Next semester, students, faculty and staff seeking help with conflict resolution will have a new resource to turn to: a group of Kenyon community members called Campus Mediators. This organization of Kenyon students, faculty and staff will serve under and be trained by the Ombuds Office to provide mediation services as well as facilitate on-campus dialogue.
The idea for the program arose after alumnus Jim Tull ’85, an international conflict resolution specialist, learned of the uproar across campus in response to Professor of Drama Wendy MacLeod’s ’81 controversial play The Good Samaritan. Many Kenyon community members felt the play contained racist and offensive portrayals of immigrants.
Tull reached out to Kenyon Ombudsperson Carrie Knell and President Decatur about conflict management on campus, offering many ideas, including the mediation program.
Knell hopes the program will help expand dialogue and conflict resolution across campus, as well as address broader issues, going beyond the normal scope of the Ombuds Office. Knell also emphasized the advantage of having current students involved in mediation of campus disputes.
“Sometimes it’s nice to have a peer help you through because they understand things a little better of what individuals are going through,” Knell said. “People may sometimes like to have someone they can identify a bit more with.”
The program presents an opportunity for participants to gain mediation and conflict resolution experience, skills that Knell believes are valuable and applicable in everyday life.
Similarly, Knell hopes the program will lead to an increase in conflict resolution acuity across campus. “It’s not about keeping conflicts from happening,” she said. “It’s learning how we can address them early and productively and do it in a way that is healthy conflict resolution and actually makes the community stronger and more connected.”
As outlined on the website, the Campus Mediators will co-mediate peer conflicts, facilitate programs such as Kenyon Listens and act as a resource for conflict resolution on campus.
Knell plans to increase the program over the next four years by training a new class each year. She hopes that the individuals chosen will direct the future trajectory of the program, and that the program could potentially expand beyond Kenyon and into the local community, as Knox County lacks any sort of mediation center or similar program.
Once individuals are selected, the first class of Campus Mediators will return to campus two days early in January to attend training facilitated by the Dayton Mediation Center.
Despite the fact that the deadline is over two weeks away, interest is high, with 28 applications received as of Wednesday. Applications are due October 19 and can be submitted through the Kenyon website.