October 11, 2011

University of Iowa Ombudsperson worried about disrespectful behavior on campus

Disrespectful behavior on campus and lack of experience with conflict management are among the continued, long-term concerns of the University of Iowa Office of the Ombudsperson, which hears from hundreds of faculty, staff and students annually.

And while total visits to the UI Office of the Ombudsperson declined in 2010-11, the first decline in five years, Ombudsperson Cynthia Joyce said she is more concerned about the types of complaints the office sees and how those are changing or continuing over the years.

“We do not see higher numbers as bad news,” she said. “What we worry about are the reasons people come to see us, and are we seeing big changes there.”

Those specific patterns tell officials more about what’s happening on campus, Joyce said in presenting the 2010-11 Ombudsperson annual report to the UI Faculty Council Tuesday.

The office saw 501 total visits or contacts during 2010-11, a decrease of 3 percent from the year prior. Of those visitors, 45 percent were staff, 32 percent were students and 18 percent were faculty members. When comparing the number of visitors to the numbers in the campus population in each group shows that 4 percent of UI faculty, 1.7 percent of staff and less than 1 percent of students visited or consulted with the Office of the Ombudsperson last year.

“Faculty really are the heavier users of our office,” Joyce said. “Undergraduates are by far the hardest group to reach.”

Officials continue to have concerns about reports of disrespectful behavior on campus, avoidance of conflict and lack of experience in conflict management, problems with accurate performance evaluations, concern about mental health issues on campus and concern about vulnerable populations, Joyce said.

Of the 501 visits last year, 25 percent were concerns about disrespectful behavior, which includes bullying and workplace bullying. That’s an increase from 22 percent the prior year and 17 percent in 2008-09.

The largest area of concern and complaint for all visitor groups to the office stems from a supervisory relationship, such as with a boss or dean — or a faculty member, in the case of students.

The UI Office of the Ombudsperson is a resource for all UI faculty, staff and students with problems or concerns. The office staff provides informal conflict resolution services and advocate for fair treatment and processes.

From: http://thegazette.com

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