Non-violent Social Protest and Change
student protests today are less visible nationally than
in the turbulent 1960s, they still occur with surprising
regularity. Because protestors and campus administrators
may not have open lines of communication, campus mediation
program coordinators should consider developing
a capacity to respond in campus protest situations.
Trustworthy neutrals can greatly facilitate the negotiations
required to settle many campus protests. However, getting
all the parties to the table can be difficult, and sometimes
is inappropriate based on the timing, the level of organization
of involved groups, or considerable power imbalances.
Program coordinators may thus wish to expand their view
of their role beyond that of mediator, to include a larger
function as a community peacemaker and networker.
It is important to be clear on the role one is playing
in conflict situations, and not to assume that you or
your office can provide all necessary supports. To help
mediators locate their role, the late Jim Laue, a former
Community Relations Service mediator and faculty member
at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution
identified a range of primary roles or functions that
may be played out in community disputes. These roles include
activism, advocacy, mediation, research, and rule enforcement.
Part of maintaining credibility as a mediator involves
developing ways to demonstrate respect for and develop
rapport with individuals playing other equally important
functions. Mediation program staff should take the opportunity
to develop relationships and work cooperatively (if informally)
with others on campus who serve the function of helping
to research the existence or root causes of conflict;
enforcing community rules and standards; advocating for
needed changes; or assisting disadvantaged groups get
organized through activism and education. Developing these
kind of relationships takes time and care, but are important
if one hopes to adopt more of a peacemaking role on campus
and to be respected as a mediator when the time is ripe.
A number of non-mediation innovations have developed on
campuses that directly support nonviolent campus protest
and expression of dissenting views. They are often called
Peacekeeper or Monitor programs. The peacekeepers typical
job description is to stand on the fringe of a protest
action or between two rival groups and keep their eyes
open for potentially dangerous or threatening situations,
and to move to intervene when necessary to prevent violence.
They are usually made easily identifiable using hats,
t-shirts, or armbands that set them apart from the group.
projects work directly with current and potential student
protesters. Sometimes this involves teaching the basic
organizing skills necessary to educate and mobilize others
to a cause. In other circumstances work involves teaching
potential protestors the skills of disciplined nonviolent
protest, using role plays, and other training activities
known as hassle lines and quick decision exercises to
prepare participants for possible challenges.
mediation programs that help a university respond effectively
and respectfully to campus protest are providing a valuable
service by helping the campus to respond and adapt to
change, and by providing students with the opportunity
to develop leadership skills and an awareness of their
ability to make a difference.
to Conflicts over Diversity, Culture and Values
campuses face conflicts involving clashes between diverse
cultures, political views, and strongly held moral values.
These kinds of conflicts may often involve acts of incivility
or violence, and can quickly become quite heated. A good
general source of information on campus diversity initiatives
an online project developed by the Association of American
Colleges and Universities and the University of Maryland.
A great deal of thinking and experimentation has occurred
on how to best respond to these kinds of issues, and just
a few examples of current practice are noted below.
public convening of individuals or groups in a town meeting
format to discuss controversial issues can be a very effective
tool for promoting respectful coexistence. In order to
be successful, town meetings require an even-handed moderator
and very clear, well-publicized groundrules and procedures
to prevent conflict escalation or domination of the meeting
by one participant or group. The
application of campus town meetings is perhaps most well-developed
at John Jay College of Criminal Justice-CUNY. What
began as a short-term response to a crisis (a 1989 student
take-over of the college's buildings), has become a regular
(monthly) part of the campus life.
project of Campus Conflict Resolution
Supported by a FIPSE grant from the US Department of Education
and seed money from the Hewlett Foundation-funded CRInfo
to CMHE Report
(Attn: Bill Warters)
Campus Conflict Resolution Resources Project
Department of Communication
585 Manoogian Hall
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48201.
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