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'Disrespect' on the rise at the UI

BY ALISON SULLIVAN | NOVEMBER 17, 2010 7:20 AM

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Disrespect among staff, faculty, and students is still on the rise, according to an annual report presented to the Faculty Council by two ombudspersons Tuesday.

According to the report, 22 percent of complaints this year reported disrespectful behavior — a 5 percentage point increase over the previous year. The Office of the Ombudsperson is a place for anyone from the university community to to turn to concerns, problems, or conflicts.

Ombudsperson Cynthia Joyce said the increase was "startling," though it mirrors one nationwide and is not unique to the University of Iowa.

"Workplaces are getting more disrespectful," Joyce said.

The UI has seen an increase of 14 percentage points in reports of disrespectful behavior since 2006.
Though Joyce said the office staffers have "wracked their brains" about the cause of the increase, they said several variables could attribute to it, including increased sensitivity and stress levels.

Presenters said they were uncertain whether the University of Iowa's percent of complaints was higher than that of other Big Ten schools because of a lack of data sharing.

Specific criteria for actions labeled as disrespectful behavior include: yelling, name calling, swearing, ignoring people, explicit criticism, and rash behavior such as slamming or throwing things.

Though Faculty Council President Edwin Dove said he was unsure of specific measures taken since the reported increase last year, he expects the issue to be considered by the Faculty Senate next semester. One solution, he said, may include educational programs.

Joyce said the shared governances for faculty and students on campus would be the ones to designate specific programs to tackle the issue. A respect campaign was implemented two years ago, she said, but continued efforts have wavered.

"People haven't been really sure how to follow up on that in an effective way," Joyce said about the lack of immediate action to the continual climb. "Unfortunately, it's a complicated question, and it's going to need some sophisticated answers."

Faculty Council member Glenn Penny said he isn't surprised by the increase.

"We have [policies] on sexual harassment, plagiarism," he said. "Having a policy on classroom etiquette isn't a bad idea."

Included in the presentation were "campus issues" the Ombudsperson Office wanted to bring forth to the council. Digital media and e-mail etiquette were among the four concerns.

Dove agreed to the connection between improper language within e-mails.

"It's a sketchy medium," Penny said on the wide range of interpretations e-mail can pose to receivers.


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