College environments can be breeding grounds for conflict. Upon arriving at college, most students are exposed to new environments and living situations. Some may have never shared a living space where they are required to live with one or more individuals who may have different values, beliefs and habits.
For some students, learning to live with another individual in a small space can be a challenge. As such, roommate conflicts often erupt and can be difficult to diffuse. Rising conflicts can lead to tension and stress in what is already a demanding academic environment.
Conflicts do not seem to end with roommates, either. As with most social environments, disputes can arise between individuals and groups with little to no prompting. For many students, it can be difficult to navigate a college community; emerging fights with friends, partners or peers can make this transition even harder.
Unfortunately, students can sometimes be targeted for individual characteristics, affiliations or identities.
With all this potential for disagreement, it is not uncommon for students or even campus organizations to become involved in a dispute. Unresolved conflicts can escalate over time, making people feel unwelcome, unsafe or unhappy in certain environments.
While conflict is normal, many students choose not to seek assistance with conflict resolution. In opting to avoid, to aggravate or resolve their situation on their own, the student can become involved in time-consuming emotional disputes on- and-off campus.
These disputes can be physically and emotionally trying—but what if conflict resolution didn’t have to be so challenging?
Recently, I had the unique privilege and opportunity to participate in a training course on the principles of mediation as an intern through the Center for Dispute Settlement. During the session, I learned the advantages of using a transformative approach for conflict intervention.
Transformative mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution strategy based on the principles of empowerment and recognition, where a trained, neutral third party provides a supportive environment.
Providing environments that support individual empowerment and recognition, transformative mediation can often allow parties to have productive conversations they may not have otherwise managed.
Mediation can be beneficial, especially for individuals or groups who remain in close proximity following conflict. Peaceful resolution of conflict is central to ongoing relationships.
In my opinion, conflicts that go unaddressed can create destructive and even dangerous situations within communities. Interpersonal conflict generated within the college community could be alleviated through the processes of mediation, which is a little-known resource on campus.
With a focus on voluntary, confidential practice, mediation could significantly benefit college students dealing with stressful conflicts.