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Resolving Campus Conflicts With Collaboration and Community

Adaptable Resolution offers more cohesive strategies in ending discord

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Written by Staff on June 9, 2023
What You Need To Know

CU Anschutz has joined a growing trend among academic institutions that targets restoring justice through adaptable resolutions: in other words, allowing opposing parties to work conflict out together.

A campus community that unites diverse groups with innovative ideas and shared interests periodically experiences conflicts. It’s just human nature. But what if disciplinary actions spelled out in university codes and policies exceed what both parties want as an outcome?

Enter Adaptable Resolution (AR).

An effort underway at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus aims to create another option for addressing conflicts. Called AR, the process offers justice and solutions in a collaborative and educational way conducive to an academic environment.

Initiated by the CU system office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) for all four campuses, members of the CU Anschutz community embraced the idea. With strong support from Chancellor Don Elliman and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Roderick Nairn, an AR program is in motion.

In the following Q&A, Will Dewese, MEd, director of Adaptable Resolution for CU Anschutz, explains the move in more detail.

Q&A Header

What is adaptable resolution or AR? How does it apply to higher education?

We understand that conflict is a natural part of the academic and work environment, and that tools, resources and support are necessary to assist community members in developing skills to effectively manage conflict.

Adaptable resolution offers voluntary, collaborative, remedies-based processes – such as conflict coaching, restorative justice practices or mediation – that allow the involved parties to establish a shared understanding of issues and find non-adversarial and non-disciplinary resolutions to conflict or concerns. The adaptable resolution processes complement existing reporting and resolution structures already in place and offer an alternative to the disciplinary and investigative responses to individual and community concerns.

Ideally, adaptable resolution allows the community to engage in early intervention to find a mutually agreeable resolution by the parties with support from trained facilitators within our campus community.

What led to our development of AR efforts at CU Anschutz?

The CU system DEI office provided funding for a cohort of faculty and staff from across the four CU campuses to receive training in mediation and restorative justice. That cohort embarked on a year-long certification program in restorative justice leadership and facilitation through the University of San Diego Center for Restorative Justice.

At CU Anschutz, the cohort consisted of individuals from: the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement (ODEICE); the Office of Equity; and the Student Affairs, Ombuds, and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs offices.

There was a shared interest in offering additional resources to help build capacity among the CU Anschutz community to resolve issues and conflicts effectively and collaboratively. Specifically, there was interest in cultivating restorative justice expertise within our community to support community engagement, belonging and inclusion for our campus community.

Who else is doing AR? Are we leading among academic medical campuses?

We are not the only academic medical campus exploring and implementing restorative justice. Many higher education institutions nationwide are engaging in conflict resolution and restorative justice work. Several use the term adaptable resolution. However, a lot of these institutions offer this resource primarily to students. At CU Anschutz, we are currently working to offer this resource to all students, staff and faculty.

We have been making connections with our colleagues across the country who are doing this work and have found an incredibly supportive network of caring individuals willing to collaborate, support and share their time and expertise. It is an exciting time to be engaging in this work and applying it thoughtfully to the academic medicine environment.

How is AR being incorporated into our campus community at CU Anschutz?

Right now, we are in a pilot phase while we continue to evaluate the unique needs of our campus community. We have begun receiving referrals for restorative justice circles, mediation and conflict coaching. Additionally, we are working to establish policies and procedures and a web presence, and we will begin this summer with a broad outreach and education campaign to share this information in greater detail with our campus community.

As with any new initiative, we are also developing processes to evaluate and share the impact of this work on our campus. Community members who want to see Adaptable Resolution operating within our campus can join us in one of our upcoming Community Building Circle experiences planned in partnership with ODEICE and Student Affairs.

How can students, faculty and staff get involved or learn more?

We are working to develop and deliver a wide range of trainings to complement the work of our colleagues in human resources and the Ombud’s office around conflict resolution to continue to build the capacity within our campus to effectively manage conflict. In the longer term, I envision developing a volunteer program for our campus community members where they can receive training to be an integral part of the restorative justice work at CU Anschutz.

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Will Dewese, MEd