What Is The Best Model For Campus Mediation? - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 68, No. 3
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
In an article published in the August/October 2011 Dispute Resolution Journal, authors Sally Klingel and Michael Maffie found that in most of public universities they examined, the internal human resource function housed the mediation function rather than the ombuds office. In a seeming contradiction, they found that peer mediation was not favored by faculty due to the perception that an outside mediator is more neutral, noting that volunteer mediators drawn from faculty could be seen as “representing the administration, and are thus suspect.” The article notes that a potential solution to this tension would be a co-mediation model where internal mediators are paired with external mediations to reinforce the neutrality of the process. Yet the authors only found one university that used that model. Another option was to structurally house the conflict resolution process within an academic department devoted to the study of conflict rather than HR or the ombuds, “in order to draw on the unique nature of the academic setting to merge study, research and practice in a neutral, non-administrative function.” In addition, such an office would be more credible to faculty than HR professionals as neutrals. Yet the authors point out that even this structure posed difficulty in surviving budget cuts in proving its value, as the nature of confidentiality of the mediation process made it nearly impossible to demonstrate the value of the service. Can mediation therefore be more effectively utilized if the mediator is an individual or function that may be closet to conflict in its early stages, and more likely to intervene to resolve the conflict before it becomes a protracted dispute? If so, would it make more sense for the HR to house the mediation service? The more subtle signs that conflict exists—high turnover, low morale, low productivity—would be more easily picked up by an administrative function such as HR that could then intervene. In these tough economic times, it would be easier to justify the business case for mediation services if a line can be drawn between an active mediation role in HR and increased retention, productivity and morale. However, mediation is supposed to be a voluntary process chosen by the parties to resolve their dispute whose resolution is reached by the parties themselves using a neutral third party in a protected, confidential setting. The HR function traditionally cannot promise anything more than limited confidentiality when information comes to HR’s attention while acting on behalf of the organization in the course of employment.