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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: November 25, 2002
Volume 38, Number 10

Office helps faculty, administrators with disputes

By Laurie Mellas-Ramirez

UNM is one of only a handful of universities offering a Faculty Dispute Resolution (FDR) program as well as services specific to staff.

Communication expert Jean Civikly-Powell, Communication and Journalism professor emerita, directs the office, which offers consultation and mediation services for full and part-time faculty at the main and branch campuses.

UNM also offers dispute resolution for staff. From left: John Cox, biology; Anna Maria Martinez, engineering; and Joseph Gonzales, financial aid, take part in a recent mock mediation training for UNM staff. A new training session begins in March. Call Kathy Jackson to register, 277-2993. Photo by Laurie Mellas-Ramirez.

Interpersonal conflict in the workplace affects energy, involvement and productivity, she says.

“Part of a mediator’s job is to maintain objectivity and to keep the process a safe environment in every way,” Civikly-Powell said. “Everything is confidential. There are no reports, no records. If the parties agree, we have an agreement form where they can describe ‘this is what we’ve agreed upon to settle the dispute’ and if they want the office to have a copy they give us permission.”

No one is required to participate in mediation. Faculty voluntarily agree to work in good faith to resolve difficulties. If agreements are not honored, the parties can return for additional discussion and negotiation.

To date, 68 percent of faculty disputes have resulted in mutual agreements, she said. When appropriate, the office suggests that faculty confer with other campus entities such as the Office for Equal Opportunity and the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee.

Disputes brought to FDR are often about academic appointments, workload or workspace, not being treated respectfully, not being informed or involved in decision-making processes, or a breakdown in communication.

Conflicts occur at all levels of academia, Civikly-Powell said, but more than half of faculty disputes are with superiors.

Mediation sessions are scheduled for two hours. Each person is invited to describe what he or she perceives as the problem and how it affects him or her.

“Mediators don’t make decisions. It’s up to the parties to decide what to do. The presence of a mediator certainly makes it more constructive,” Civikly-Powell said.

Another FDR service is faculty mediation training. Some 58 faculty across disciplines are now trained FDR mediators who can assist with disputes. Each semester faculty take part in the free training, which requires 32 class hours and two mediation observations – usually at Metropolitan Court. A certificate of completion is awarded.

About 45 staff at UNM are also trained mediators. Civikly-Powell said if there is a faculty/staff dispute, a faculty and a staff member serve as co-mediators. Staff mediation training begins in March. For information, contact Kathy Jackson at 277-2993.

Civikly-Powell would like to boost the numbers of chairs, deans, associate deans and administrators who are trained as mediators. She is also interested in providing training to branch campus faculty. “I’ve trained nine faculty in Gallup and I would be happy to go to other campuses,” she said.

The spring semester faculty mediation training is set for Feb. 7, 8, 14, 15. Enrollment is limited.

Call 277-3212 for information.