and Differences Between Campus Ombudsing and Mediation
(page 3 of 4)
Typical Services Provided
discussed by Warters (2000), some mediation centers may
only offer "mediation on demand," but most also
offer extensive educational services. The context and range
of delivery formats of these services are frequently quite
broad and diverse, including both academic and non academic
programs and training. Mediation services focus on the issues
surrounding the resolution of interpersonal conflict. To
the individual seeking assistance, they typically offer
advice and strategies, one of which may be formal mediation.
Ombudspersons rarely conduct or facilitate formal mediation
sessions, although they frequently engage in "shuttle"
diplomacy or advise one party to a dispute. While some consultees
request assistance in resolving an interpersonal conflict,
most people contacting an ombuds office seek other types
of assistance and services. They usually want to tell their
story to an objective but knowledgeable neutral and confidential
party. Typically, they want their perceptions challenged
or affirmed, appropriate institutional policies and procedures
identified, and a set of options developed that could ultimately
result in the resolution of their concern. While one of
the options might be mediation or some other form of conflict
resolution strategy for situations that involve traditional
interpersonal conflict, the options provided by the ombudsperson
are more likely to focus on steps that the consultee can
take individually to resolve the concern presented. These
could include items such as referral to counseling, to an
administrator with the authority to make an exception to
policy, or to an existing grievance or appeal process. In
addition, ombudspersons are expected to act as monitors
of campus culture and behavior and to make recommendations
to appropriate institutional administrators, governance
bodies, and/or the community as a whole (Kerze, 1994; Hasenfeld,
1995; Beattie, 1996). As such, the ombudsperson frequently
has been described as a higher education organizational
development specialist and the "conscience of the campus."
offices and mediation centers both strive to improve the
lot of their service clientele through empowerment and education.
Neither has authority to impose solutions. Perhaps the ombudsperson
can be most succinctly described as a problem-solver to
those who seek his or her services and an organizational
consultant to administrators and institutional governing
bodies. The role of campus mediation centers seems more
narrowly defined and specific to education and conflict
resolution functions. The ombudsperson is a consultant and
advisor, who provides suggestions in response to all types
of campus concerns and attempts to facilitate institutional
change through direct recommendations. The mediation center
staff member is a conflict resolver and programmer, who
addresses issues related to interpersonal conflict and attempts
to facilitate institutional change by enhancing the conflict
management skills of the members of the campus community.
While some might argue that a potential overlapping of functions
is a possible source of conflict over turf between these
two functions, I see no reason to believe that this has
been or will become an issue of contention between practitioners.
Ombudspersons are likely to be contacted by people who feel
they have been inappropriately evaluated in a class or the
workplace, who have allegedly been targeted for discriminatory
or harassing treatment, who desire an exception to a policy,
or who are simply entangled in institutional red tape and
are seeking options and advice. Mediation centers are more
likely to be called upon to facilitate traditional mediation
and conflict resolution of an interpersonal dispute or to
provide academic and skill training in conflict resolution
Indeed, the functions of campus mediation centers and ombuds
offices overlap a little and compliment each other very
well in fulfilling their respective and valuable niches
in the collegiate structure and culture as important facets
of an integrated conflict management system (SPIDR, 2001).
As these two professions continue to evolve, it is likely
that more and more college and university campuses will
recognize the distinctive value of each, working in a collaborative
manner to improve the campus culture and enhance the experience
and success of all members of the campus community.
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.
send comments, bug reports, etc. to the Editor.
© 2000-2005 William C. Warters & WSU,
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