Dialogue Center Available

To the Editors:

On behalf of the Oberlin College Dialogue Center, I want to welcome you to a new resource we hope you might utilize in your coming months and years in Oberlin. In Spring 2001, based on extensive input from the campus community, a design team comprised of students, faculty and staff issued a series of recommendations: the result was the formation of a blueprint for a community-oriented dialogue facilitation group.
The central aim of the Oberlin College Dialogue Center (a.k.a. the Dialogue Center, OCDC, or as we sometimes say, ACDC with an O) is to provide accessible mediation services to the community, in such a way that each participant is empowered to have an equal voice in the process. By “mediation,” we mean a neutral forum in which two parties in disagreement come together to discuss issues with the assistance of impartial third-party mediators. The word assistance may lead many of you to say “how much?!” Mediation is premised upon the idea that, as mediators, we have no personal investment in a given situation, although we do have an invested interest in helping each person achieve a satisfying conclusion to conflict. Therefore, it is up to the parties themselves to decide what issues are discussed and what the agreement will ultimately look like: while it is the mediator’s responsibility to facilitate dialogue, we do not act in the manner of a judge or jury, issuing verdicts or giving advice. Also, it is important to note that each mediation session is held in strict confidentiality, unless a mediator is required by law to divulge information (e.g. a crime has been committed) or in situations demanding our coordinator’s immediate attention.
Requesting a mediation session is easy: just call up the Ombudsperson and OCDC’s coordinator, Yeworkwha Belachew (a.k.a. YB) and tell her your concern, whether it be seemingly mundane (“stop using my toothpaste when I’m not around!”) or a bit more serious. YB will be able to answer any questions you may have regarding the mediation process, should you give mediation a shot. Currently, OCDC has 25 trained mediators on hand, made up of students, faculty and administrators — all underwent an intensive summer training and come from a diverse background. She will do her best to tailor the mediators in line with your needs, in the way that makes you feel as comfortable as possible before you come into the mediation session.
I would like to emphasize that, on behalf of the OCDC team, and based on the recommendations of the design team and the interest of the community, we are committed to bringing open civil discourse to campus, with great care and sensitivity paid to each individual. If interested in mediation, or want to offer comments, suggestions, or ideas, please don’t hesitate to contact YB at the Office of the Ombudsperson, x6728 or yeworkwha.belachew@oberlin.edu. Thanks for reading, and may your semester be as conflict-free as possible.

–Noah Pollaczek
Member of OCDC

October 5
October 12

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