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University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 2, 2005

UI Ombudsperson Annual Report Shows Decline In Incivility

Incidents of incivility on campus declined significantly in the last year, according to the annual report from the University of Iowa Office of the Ombudsperson. A total of 30 incidents of incivility were reported in the 2004-05 academic year, down from 102 in 2003-04.

Maile Sagen, who recently retired after 16 years as university ombudsperson, said the reduced number of complaints this year may be the result of the focus on the topic over the last several years. Since the Office of the Ombudsperson first noted the issue in its 1997-98 annual report, a number of steps have been taken to try to curb the problem, including the introduction of new staff development courses and efforts to raise awareness about the importance of professional, courteous behavior.

Still, the report recommended that the Faculty Council review its Professional Ethics and Academic Responsibility policy for faculty, with particular attention to the section dealing with "Responsibilities to Colleagues," to ensure continuing attention to civility issues on campus.

The report also noted that student plagiarism continues to be an issue of concern on campuses nationwide. Sagen said the office received more calls from students in 2004-05 than in past years about collegiate plagiarism policies and the disciplinary consequences of cheating. The report recommends that the university continue to "educate students about the type of behavior that constitutes academic misconduct and to support faculty in their efforts to maintain high levels of academic performance in their classes."

Overall the office reported 400 new contacts this year, a slight decrease from last year's record number of 409.

The majority of the 112 student complaints involved academic issues such as difficulties with dissertation advisors and/or committee members for graduate students and grade appeals and charges of plagiarism for undergraduates. The total number of student complaints was up slightly from 96 in 2003-04.

Staff complaints decreased to 197 this year from 230 last year, mostly due to a decline in merit staff complaints. The majority of complaints from both merit and professional and scientific staff involved job conflicts, particularly those between employee and supervisor.

Faculty complaints decreased slightly to 74 this year compared with 80 last year and were primarily focused on issues such as job conflicts, conflicts involving teaching/research, difficulties with promotion and tenure and questions concerning benefits and retirement.

Sagen expressed her thanks to the university community for its support during her tenure as ombudsperson. "It has been an honor to serve the university as ombudsperson, and I know our new ombudspersons will be welcomed as they begin their appointments this month," she said.

Lon Moeller, clinical associate professor of management and organizations, who has served as faculty co-ombudsperson since 2001, also stepped down this year and has been named co-director of the UI's Larned A. Waterman Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center.

Craig Porter, clinical professor of pediatrics, began his three-year term as faculty co-ombudsperson Aug. 1, and Cynthia Joyce will join the office as full-time staff ombudsperson Aug. 15.

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

MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011, mary-kenyon@uiowa.edu.