to the Resolve-it College Administration Center. We're glad you took
the time to visit what we think of as the real nerve center of the College.
It's kind of quiet around here right now, however, because a lot of
folks have just headed over to the Student Center to participate in
the Town Hall Meeting. Should be an interesting meeting, with the protesters
and all. I hope they work something out.
members of the Dean's Council may not be the most idealistic group on
campus, but they certainly ARE pragmatic. As you may have heard by now,
the College has decided to undertake a review
and redesign of our entire dispute processing system. The move
toward a redesign gained momentum when administrators began noticing
the seemingly inordinate amount of time they were
spending on unresolved conflicts, and during the same period
the legal affairs office reported a significant rise in legal costs.
Many of the most time consuming or difficult disputes seemed to involve
faculty or staff, and unlike students, these folks won't be graduating
and moving on anytime soon.
also noted a larger trend nationwide that suggested that we were not
alone. For instance, studies have shown that the average legal
defense costs for private colleges and universities rose
nationwide by some 250% in the five years between 1992-97 (1).
Among the faculty, a survey of more than 800 department chairs found
inter-collegial conflict to be THE major category of stress experienced
by department chairs (2). And graduate students
who don't complete their degrees cited conflicts with faculty as one
of the two most important reasons that they leave their graduate programs
(3). All of this, combined with a recent "messy"
staff dispute prompted the move to revisit and revise our entire system.
number of general systems design books have been quite helpful as we
get oriented to the whole idea of dispute systems thinking.
Costantino, C. A., & Merchant, C. S. (1996). Designing
Conflict Management Systems: A Guide to Creating Productive and Healthy
Organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Slaikeu, K., & Hasson, R. (1998). Controlling
the Costs of Conflict: How to Design a System for Your Organization.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Ury, W. L., Brett, J. M., & Goldberg, B. (1988). Getting
Disputes Resolved: Designing Systems to Cut the Cost of Conflict.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
overview of dispute systems concepts as they relate to campus life found
in the Campus Community was also quite helpful. This new book
focuses mainly on mediation, however, and as we are discovering, there
are a lot more aspects to consider for a complete system, such as ombuds
programs, multi-step grievance systems, skill training, consultation
services and more.
we have also been able to draw on the experience of a growing number
of colleges that are choosing to think systemically about how conflicts
are handled. One particularly interesting and on target collection of
papers are the Conference
Proceedings from a meeting entitled "Reflective Practice in
Institutionalizing Conflict Resolution in Higher Education" hosted
by the Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at Georgia State
University a few years ago. And we have been scouring the internet for
sample policies that might provide inspiration, and we have found some
interesting examples. The best source is clearly the list of policies
found at the Campus
Conflict Resolution Resources site.
And it's not
just individual colleges getting involved. Some entire university systems
are looking into this approach, such as those in Georgia,
Hawaii, and Missouri. The coming years are sure to be quite interesting.
somebody will write the definitive work soon. It sure would make my
job easier! Anyway,
thanks for visiting us. You're welcome to hang out and have a cup of
coffee if you like, but I've got to get back to my filing.
Casper, G., State of University Address, in Stanford Report Online Update.
1998: Palo Alto, CA.
(2) Gmelch, W.H. and J.B. Carroll, The Three Rs of Conflict Management
for Department Chairs and Faculty. Innovative Higher Education, 1991.
16(2): p. 107-123. .
(3) Nerad, M. and D.S. Miller, Increasing Student Retention in Graduate
and Professional Programs. New Directions for Institutional Research,
1996. 92: p. 61-67.