Summary of "Mediation in the Campus Community: Designing and Managing Effective Programs"

Summary of

Mediation in the Campus Community: Designing and Managing Effective Programs

By William Warters

Summary written by Sabra Anckner, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: Warters, William. Mediation in the Campus Community: Designing and Managing Effective Programs. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1999.

William C. Warters' book, Mediation in the Campus Community: Designing and Managing Effective Programs, has a very straightforward, effective format. Each chapter has a clear objective, and by following the steps outlined and utilizing the resources included in the appendices, a well-organized committee of faculty, staff and students can be well on their way to creating a college mediation program. Warters notes that most campuses are rife with conflict from a variety of sources, ranging from small roommate skirmishes to large battles over funding, as well as academic issues such as plagiarism and grading. Today, many colleges and universities are dealing with conflict through on-campus mediation programs. Warters has extensive experience working with both the theory and the development of mediation on campus; he maintains a website on the topic, Campus Mediation Resources, at

Chapter One, "The Growing Need for Conflict Resolution Strategies in Higher Education," addresses the question, "Why do campuses need this type of program?" Warters writes, "The goal of this book is to limit the destructiveness of campus conflict and to maximize its potential as a learning opportunity."(3) The chapter discusses the basics of what mediation is and is not. There is an overview of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and dispute system designs, interest-, rights- and power-based approaches to conflict management, as well as information on how to integrate these systems into one that will work for a specific difficulty. Also offered is a history of conflict management programs on campuses, from their beginnings in the 1960s to the booming number of formal programs offered today.

"Why Mediation Makes Sense for Academic Organizations," Chapter Two, describes the four basic constructions of colleges and universities, and how they are confronted with conflict. Each school exhibits several of these four characteristics: "complex bureaucracies, collegial communities of scholars, political environments made up of competing interest groups, and organized anarchies."(17) Each campus differs in organization and structure, and therefore must deal with conflict in unique ways. The author discusses the strengths and shortcomings of each of these models in relation to conflict. He introduces several case examples of the successful use of mediation in campus and college-related conflicts, and lists reasons why various members of the community -- students, faculty, administration, etc. -- feel that mediation is a valuable alternative to conflict escalation or involving formal chains of command, such as supervisors or campus police.

Now that the need for and usefulness of university mediation programs have been established, the book shifts focus to what it takes to create such a program. Chapter Three, "First Steps in Building a Program," lists the ten primary steps necessary for getting the program off the ground. The first six are covered in this section; the others are dealt with in subsequent chapters. The beginning steps involve identifying the needs of the community and the scope of the project. Specifically, a planning group must be formed; a needs assessment must be conducted; staffing and funding, as well as administrative support, must be secured; and a statement of purpose and an implementation plan are needed. The author offers examples for a wide variety of settings, from a family student housing office to a community college or a large state university. Real mediation programs are profiled, and a table of schools' programs, including staffing, funding, and the case types they handle are included, displaying the breadth that campus mediation programs can have. Also included are practical issues, such as the need for consistently available space for the mediation sessions to occur; Warters details what could be needed, such as accessibility for the disabled, privacy, as well as easy escape in the case of violence.

Chapter Four covers the identification and training of mediators. The first choice a new program needs to make is who the mediators will be. They could be paid staff or volunteers, faculty and staff or students, or possibly professionals from the nearby community. Warters then offers criteria for selecting potential mediators and the process for engaging the trainees. Another important step is determining how the mediations will run -- will they have a single mediator or a team? The pros and cons of each possibility are weighed, noting that a co-mediation team of two is typically seen on campuses. The next important topic is the style of mediation. Options include problem solving versus transformative and evaluative versus facilitative.

The actual training program to be used is of primary importance, and planners must determine whether certification is required and/or necessary. Warters offers tips on selecting a training program, and on how to evaluate what has been gleaned from the training. At the end of the chapter, he offers a list of resources he considers to be valuable in training campus mediators.

Now that the program has been set up and the mediators are trained, people need to be made aware of the existence of this new option. Chapter Five, "Publicizing the Program and Creating Referral Systems," covers these topics. The three primary problems in this area are: "reaching students and getting them to see the benefits of ADR; explaining the program to the administration, staff, and faculty; and integrating ADR into the system's current practices to manage conflicts." (103) Examples for publicity ideas include the use of official resolutions by voting bodies such as a staff council, or a short article introducing the program in the student paper. The other primary source of clients is through referral. Referrals can come from other offices, such as residence life or an academic department, as well as campus police or local courts. He compares grievance procedures, a staple on campuses, to conciliation, which can resolve issues to the benefit of all parties more effectively.

Chapter Six, "Operating and Maintaining the Program," offers tips on how to keep the mediation program running smoothly and effectively. Issues not always addressed, such as how to secure the second party's participation in the mediation, are discussed. Although one party may see mediation as the solution to their differences, the other may be skeptical, wary, or defensive. The staff of the program must be respectful and convincing, or the sessions may never take place. The author encourages stringent quality control; the disputes dealt with could easily escalate, and the mediation center could be considered negligent if warning signs were not recognized or a situation was dealt with inappropriately. He also offers sources outlining standards of practice, which can help in preventing conflict within the office.

Chapter Seven, "Implementing Strategies for Evaluation and Feedback," discusses the importance of obtaining responses to a new program, as they are "key to long-term program success." (149) This chapter focuses on the types of evaluation research, and how they can best be understood and used to improve the program. This information can also be helpful in explaining the value of the program to administrators or those in charge of funding.

The final chapter, "Expanding Conflict Management Options Beyond the Mediation Table," discusses other types of alternative dispute resolution. These include group process interventions, conflict resolution skills training and coaching, conflict prevention, supporting non-violent social protest and change, responding to conflicts over diversity, culture and values, working with offenders, and fostering positive interaction in the local community.

Nearly seventy-five pages of resources and documents relating to campus mediation can be found at the end of the book. Examples of statements of purpose, goals and objectives, job descriptions and nomination forms are included. Role-play examples and schedules for training, referral guides, and mediation forms are also available. There is also a thorough list of resources, from organizations to books and journal articles that can help in the development and maintenance of a mediation program.