would be foolish to assume that mediation initiatives
in and of themselves have the capacity to serve all the
dispute resolution needs of a college campus. The sources
and forms of conflict are varied and thus a variety of
methods, both proactive and reactive are needed in response.
Campus conflict occurs within the context of a community,
and this broader community must share in the work of preventing,
resolving, and learning from the conflicts in their midst.
article describes creative responses to campus conflict
that don't rely on mediation as their central strategy
or approach, providing links to online examples when available.
While mediation program staff must not shoulder sole responsibility
for addressing campus conflict, they are usually in a
good position to help promote and support creative "non-mediation"
initiatives such as the ones described below.
at the group level is often a necessity. Individual disputes
may (and most often do) occur within the context of work
or social groups that may serve to exacerbate the dispute,
or to moderate its effects. Campus conflicts also often
involve multiple primary parties who all have a stake
in the issues. It can be difficult to bring these kinds
of conflicts to closure unless the entire group is involved
at some level. A number of different approaches can be
useful for this purpose.
a growing number of campuses, for free or a small fee,
neutral trained facilitators are made available to groups
who are about to engage in critical decision-making meetings,
meetings on controversial topics, or in problem-solving
sessions where some outside support could be helpful.
The concept of facilitation support is often accepted
by troubled groups more easily than a formal mediation
process might be.
In addition to running general meetings, facilitators
may offer more specialized services that meet very specific
needs. For instance, strategic
planning facilitators may assist a group in moving
through a structured planning process, helping them reach
consensus on the future directions of their unit. Some
departments or divisions host annual retreats and facilitators
help develop the agenda and staff the meetings. Sessions
like these provide a good opportunity to explore many
useful method, particularly when addressing organizational
or departmental conflict, is commonly known as process
consulting. Process consulting emerged from the organizational
development field, building on the work of Edgar Schein
and others. It is essentially a method of group problem
solving that addresses issues and themes that are hindering
the optimal functioning of the group. Campuses
are now seeing the value of this kind of approach.
Rather than treating the consultant as the expert with
the answers, issues to be explored are surfaced using
procedures such as individual interviews or surveys
that gather the thoughts and perspectives of all members
of the group. The responses to the questions are then
pooled (with the identifying information removed) and
presented in a feedback session to the group as a series
of themes or issues that the group is dealing with. The
group, with the aid of a facilitator, reviews and interprets
the data, formulating action plans as necessary to deal
with issues of concern that have been surfaced. Quite
often, groups decide to engage in some kind of additional
training in communication skills or conflict resolution
methods as part of their action plans.
group-level approach, often used by campus ombuds, is
what is known as the generic approach. This model is generally
used to respond to concerns about the behavior of specific
members of a unit or department, without directly confronting
them or identifying the complainants who brought the concern
forward. Usually this involves a presentation, film or
distribution of materials made at a regular staff or faculty
meeting, or perhaps at a specially called session. The
session typically addresses appropriate norms or procedures
(for instance sexual harassment, humor in the workplace,
or use of support staff) related to an area of concern.
The suggestion for the educational presentation is often
framed by the ombuds or some other appropriate administrator
as a normal part of the ongoing life of the university,
rather than as a response to specific complaints from
within the department. The general goal is to protect
complainants from possible retaliation, while reinforcing
expectations for appropriate behavior.