Ombudsperson presents disrespectful behavior complaints increased


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One University of Iowa official says disrespectful behavior is one the rise and the university leaders haven't done enough to curb the trend.

"It needs to start from the administration and Faculty Senate to want to change the culture," said UI Ombudsperson Cynthia Joyce.

The Office of the Ombudsperson reported a 3 percent increase over last year in the number of reports citing disrespectful behavior. Joyce presented the information to the Faculty Council on Tuesday.

Last year, the office reported a 5 percent increase in reports regarding disrespectful behavior. Faculty Council officials at that time hoped to discuss education programs on the behavior, but Joyce said nothing has been done.

Joyce said the issue is that is it a societal norm and hard to combat because other institutions nationwide are experiencing similar increases.

"Television, politicians and political debates, and social media outlets are a few examples of disrespect society sees day in and day out," Joyce said, "If they see it, they are more likely to act in that way."

Disrespectful behavior includes, but is not limited to swearing, yelling, name-calling, ignoring people, and explicit criticism, according to the code.

Philosophy Professor Richard Fumerton, the president of the Faculty Council, asked Joyce if the increased awareness of disrespectful behavior may have resulted in more reports. Joyce replied it hadn't.

Joyce said the university could combat the disrespectful behavior by strengthening policies, making sure students, faculty, and staff understand the definition, and increasing education.

Joyce proposed the school develop a statement addressing the importance of treating others with respect, citing a measure the University of California-Berkley implemented.

Fumerton agreed with Joyce's strategies, but he said discussion would be more beneficial.

"Discussion in a situation like this is key," he said, "A lot of times, people may not know they are being disrespectful or the intensity of their [behavior]. The more people talk, the less possibility for argument leading to disrespectful behavior."

Joyce said though discussions may help, not enough are occurring.

"The problem with discussions are that we don't initiate enough of them on campus," she said.

Biostatistics Professor Jane Pendergast, a Faculty Council member, wondered if people might misunderstand disrespectful behavior.

"It really is a tricky situation at hand," Fumerton said.

The Ombudsperson's Office also put together a list from past annual reports of problems that had frequently occurred. This included mental-health issues on campus, vulnerable populations, discomfort and/or lack of experience with conflict management, problems with accurate performance evaluations, and disrespectful behavior on campus.

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