November 14, 2008

University of Iowa Endorses Ombuds Office After Faculty Suicide

A UI professor accused of sexual harassment apparently committed suicide Wednesday afternoon, prompting university officials to reiterate the availability of resources to avoid such incidents. UI spokesperson Steve Parrott said faculty accused of misconduct can go to the Office of the Ombudsperson and have confidential conversations to determine how to protect their reputation and resolve the problem. Coincidentally, the UI Ombuds Office made a presentation to the Graduate Student Senate the same afternoon as the professor's death. (The Maneater; GSS Minutes.)

Of course, the Ombuds' duty of confidentiality would preclude any admission that the professor had sought assistance from the Ombuds Office.

Related posts: University of Iowa Ombuds Issues Annual Report; Ombuds Prompts Changes at University of Iowa.

11/16/08 Update: Cynthia Joyce, the UI Ombuds, said concerns about harassment by a professor or about a faculty relationship are infrequent. "But to be fair they loom very large when they happen," she said. (Cedar Rapids Gazette.)

11/24/08 Update: In an editorial, Ann H. Franke, president of Wise Results, lawyer and consultant specializing in higher-education law, also recommends Ombuds as a resource for for those accused of harassment. (Chronicle of Higher Ed.)

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