Since October 2003, the Office of the Dean of Students, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity have been collaborating to form a conflict-prevention program on campus in response to an increase in conflicts between groups and organizations at UCI. Now the three offices have formed the UCI Conflict Escalation Prevention Team.
Jacob Green, administrative intern from the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity and co-chair of the Conflict Escalation Prevention Team, explained that all three departments on campus wanted a way to help communication between student groups.
‘All three of our departments deal with campus climate issues and all were really vested in creating a more positive dialogue-friendly environment on campus,’ Green said.
Student leaders as well as others who are interested in volunteering as mediators will enroll in a University Affairs course in fall 2004.
Campus staff, administrators and other community leaders will mentor the students. They will learn about campus policy as well as current issues and conflicts on campus.
Byron Clift Breland, director of Student Judicial Affairs and co-chair of the Conflict Escalation Prevention Team, explained that the goal of the team is for students to work together and help each other resolve conflicts.
‘We want to prepare students to be able to recognize and work through the initial stages of conflict, rather than relying solely on the administration to solve the problem or even to initiate the process of bringing people to the table to discuss their concerns,’ Clift Breland said.
The Conflict Escalation Prevention Team would be a visible organization on campus, where students from the team would act as neutral parties.
Not only will student groups be able to approach the team, but the students on the team will actively go out to student groups and find out what issues exist.
‘Our goal is to empower the students on campus to handle conflicts in a positive, proactive way before things go too far and to prevent them from escalating,’ Green said.
Michael Chennault, associate ombudsman and co-chair, says that the team will be a valuable resource for the university.
‘The university will have another tool, on the student level, to solve campus problems. More importantly, students will act in direct partnership with the UCI administration,’ Chennault said.
Although the team is optimistic about the potential success of this program, Bryan Zuetel, a third-year political science major and president of the College Republicans, doesn’t necessarily believe that a little conflict is necessarily a bad thing at UCI because of some of the positives that come out of conflict.
‘Sadly, on this campus, conflict is the only thing that will bring two competing groups to talk and discuss the issues. Additionally, people sometimes need to be pushed out of their comfort zones and have their beliefs challenged,’ Zuetel said.
Richard Nguyen, a second-year political science major and co-president of the Young Democrats, believes that the team will improve dialogue between groups.
‘From the Young Democrats working with our conservative counterparts, we recognize that we are stronger together because we are able to have better debates that contrast our views, which is why we try to have a good working relationship with them,’ Nguyen said.
Charmaine Chan, a second-year studio art major and chair of the Irvine Queers, believes that the Conflict Escalation Prevention Team will help ease tensions between groups in the UCI community.
‘We are all part of the UCI community. I feel as though this team will help remind all of us that we’re doing things for the better of the community despite our differences,’ Chan said.
The hope for the Conflict Escalation Prevention Team is to get groups to come together to understand their respective sides.
‘The reality is people aren’t always going to like each other or agree with one another’s perspective, but our goal is to establish an environment that fosters mutual respect, understanding and collaboration,’ Clift Breland said.