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University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 26, 2003

Annual Report From UI Ombudsperson Recommends Studying Campus Climate

Based on its experience helping students, faculty and staff resolve complaints, the University of Iowa Office of the Ombudsperson recommends a university-wide "Climate Study" to gauge impressions about what it's like to work and study at the UI. The office's 17th Annual Report notes that such studies at other universities have provided valuable information about academic climate, diversity issues and civility in the workplace, all of which address concerns brought to the ombudsperson in the last year.

"The budget cuts have led to fewer people doing more work, our diversity numbers have fallen off a bit and we continue to hear about serious incidents of incivility," said Maile Sagen, university ombudsperson. "It's a good time for us to take a step back and address the climate on campus and how it affects our academic and work lives."

Continuing a trend from last year, students, faculty and staff are concerned about the economy and its effect on the University of Iowa budget, the report indicates. But overall anxiety seems to be diminishing as the office reports a return to a more average number of cases in 2002-03 after a record high in 2001-02. The office reports 303 new cases this year, down from 393 a year ago. The largest volume of cases was among staff members (168) followed by students (82) and faculty (48).

Among staff, complaints from merit staff increased to 77 this year, up from 57 last year. Professional and scientific staff complaints decreased to 91 from 101 last year. Both merit and professional staff expressed a great deal of concern about budget cuts and future employment and noted increased workloads due to an overall reduction in the workforce.

The number of student cases was down significantly from a high of 175 last year, mostly as a result of a decrease in the number of complaints filed by large numbers of undergraduate or graduate students in the same department or academic program, the report says. The majority of student concerns have to do with academic issues such as grades and grade appeals, changes in curriculum and graduation requirements, drop/add questions and conflicts with individual faculty members or advisors.

The number of faculty cases did not change significantly from a year ago and most dealt with conflicts between colleagues and department chairs, tenure and promotion issues, post-tenure review and leave policies.

The report praises the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for its 2003 Chautauqua series, which provided a framework for a campus-wide discussion about the economic difficulties faced by public universities today. Also singled out for praise was the May 2003 Special Edition of University Hospitals and Clinics' COMPASS, which features the "I CARE Principles for Working Together."

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 17th 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.

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

CONTACTS: Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011, mary-kenyon@uiowa.edu Program: Maile Sagen, 319-335-3608, maile-sagen@uiowa.edu