An Effective Way to Restore Collegiality and Shared
Governance in Dysfunctional University Departments
(page 2 of 2)
about potential obstacles is helpful because one can plan
how to address them if confronted. Often the time prior
to a mediation is filled attending to a plethora of details
that one can predict. To have time taken away in an already
"charged" atmosphere from those details and placed
on things that may disrupt the working environment can be
is often easier to address attempts to circumvent or derail the process if the
group is small; however, the larger the group the more involved the mediator should
be in the preparation of the parties regarding the process. Whether the mediation
is voluntary or "required" (officially or unofficially) it is in the
best interests of the process for everyone to be clear on some of the logistics.
The parties must know what interests they have in attending and participating
in the mediation. The interests, which can be personal, professional or a combination,
can be described to them or elicited from them. Parties often do not see the multiple
interests they might have in being a part of a solution.
is a topic to be challenged because of the complex nature of issues that might
be raised. Ground rules related specifically to details about confidentiality
have been devised and agreed upon in these settings. In addition, participants
may move in and out of the mediation if conducted over an extended period of time,
and all ground rules, including these, must be reviewed and agreement reestablished.
members have walked into a room, reviewed the environment and have "humorously,"
but seriously, "accused" this mediator of attempting to "get us
to talk to each other!" This has been followed by suggestions about and attempts
to move to an alternative room down the hall, or reconfigure the furniture. Others
will move to another table, sit on the periphery of the group, stand or leave
a meeting at a given time. Again, a reminder of the interests to be met in staying
with the process must be reviewed, and ground rules about how to go forward must
be established, with the entire group.
must be clear from the beginning about the kinds of communication that are acceptable
and unacceptable between the mediators and the parties. The maintenance of neutrality
should be evident to everyone at all times. Other guidelines about types of conversations
that are appropriate or inappropriate and how and if information related in the
conversations will be shared, must be established. Lack of trust can be spread
very quickly if it is perceived that information has been discussed outside of
the mediation sessions. Following the ground rules as well as full disclosure
credibility must be established very early in the process. With some clients,
detailed information about the mediator's background or credentials (other than
mediation) is less important. This mediator has found that "credentials"
(education, experience in higher education issues, work experience, mediation
expertise) are an important part of establishing credibility. Groups also have
responded positively to a more thorough description of the process, the research
and/or philosophy behind the process, information about the literature on the
effectiveness and benefits of mediation, as part of the preparation for problem
solving sessions. In addition, it has also been helpful, when addressing some
issues, to describe what is happening during the mediation.
is important to think through diversity or the lack of diversity in higher education
and how it can affect the process environment for problem solving. Diversity may
be a factor in any combination of ways. There are often more men than women in
certain disciplines, departments, or areas of study. International and cultural
characteristics and language may affect the logistics of the mediation. There
can be differences due to faculties having an enthusiastic, young, entering group
of faculty (demonstrating optimism) along with faculty members who are more experienced
in the ways of university life and culture (and therefore, more resistant to change
or showing signs of cynicism). Common interests may be difficult to find because
of the nature of higher education specialties and expertise in narrowly defined
areas. Also, individuals in different disciplines may discuss, create, and problem
solve in very different ways, i.e., cultures of social sciences, the arts, bench
science. The intervention designed can take some, although not all, of these diverse
skills, points of view, and ways of looking at the world into consideration.
higher education has unique features, we should continue to keep in mind that
conflict in this setting derives from the same sources as other conflict: limited
resources, unmet basic human needs, and tugs-of-war over how we express our values
through our behavior toward others. If we keep this in mind while creatively applying
the process and skills that we know, we can help them explore common interests
A. Todaro, M.A., is private practice mediator and strategic planner, and has been
an adjunct professor at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas (email@example.com);
Joseph Stafford, Ph,D., is the vice provost for research and graduate studies,
professor of economics at The University of Texas at San Antonio, and was associate
vice chancellor for academic affairs at The University of Texas System; and Cheryl
Brattlie, M.A.H.S., is a graduate of a master's of program in conflict resolution
and is a software engineer at Analysts International Corporation placed at I.B.M.
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,
All rights reserved.