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Volume 3, Number 1, Oct 2002

Similarities and Differences Between Campus Ombudsing and Mediation (page 2 of 4)


Many ombudspersons conduct workshops and campus presentations on a variety of topics including conflict resolution, student or employee rights, campus policies and procedures, discrimination and harassment, and civility. However, the educational facet of the typical ombuds office is largely non-academic and secondary to its other activities. The typical mission statement of an ombuds office includes two primary functions: the provision of information and assistance through individual consultation, and the identification and communication of trends and organizational recommendations to administrators and decision-making bodies. Most frequently, conflict resolution skill development is provided individually to those who visit the office for assistance.

Campus mediation centers, on the other hand, most frequently identify education as primary in their missions. Obviously, those centers that are a part of an academic program are concerned with the education of their students; but even those not so affiliated tend to focus on the development of conflict resolution skills among those conducting medication under their auspices (often student volunteers) (Warters, 2000). Such centers frequently attempt to achieve in those clients who come for the mediation of a concern not only a resolution of the specific conflict, but also the development of the necessary skills to more effectively resolve conflicts among themselves and their acquaintances in the future. In addition, many mediation centers provide extensive conflict resolution programming and some even attempt to integrate this instruction into the broader curriculum of the institution (Stevahn, 1998; Makdad, 2002).

Service Clientele and Practitioners

Among both mediation centers and ombuds offices, there is a great deal of variation in service clientele. While some ombuds offices and some mediation centers serve all constituencies on the campus, others are designated to serve only students, only faculty, or only staff. Little hard data on service clientele exists in the available literature. However, general conference interactions and website surfing tend to engender the perception that a majority of ombuds services include all members of a university community among their designated service clientele while a majority of mediation centers primarily (if not exclusively) serve students, especially if administratively housed in a campus student services office like judicial affairs or housing. Mediation centers, on the other hand, are much more likely than ombuds offices to include services delivered to the community beyond the confines of the campus. Consideration of the constituency of service clientele is crucial in the establishment of new services as it impinges heavily on resource and political factors crucial to the success of the unit (Girard, et al, 1985; Warters, 2000).

Diversity is also reflected in the characteristics of the personnel providing the services. When part of an academic program, mediation centers are almost always directed by a fulltime faculty member who has an appropriate terminal graduate degree. In such centers, most of the actual mediation is likely to be delivered by students in the academic program. In mediation centers not directly affiliated with academic programs, head administrators are likely to be student affairs administrators with masters degrees in that field. Such centers most frequently solicit student volunteers to train and deliver mediation services. Most ombudspersons have graduate degrees, but commonalities beyond that point are difficult to identify. They usually deliver services themselves, with little or no staff support beyond secretarial assistance.

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Page last updated 11/27/2005

A project of Campus Conflict Resolution Resources.
Supported by a FIPSE grant from the US Department of Education
and seed money from the Hewlett Foundation-funded CRInfo project.

Correspondence to CMHE Report
(Attn: Bill Warters)
Campus Conflict Resolution Resources Project
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585 Manoogian Hall
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48201.

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