The Center for Global Citizenship is sponsoring a new program in which students can be trained to help resolve conflict among their peers. The program assists in the development of peacemaking on campus and offers students a chance to hone their mediation techniques. Program Director Melissa Law-Penrose said that faculty, administrators and staff felt Etown needed to promote the College’s values of peace and nonviolence campus-wide, which initiated the launch of peer mediation. The program is geared toward students who are studying, or who are interested in peace and justice issues and want to help their peers resolve disputes.
The types of conflicts most common on college campuses include social media improprieties, relationship difficulties, rumors, gossip, thefts or vandalism, just to name a few. Peer mediators don’t resolve conflicts as often as they foster a win-win resolution between the two parties involved. Consisting of a two-person team, the mediators will speak to students seeking help with problems they face and suggest the next steps to take in solving them.
The mediators participated in 24 hours of training from Sept. 29 to Oct. 3. Through the training, they obtained skills in problem solving and listening while learning how to minimize conflict. One of the key factors of the program is the idea of the mediators being able to help you help yourself. “I really like the fact that we are not going to be solving people’s conflicts, but rather guiding them in the right direction to reach a solution on their own,” junior and peer mediator Jessica Swank said.
Swank also pointed out that talking to a Resident Assistant can be intimidating because he or she holds a position of authority. “With peer mediation, students are talking with someone just like them,” she said. The program offers an opportunity to express what is bothering one another in a neutral environment with people who are willing to listen and understand the issue in-depth.
Responsibilities of the participants include attending monthly meetings, moderating one mediation a month and promoting the program, as well as recruiting new members and giving presentations about the program at college workshops and events. It will be beneficial to participants for future career opportunities and in dealing with worldwide issues. Swank is a secondary education major and feels it will further her understanding of the field while it helps her grow. “We have specific ways we are to interact with the disputants and it requires a lot of self-control, as well as the ability to actively listen and read body language. Mediation is a very crucial tool to life,” Swank said.
Law-Penrose describes the program as helping students “become more comfortable and adept at dealing with their own conflicts in a positive and constructive manner.”
As American journalist Dorothy Thompson put it, “Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict—alternatives to passive aggressive responses, alternatives to violence.” In the work field, we encounter various forms of situations where keeping peace is necessary, whether you are a doctor communicating with colleagues on how to move forward on a medical procedure or a teacher focusing on the relationships of your students in the classroom. Conflict management is key not only to a successful career but also to a successful life and is important to the college environment.
Those interested in further information on becoming a mediator or seeking conflict resolution are encouraged to contact Melissa Law-Penrose at LAWPENROSEM@etown.edu.