Clocktower at Night

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Volume 1, Number 2, Mar/April 2000

Resource Reviews and Announcements

ACADEMIC CONTROVERSY? Enriching College Instruction through Instructional Conflict
by David W. Johnson, Roger T. Johnson, Karl A. Smith

Despite frequent reminders of the value of conflict, most faculty dread controversy and conflict when it erupts in their classroom. In this monograph, the authors draw on 35 years of their own research on controversy to provide faculty with a constructive framework for harnessing the learning potential inherent in classroom conflict. They summarize the theory and research supporting the use of academic controversy, and describe the process of how controversy works. They also provide detailed instructional procedures for implementing intellectual conflict among students.

Essentially, the instructor's role in conducting an academic controversy involves making a number of pre-instructional decisions, explaining the task and the controversy procedure, and monitoring the effectiveness of the controversy. It is argued that the more students participate in the controversy process, the more they learn, the more they will like each other and the healthier they will be psychologically. The authors' research suggests that academic controversies properly managed enrich rather than disrupt classroom life. Perhaps you might want to give it a try in your next course.

1996, ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report Series 25:3
ISBN: 1-878380-75-3w99
Paperback, 105 pp. $24.00
Distributed by Jossey-Bass Publications

Note: Additional information on the academic controversy model is available via the web from the National Teaching and Learning Forum (includes a downloadable pdf file on this topic) and from the PBS Peaceful Solutions series for highschools.

MENDING THE CRACKS IN THE IVORY TOWER: Strategies for Conflict Management in Higher Education
edited by Susan A. Holton

This 1998 hardcover volume represents one of the few available collections of work specifically addressing campus conflict management. Written Mending Cracks coverprimarily with deans, department chairs and faculty in mind, this book provides practical tips and anecdotal reflections on managing academic conflict from a range of experienced faculty and administrators. Generally the tone is conversational rather than scholarly, although some chapters do provide references.

The book's 14 chapters are: (1) "What's It All About? Conflict in Academia" (Susan A. Holton); (2) "Administration in an Age of Conflict" (Gerald Graff); (3) "The Janus Syndrome: Managing Conflict from the Middle" (Walter H. Gmelch); (4) "Chairs as Department Managers: Working with Support Staff" (Mary Lou Higgerson); (5) "Spanning the Abyss: Managing Conflict Between Deans and Chairs" (Ann F. Lucas); (6) "The Cutting Edge: The Dean and Conflict" (Nancy L. Sorenson); (7) "And Never the Twain Shall Meet: Administrator- Faculty Conflict" (Judith A. Sturnick); (8) "Managing Conflict on the Front Lines: Lessons from the Journals of a Former Dean and Provost" (Clara M. Lovett); (9) "Student Affairs and Academic Affairs: Partners in Conflict Resolution" (Lynn Willett); (10) "Can We Agree To Disagree? Faculty-Faculty Conflict" (Cynthia Berryman-Fink); (11) "Views from Different Sides of the Desk: Conflict Between Faculty and Students" (John W. "Sam" Keltner); (12) "Student-Student Conflict: Whose Problem Is It Anyway?" (Janet Rifkin); (13) "Conflict Resolution in the Academy: A Modest Proposal" (Joel M. Douglas); and (14) "Academic Mortar To Mend the Cracks: The Holton Model for Conflict Management" (Susan A. Holton). The book concludes with a useful appendix listing conflict management training opportunities for administrators prepared by former Fourth R Higher Education editor Gillian Krajewski.

Thhe book is well-edited and reads easily, although there is considerable repetition of core concepts across the various chapters. I personally found the the Keltner chapter on conflict between faculty and students to be particularly insightful. The concepts contained in the self-titled (and copyrighted) "Holton Model for Conflict Management" that wraps up the book will look extremely familiar to most practitioners of conflict resolution and collaborative problem-solving. Nevertheless it may be helpful to some administrators looking for a structured set of guidelines for responding to conflict. For a closer look at the "Holton Model," readers may wish to review a summary available online in a short piece also by Susan entitled "Cracks in the Ivory Tower: Conflict Management in the Classrooom - and Beyond".

