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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

July 9, 2009

Ombuds offers confidential resource

by Erin Rosacker

An "annual report" (PDF) of the ombuds office's first eight-plus months now is available online. After a pilot program of two years, the ombuds office was permanently established last fall. Ombuds officer Elaine Newell provides confidential conflict resolution and guidance to ISU faculty, staff and graduate students (Merit employees and undergraduate students have other resources).

"I've seen a wide variety of issues presented, but a consistent theme is that people work hard and want to be respected for the contribution they're making," Newell said. "When they feel their work is not being respected, the conflicts start to develop."

Employee issues

From Sept. 12, 2008, to May 31, Newell opened 73 cases. Fifty one were subsequently closed when no further work on the case was required. Eleven cases remained active and another 11 were labeled open but inactive. More than 70 percent of the cases addressed a singular problem; others had two issues to resolve. A breakdown of the issues follows:

  • Supervisor conflict (26 percent)
  • Policy interpretation or implementation (12 percent)
  • Financial matter (11 percent)
  • Job duties (9.5 percent)
  • Disciplinary action (5 percent)
  • Major professor conflict (5 percent)

Professional and scientific staff accounted for 38.3 percent of the visits to the ombuds office, followed by faculty (28.7), graduate or professional students (13.6) and Supervisory and Confidential staff (4.1). Other visitors (6.8 percent) included "surrogates" -- individuals visiting on behalf of another person -- and people who did not fall into the four categories served by the office, such as undergraduates.

The most popular method for users to initially contact the ombuds office was by telephone (53.4 percent), followed by e-mail (34.2) and walk-in traffic (12.3). A gender breakdown of visitors showed that 57 percent of visitors were female.

"This report shows that no single group has cornered the market on workplace conflict," Newell said. "Almost everyone encounters it at some point in time, and I'm glad to see people are using the ombuds office to work through these conflicts."


New office hours

New office hours also have been established. Newell is available in 69 Physics from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. during the summer). Walk-ins are welcome from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays. Appointments can be made by contacting Newell at 4-0268, or