Office of Student Conflict Resolution

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Social Justice Mediation provides a safe and confidential space for parties in conflict to:

  • Talk privately about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences related to the conflict.
  • Surface issues related to social identity that could be contributing to the conflict.
  • Consider what actions could meaningfully resolve the conflict.
  • Explore the possibility of reaching a mutually agreeable solution to the conflict.
  • Negotiate an agreement that resolves the dispute.

Who’s involved?

  • Disputants – the parties involved in a conflict.
  • Mediators – U-M faculty, staff, or student volunteers who have completed a 40-hour mediation certification program offered by the Office of Student Conflict Resolution (“OSCR”).

How does it work?

In a typical Social Justice Mediation:

  • A person involved in a dispute contacts OSCR and meets privately with a member of the OSCR staff to discuss the problem. This meeting is an opportunity to ask questions, learn more about how Social Justice Mediation works, and consider whether it could be used to resolve the conflict.
  • With the initiating disputant’s consent, OSCR then contacts the other person(s) involved in the conflict and invites them to meet for similar private consultations.
  • When all disputants have agreed to participate, OSCR will consult with all parties involved in order to identify an appropriate pair of mediators.
  • OSCR arranges for a day, time, and location convenient for all disputants and mediators.
  • On the day of the Social Justice Mediation, all disputants and mediators meet briefly to review expectations and set ground rules.
  • Mediators then meet with each disputant separately to ensure that each person has the opportunity to tell their story well, rather than responding to the other disputants’ stories. With consent, mediators then transmit each person’s story to the others.
  • Following the transmission of stories, mediators then help each disputant (in private caucus) explore needs, desires, and options in relation to the future.
  • Many Mediations end with disputants designing a mutually agreeable plan for the future that meets each disputant’s needs and that each is willing to follow.

How does Social Justice Mediation differ from other kinds of mediation?

In Social Justice Mediation:

  • Mediators are multipartial, rather than impartial or neutral. Multipartiality means that mediators "can show participants that there is more than one way to view a conflict"  (Wilgus & Holmes, 2009).
  • Most of the work is done in private caucuses with the mediators, rather than in open session with all disputants present.
  • Mediators are comfortable working with different cultural and personal styles of storytelling.
  • Mediators are sensitive to issues related to social identity (i.e., class, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, etc.) and encourage disputants to voice any concerns related to social identity that they see as contributing to the conflict.

What are the benefits of using Social Justice Mediation to resolve conflict?

  • In Social Justice Mediation, all disputants work together to develop an agreement that resolves the issue. All disputants must assent in order for agreement to be reached. In many Mediations, all parties exit feeling satisfied about both the process and the outcome.
  • For complaints that may also constitute violations of the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities, successful resolutions using Social Justice Mediation mean that the Respondent does not incur a disciplinary record.

Works Cited

Wilgus, J. K., & Holmes, R. C.  (2009).  Facilitated dialogue: An overview and introduction for student conduct professionals.  In J. M. Schrage & N. G. Giacomini (Eds.), Reframing campus conflict: Student conduct practice through a social justice lens (pp.112-125).  Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.