ISBN 1-882982-21-5
1998, Anker Publishing Company, Inc.
288 pp. Hardback
$35.95 plus $2.88 postage & handling.

by Jerrold K. Footlick

This interesting book examines the impact of how the leaders of academic institutions explain themselves to the media, alumni,
and friends during a public relations crises. The volume is part of the American Council on Education/Oryx Press Series on Higher Education. Author Jerrold K. Footlick is well-suited to the task at hand. He is an experienced writer, university teacher, and counselor on media and public affairs. Footlick spent 20 years at Newsweek, where he created their Justice Department, and later as Senior Editor supervised the Education, Justice, Science, Medicine, Sports, and Periscope departments. He also developed and edited Newsweek On Campus, a bi-monthly magazine for college students.

The book draws on a series of actual case studies to demonstrate how staff members in a number of colleges and universities have responded to situations that required public accountability. The case studies include the following:

  • Indirect costs controversy at Stanford University
  • Integrity of cold fusion research results at the University of Utah
  • Drug raids at the University of Virginia
  • Holocaust denial advertisement at Queens College
  • Prostitution case at Brown University
  • Firing of Woody Hayes at The Ohio State University
  • The Judicial System on Trial at the University of Pennsylvania

Each study describes the background of the case, tracing it to its flash point. Additionally, the book presents the events as they occurred, examining the actions taken by the institution's authorities and evaluating whether they were effective or counterproductive. Finally, the author draws lessons from each case study to help colleges and universities develop their own effective crisis management policies.

ISBN: 0897749707
1997, Oryx Press
176 pp., Paperback

by James A. Schellenberg

This wonderfully concise and yet broad reaching introductory conflict studies textbook was written by James Schellenberg, a Professor of Sociology at Indiana State University. The book is essentially an revision and update of Schellenberg's earlier volume entitled The Science of Conflict. In this book the various major theories of conflict, both classic and contemporary, are reviewed under four main categories: individual characteristics theories, social process theories, social structural theories, and formal theories. Broadly defining conflict resolution, Schellenberg also gives systematic coverage to five main ways people may try to resolve their conflicts: coercion, negotiation, adjudication, mediation, and arbitration. He uses brief conflict case examples and stories of the people who helped develop various theoretical ideas to ground the concepts for the reader.

In a field that sometimes seems hampered by conflict resolution how-to guides devoid of theory on the one hand, and dense and sometimes impenetrable research and theory articles on the other, this book is a welcome addition. I've used the text in my Roots of Social Conflict graduate course, and have found it to be well-received by students due to its refreshing balance and interweaving of theory, research and practice. While I understand there are a number of new conflict theory textbooks from other authors in the pipeline, for the time being this one stands as my favorite starting place for teaching conflict theory in the college classroom. It should perhaps be noted that the reviewer, similar to the author, has a background in sociology which may partially sway my attitudes in favor of the book. Nevertheless, I think this book is a "good read" for people working in any discipline.

1996, State University of New York Press 256 pp.
Paperback ISBN 0-7914-3102-9
List Price: $21.95

Readers may be interested to know that Indiana State University now offers a Social Conflict distance-learning course taught by Dr. Schellenberg that uses the Indiana Higher Education Television Network and/or videotapes to supplement this book as the core text. (Name=guest, Password=guest)

by Vivian Scott Hixson

Centering on the experiences of contemporary college and university faculty and staff, this delightful collection of cartoons covers the real and inane issues found in the world of higher education. Creator Vivian Scott Hixson is the author of hundreds of cartoons published by the Chronicle of Higher Education, so you probably have seen her work before. Married to a professor, and an occasional professor herself, Hixson has firsthand experiences on which to base her cartoons. Using humor as her tool, she points the finger at petty professors, meddling administrators, and misguided students. At the same time, however, Hixson gently targets the major dilemmas of today's academic world. Covering topics ranging from meetings and committees and finances to grants and research, He Looks Too Happy to Be an Assistant Professor offers enjoyment to anyone associated with higher education. Hixson is currently Adjunct Assistant Professor of Sociology at Michigan State University.

"Ms. Hixson's graphic observations are clever and whimsical. They are--in the best cartooning tradition--playful, perceptive, and pointed. They cast a bright light on the marionettes who strut the academic stage. And, except for those in which we stuffy academics might discover ourselves, they are entertaining."
-- From the Foreword by David L. Lendt

ISBN 0-8262-1076-7
1996, University of Missouri Press.
136 pp. 8 1/4 x 5 1/2. 122 illus.
$11.95 paper.

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