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Unique campus office hopes to increase awareness of available services

BY LILY ABROMEIT | OCTOBER 16, 2013 5:00 AM

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Roommate disagreements, classroom obstacles, and … lights flickering in the dorm room that no one will fix? All three examples may escalate to a point where a student, faculty, or staff member needs a third party to weigh in.

The Office of the Ombudsperson is available to all members of the community — and, as a recent presentation to University of Iowa Student Government demonstrates, it actively seeks more student awareness of its services.

The office provides what it calls an informal, confidential, independent, and neutral environment in which the UI community can resolve a variety of conflicts.

University Ombudsperson Cynthia Joyce said the group is different from many other ombudsperson offices in that it provides services to all students, faculty, and staff, not just one group.

“We’re available to serve anyone on campus,” she said. “And that means it’s easy for us when problems cross those lines.”

University Ombudsperson Susan Johnson said they want the office to be the first place students think of when facing adversity.

She said the ideal situation is figuring out a way to “make sure students can find us when they need us, even though they haven’t ever heard of us before.”

In order to get more students engaged, Johnson said, the office is implementing processes to spread the word. This includes meeting with the UI student governments, having the office cited on reference lists for students, and working to become part of the On Iowa program.

Bill Nelson, the IMU director and leader of the Center of Student Involvement and Leadership, has worked with the office in numerous capacities.

“[Its work] is very revealing in terms of understanding campus culture,” he said. “Right from the onset, its approach is comfortable, not overzealous.”

He thinks the office is doing sufficient work in spreading its message and says now, the responsibility lies on the shoulders of student leaders.

“The next step is [important],” Nelson said. “It’s important for student government leaders to communicate to their constituencies about the services offered.”

Despite the hope to gain more widespread publicity, Joyce said, the office is still very successful in helping to resolve conflicts before they escalate.

“A common strategy is to avoid problems and hope they go away, but we’re a resource to say, ‘Wait a minute; we really can take positive steps to adjust these problems,’ so I think that’s why we’re important,” Joyce said.


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