budget crisis, people have had a lot of uncertainty. The report reflects that climate on campus."

The report shows 393 new cases during the 2001-02 academic year, up from 310 the previous year, a 27 percent increase. The largest increase was among students, whose cases nearly doubled in the last year to 175 in 2001-02, up from 89 the year before. It was a mixed bag for staff, with Professional and Scientific staff cases rising to 101 from 75, but Merit staff cases dropping to 57 from 94. Faculty cases were up slightly to 51 from 45 the previous year.

The report notes efforts by the UI administration in the last year to mitigate some of the issues of continuing concern to the ombuds office, including plagiarism and conflict management. A January 2002 conference on "Plagiarism in the Digital Age," was a good step in the battle against academic misconduct, but the report says faculty must continue to discuss the issue at the beginning of each new semester, defining the issue and consequences for students.

In February, a new Policy on Ethics and Responsibilities for University of Iowa Staff went into effect, along with conflict management procedures for staff. The report also noted that two years of work by the Dispute Resolution Committee to revise Sexual Harassment/Consensual Relationship Policy resulted in two separate stand-alone policies effective July 1.

While praising progress in these areas, the report specifically points to continuing tension surrounding the budget crisis. "Administrators tell us we must do more with less. Employees tell us they are being asked to assume more responsibilities, some even tell us they are being asked to take on tasks they are not qualified or trained to do," the report says. "Morale is low and conditions are ripe for behaviors which none of us want to experience. Frustration exists and we worry about tempers growing short and people experiencing more stress."

Administrators are encouraged to be aware of potential problems and try to anticipate employees' need for such campus resources as the Worklife Program, the UI Employee Assistance Program and University Counseling Services.

The Office of the Ombudsperson serves students, faculty, and staff by offering a confidential, neutral, and independent dispute resolution service. The UI president appoints university ombudspersons. Sagen serves as the staff ombudsperson. Lon Moeller, clinical associate professor in the Tippie College of Business, is serving as the half-time faculty ombudsperson.

The full text of the 16th 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.