Campus 'Fight Club' mediates disputes

Posted by Mariel Kennedy

Though the first rule of Brad Pitt's fight club is to never discuss it, Skidmore's "Fight Club: Conflict Resolution Group" is all about conversation.

Nick Hara ‘11 and Tara DeGeorge '11 are co-chairs of Conflict Resolution Group, known casually as Fight Club. Though technically a new club, the group has been in the making for almost 30 years.

There have been several attempts to start a mediation program on campus. This small, financially-unsupported mediation-training program was opened as a part of Residential Life after the suspension of the Law and Society minor which required a mediation training course with advisor David Karp.

"The collapse of the Law and Society minor killed the program's funding," Hara said.

However, the administration recognized the importance of having such a program available to students.

"The faculty firmly believes that the club and its mission will significantly improve campus life."

The program is directly referred to in Skidmore's Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan is a 10-year administrative project that seeks to "strengthen student engagement and academic achievement, intercultural and global understanding, informed and responsible citizenship and [the school's] independence and resources."

Identified as an important campus issue, the group received full backing and a Presidential Discretionary Fund to help with training.

The program broke away from Residential Life in Spring 2010. This is the first full semester of the club operating in its current form.

Hara, a trained mediator, describes conflict resolution as more than just a place to talk about your feelings.

One of the purposes of the club is to embrace the reality of conflict. "Be ready for a fight," Hara warns.

"A core aspect is that no one is trained in real life for conflict," Hara explains.

Club member Leanne Dwyer '13 adds, "We are trained to hold things in, to be polite." Thus, many common ways of dealing with conflict are not beneficial.

Hara says that with mediation most conflicts can be resolved with all parties being happy. "You can come out not just satisfied or okay, but happy."

The main challenge is often communication. "People come in and don't even know why they are arguing," Hara said.

"The goal is to peacefully resolve conflicts on campus and make it so that people don't feel the need to hate each other or never talk," Hara said.

Fight Club offers a nonjudgmental ear for all parties involved. The club officials aim to help students see the facts of their situations in a new light.

To keep communication flowing and equal, mediators do not offer advice or opinions, but serve strictly as middle men.

Students are offered conflict coaching in a one-on-one setting where they can simply come in and vent, or mediation where both parties sit down to determine a resolution.

"It levels the playing field. All parties are voluntarily there and have equal say," Hara said.

The mediation can end at any time, and everything said is completely confidential as long as it does not involve harm to one's self or others.

Fight Club is affiliated with Mediation Matters, a nonprofit organization in Saratoga Springs that deals with civil and family court cases.

Student and mediator Natalie Petrillo-Alvarez ‘11, who acts as the Campus Liaison between the club and the organization, keeps contact between offices constantly open.

The club's senior board offers this message to the campus:

"Conflict happens every day, whether it is admitted or not. Don't be afraid of it. We're here to listen in a nonjudgmental way. Conflict is something you should grow from, and people should not be afraid to come. We're open to all students and are completely confidential. Come and yell and scream and have at it, and we'll just stay with you and keep what you tell us to ourselves."

A two or three hour conflicting coaching workshop is currently being planned. No date can be offered as of now.

Any questions about Fight Club can be sent to mediate@skidmore.edu.

Club meetings are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m in the library.

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