Problem Prevention for Students
The guidelines below are designed to help students prevent problems from occurring or to make problems easier to resolve. These guidelines also may be useful for any member of the University of Iowa community. These guidelines are based on material written by the University of Michigan Ombuds Office, and we are grateful to that office for such good advice.
- Carefully read the university materials you receive, including the University Catalog, course schedules, letters and materials from your College, receipts from University offices, and any other information you receive from the University regarding housing, registration, financial aid, loans, athletic tickets, and so on. You are responsible for knowing university policies and deadlines. Ignorance is not an acceptable reason for missing a deadline, since the University makes a sincere effort to inform the campus community of its deadlines and procedures.
- Keep copies of all papers you receive from the University (e.g., letters, records, receipts, syllabi, statements of accounts, advising worksheets) and papers you submit (e.g., course papers, letters, applications). Keep the envelopes as well in the event it is necessary to use postmarks to verify dates of receipt.
- Open and read your mail! The University and other agencies with whom you have important relationships communicate vital information this way. When you move, be sure to place a forwarding order with the post office and change your address with the university. Failure to receive or read your mail could jeopardize financial aid, registration, graduation, housing, and employment (to name just a few things).
- Ask for written documentation of decisions made and copies of policies, procedures, requirements, recommendations, grading criteria, and so on.
- Always ask for a person's name when requesting information and write it down, along with the date and time of the conversation.
- If you are unsure of something or think a problem may develop, ask for clarification immediately. Do not wait weeks or months to check into it. Do not rely on a hope that the problem will go away by itself.
- If you think The University of Iowa made an error in your favor -- including one involving money -- investigate it quickly and thoroughly with the office concerned. It may take the university months to discover the mistake and correct the error on your record or your student account. If you received money to which you were not entitled, you will be responsible for paying the money back to the university.
- It can be helpful to be assertive when pursuing a problem, but it is never useful to get angry or use abusive language. If you are not satisfied with someone's response, calmly ask to speak with his or her manager. HINT: FOCUS ON THE PROBLEM, NOT THE PERSON.
- Remember that e-mail is a form of written correspondence. Do not send anything via e-mail that you don't want repeated or would not say to someone "on the record."
- Before you sign anything, read all the fine print and be sure you can fulfill the terms of the agreement. This includes university leases.
- Watch for updated information regarding changes in university policies, deadlines, and procedures. The Daily Iowan, other University media, and relevant College and unit offices are good sources of current information.
- When you want to be certain that correspondence arrives at a university office, consider using certified mail, registered mail, or hand delivery. Do not be afraid to ask for a dated, signed, receipt.
- When checking your status with a university office, ask to have your particular file checked. This can help to catch problems that might otherwise go undetected if you ask a general question about a procedure or administrative process.
- To ensure quick follow-up of correspondence with University offices, include your full name (and any previous name under which your records may be filed), and a valid current address and telephone number where you may be reached during business hours.