UI Office of the Ombudsperson sees decline in number of visitors from 2020 to 2021

The University of Iowa Office of the Ombudsperson highlighted a 13 percent decline in its number of visitors in the annual report. This follows a decline in the number of visitors attending the office since 2019.


Jake Wicks

The University of Iowa Faculty Council meet over Zoom in Iowa City on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. The meeting composed primary of discussing the University’s current Covid-19 vaccination policies. (Jake Wicks/The Daily Iowan)

Kate Perez, News Reporter

Visits to The University of Iowa Office of the Ombudsperson declined 13 percent in the past year, its annual report revealed.

According to the office’s 2020-2021 report, the number of visitors dropped from 741 in 2020 to 646 in 2021.

“The 646 visitors we saw last year represent the decline from the prior three years. Several factors contributed including faculty, staff, and students interacting less due to remote teaching, learning, and work, and fewer opportunities to publicize the work of our office,” said Jennifer Lynch, associate ombudsperson, at a Faculty Senate meeting on Tuesday.

Out of the visitors this year, UI staff was the largest group served, the same as in the 2019-2020 report. The amount of faculty served increased, however.

“Faculty represented 28 percent of our visitors, which is an increase from 15 percent in 2015,” Lynch said.

The report also highlighted various concerns that prompted people to visit the office, with the primary reason being evaluative relationships,

Other statistics from the report included:

  • 24 percent of visitors experienced disrespectful behavior, down by 6 percent from the previous year. An example would be a faculty member making condescending comments to another faculty member in a faculty meeting.
  • 71 percent of cases had a perceived risk to campus. Perceived risks include situations regarding loss of productivity, policy violations, turnover, grievance, safety, negative publicity, and litigations.
  • 42 percent of cases with a perceived risk were about a loss of productivity.
  • 86 percent of visitors were satisfied with their service at the ombudsperson office.

Related: UI students express the complications and challenges faced when reporting sexual violence and misconduct through university resources

The office has seen visitors come in with more stress related concerns than it has before, especially at the beginning of the fall semester, university ombudsperson said Cynthia Joyce said.

“Our experience is that whenever there is an issue facing campus like the pandemic, that stress increases every other conflict that always happens,” Joyce said. “The normal conflicts are worsened or heightened, and people are less capable of handling them. So, we not only saw the immediate stress of COVID, but we saw it worsening other conflicts.”

The office is asking people for kindness, patience, and flexibility regarding both COVID-19 and other issues surrounding topics like Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion as well as student accommodations, as faculty, staff, and students are all stressed, Joyce said.

“We recommend more training for faculty and an emphasis on clear expectations for faculty and students around accommodations,” Joyce said. “We’d also encourage a more proactive approach, including increased collaboration among Student Disability Services and other campus offices, increased awareness of diversity and learning styles, and greater emphasis on universal design.”