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Conflict Resolution Institute

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New Dispute Resolution Center

New Dispute Resolution Center

"Why doesn't DU have this!?" Th at was the simple question raised by three Conflict Resolution Master's students and officers in the Conflict Resolution Graduate Student Association (CRGSA) that sparked the idea of developing an on-campus mediation clinic at the University of Denver. Coming from a school that had such a clinic, Brittany Eskridge said that she was surprised at the lack of an alternative dispute resolution center at DU when she began the Conflict Resolution program. As a result, she set out to remedy this vacancy and soon found allies in Adam Brown and Jonathan Howard. The first step in the process to founding the clinic was to start gathering information about what the clinic might look like and how it would practically function within the DU community. 
During this explorative research stage, the three discovered an invaluable resource in Kristin Olson, Director of Citizenship and Community Standards (CCS) at DU. "Kristin has been very helpful and supportive from the moment we first approached her with the idea of starting an on-campus mediation clinic," said Brown. With Kristin's expert guidance, Eskridge, Brown and Howard gained access to numerous new sources of information. They were able to attend the Gehring Academy for Student Conduct Administration Conference, have access to student life training, observe conduct review board training, and gain insight into how the clinic would fit in with the goals of CCS and the larger DU community. In particular, Howard noted that the Gehring Academy Conference provided some unique new perspectives on conflict resolution approaches pertaining to students at higher education institutions. This was significant because the vision of the clinic they had developed centered on the idea of it being a resource for dispute resolution among students.
Some examples of cases that the clinic might handle include conflicts within fraternities or sororities and roommate disputes. In practice, the CCS office could refer appropriate cases to the clinic that would be conducive to alternative dispute resolution. "We think the principles of conflict resolution, such as separating the people from the problem, could be very effective tools for resolving disputes between students in a way that comes to a fair resolution and better maintains relationships within the DU," added Brown. Since mediation clinics like the one proposed are relatively new developments in higher education, they see a lot of flexibility in drafting a framework that
is tailored to fi t the needs of DU. Eskridge elaborated that, "Clinics differ greatly from college to college, so there is a great opportunity to mold the DU clinic to fit the goals and needs of CCS, Student Life and DU as a whole." The plan will begin by focusing on undergrad, student-to-student disputes, and then possibly modify the functions of the clinic based on initial results and future needs. Another goal for the clinic is to have a preventative role, in addition to its reactionary role, in dealing with conflicts. They argue that "through conflict coaching and introducing students to basic conflict resolution techniques, we think that the clinic could provide students with an approach that would help them to effectively deal with conflicts in their personal lives." 
In addition to the benefits it would off er to all of DU, the clinic would also be a great practical resource for students within the Conflict Resolution Master's Program in particular. "The clinic could provide a venue for certified students to put conflict resolution theory into practice in a way that benefits them personally and also their fellow students at DU," asserted Brown. Additionally, a strong link between the clinic and the Conflict Resolution Institute could provide greater access to resources and add to its long-term sustainability. Eskridge, Brown and Howard will continue to develop their plans into a more formal proposal over the upcoming weeks. While the mediation clinic is currently still in the drafting stage, its vision and potential are concretely embedded in the minds of its developers. These industrious students are working hard to make their vision become a reality. They also expressed an interest in encouraging students interested in the clinic to get involved. "We welcome any help that people are willing to offer," stated Brown.

-- Brandon Rhea