Ever been upset with someone and not been able to put your finger on what made you feel that way? Ever let your emotions leak into an argument with your roommate, family or boyfriend/girlfriend? If you are like me and have an interest in learning from problems and how to deal with confrontation, then the UC Irvine Basic Mediation Training is for you. After all, it is free.
The UCI Basic Mediation Program was established in 1996. Run by the Office of the Ombudsman, the program serves as an alternative and informal option here at UCI for resolving conflicts between two or more parties.
The training program is run once a year and consists of 40 hours of training spread over a five-day period, which aims to teach the lucky 35 chosen people the basic skills of how to become a mediator through exercises and role-playing.
Out of the 35, usually about 10 to 12 are graduate or undergraduate students, while the rest are faculty members and staff. Upon completion of the program all the participants will become certified by the state of California as mediators.
‘Mediation asks what is important and what is the driving force beneath the conflict,’ said J. Michael Chennault, associate ombudsman and director of the UCI Mediation Program. ‘That requires very intent listening and asking the right questions that won’t lead down any one particular path.’
Chennault believes that the three key concepts to the mediation program are impartiality, informality and confidentiality.
‘People want their confidentiality protected and mediation offers that. We offer an impartial mediator who doesn’t have an interest one way or another. They just want the parties to be able to resolve the issue,’ Chennault said.
The difference between arbitration and mediation is that with arbitration, you have a third party deciding the outcome for you, as opposed to mediation, where the two parties themselves decide what changes should be made to bring about a resolution like in situations between roommates about bills and students and teachers about grades.
The program recently sent out a campuswide e-mail that notified everyone about the program as well as provided students with a brief questionnaire with questions like, ‘If you were asked to handle a situation in which two parties are visibly angry and locked into their positions, what would you do?’ This questionnaire is the first step in the application process. Then the applicants (about 150 applicants for 2006), go through the screening process and then are interviewed. Everyone is encouraged to participate.
‘We’re looking for cultural diversity, not necessarily ethnicity but majors, schools and age groups,’ Chennault said.
One past participant and current supporter is Abhishek Tiwari, a graduate student studying planning, policy and social design in the School of Social Ecology, who is now applying what he learned from the program as a mediator at the Fullerton Justice Center.
‘You learn how to put your biases aside and get at what people are really saying,’ Tiwari said. ‘People might come in with an issue and two, three degrees below that is what they’re really saying.’
One basic technique Tiwari learned in the training program was never to agree excessively with one party by saying ‘That’s right’ or ‘That’s happened to me.’
Tiwari’s only complaint is that he cannot go through the program once every year.
‘It definitely applies to your personal life and teaches you practical skills, but the personal growth was even more worthwhile,’ Tiwari said.
The deadline for the 2006 program was Friday, April 28, and the actual training session will last from Sept. 11 to Sept. 15 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The 35 accepted applicants will include staff, faculty, undergraduate and graduate students. If you missed the application deadline this time, the program runs at the beginning of every year. For information about the program, students can go to the Office of the Ombudsman located in Room 437 in the Administration Building.
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