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UNLV Ombuds: Why You Might Be an Excellent Campus Mediator

UNLV Ombuds: Why You Might Be an Excellent Campus Mediator

Recently, the Ombuds Office put out a call for applications for its January 2022 Campus Mediators cohort. I would like to take a moment to share a few reasons why becoming a campus mediator can be a rewarding way to serve the UNLV employee community.

The Ombuds Office at UNLV offers many services to employees. Individual consultations, one-on-one coaching, group training, and facilitated group conversations are some of the most utilized. The office’s mediation practice is another service that can benefit the community, and it relies on a deep pool of volunteer mediators to be its most effective.

In facilitative mediation, the mediators help guide the parties through a conversation that culminates in an agreement on a resolution to the issues facing them. Unlike evaluative mediation or arbitration, the mediators do not render a judgment or issue findings. Rather, they are present to provide structure to the conversation and to ensure that both parties abide by the ground rules that they agree to at the outset. Good mediators are able to “set the table” so that the parties can best work together on brainstorming and, ultimately, agreeing on, a path forward.

Both evaluative and facilitative mediation have their strengths and weaknesses. In cases involving a business dispute, for example, an evaluative mediator may be able to determine a solution (typically involving the external valuation of the good or service whose disposition is being contested) that, while it may not completely satisfy both parties, at least seems to be fairly arrived at. When the parties will continue to have daily interactions and will have to work together going forward, facilitative mediation offers them a chance to redefine their relationships, articulating expectations and boundaries that they both can agree on.

In the workplace, facilitative mediation, then, has some distinct advantages.

The best facilitative mediators are empathic, high-EQ people who are able to be multi-partial—understanding the positions of all parties to a dispute while not “siding” with any—while defusing the inevitable tensions that accompany a high-stakes, emotionally-fraught discussion. Since the mediators are not placing a value on tangible or intangible items or delivering a verdict, they do not need formal training in those disciplines. It is more important to guide the parties to a mutually-acceptable resolution of their issues than to decide for them how to proceed. Indeed, the latter course is counter to the letter and spirit of facilitative mediation.

At UNLV, the Ombuds Office has intentionally solicited applications from all full-time employees, regardless of rank or status, to serve as campus mediators for the reason that a mediation pool that looks more like the employee body is more likely to engender the kinds of trust that enable an effective mediation. Whether you are a classified staff member, academic faculty, or administrative faculty, if you think you have the skills needed to be a good mediator, you are strongly encouraged to apply.

All new campus mediators take the 40-hour Basic Mediation Essentials course at the Boyd School of Law, which is a first step that many practicing mediators take. Once trained, they are placed in the mediation pool and may be asked to serve as mediators for no more than a pair of two-hour sessions each month.   Mediators also participate in an additional one to two hours of continuing education and training each month.

We use a co-mediation model in our practice, meaning there are two mediators present at each mediation. They each have a co-equal share in guiding the discussion, and do not “represent” either party, instead remaining multi-partial throughout the process.

In the mediation intake process, the parties have a chance to identify any mediators they would like to work with, and any who they would like to disqualify from working with them due to a conflict of interest. Mediators, too, may decline service on a mediation panel due to a conflict of interest with a party. Again, the overarching goal is to provide both parties with the best setting for them to reach a productive agreement.

As in any organization, there is conflict at UNLV. A vital, well-staffed, and representative pool of mediators is an essential part of facilitative mediation program that gives UNLV employees another informal, empowering tool for resolving those conflicts.

If you are interested in applying, please see the Call for Campus Mediators. Applications for this cycle will be accepted through November 15.

–David G. Schwartz, UNLV Ombuds

Read the complete article here.

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