Project Hosts Campus Academy

by Jason Ketchum, Salvia Jannat, Rebecca Joseph, and Julia Sivertson

On August 9, 2020, the Divided Community Project commenced a virtual “Campus Academy” for more than fifty leaders from six colleges and universities: Case Western Reserve University, Menlo College, The University of Hawaii at Manoa, The Ohio State University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the University of Oklahoma. Over the course of the three-day program,  these core leadership groups engaged in a variety of learning opportunities to strengthen conflict resolution-related planning and capacity building, to support and strengthen the development of functional local convener groups for these campuses, and to provide space/time to plan  to face the multi-faceted (COVID/racial justice/policing/political polarization) challenges ahead..  The Academy kicked off with a campus-based crisis simulation designed to highlight lessons framed in DCP’s campus-themed reports.  Thereafter, participants engaged in two days of plenary sessions, campus leadership meetings and peer-to-peer conversations designed to support leaders as they consider how to prepare campuses to grapple with potential demonstrations, protests, and divisions which tear at the fabric of the campus community.

The Springton Campus Simulation highlights current tensions on campuses fueled by clashing viewpoints on national immigration policy. The simulation prompted university leaders to consider, in real time, how they might strategically resolve campus tensions in response to contentious proposed legislation, divisive speakers desiring a platform on campus, and the conflicting immigration policy perspectives among campus constituents. Over the course of ninety minutes, Academy participants faced numerous plot-twists which challenged them to think creatively under pressure about their solutions to dealing with campus division.

Following the simulation, Academy participants engaged in a debrief to parse out valuable takeaways while establishing goals, expectations, and points of focus for the following two days. Participants shared with one another moments which were especially surprising or frustrating and important lessons learned from their simulation experience. Academy facilitators concluded the simulation debrief by summarizing strategies identified in DCP’s campus-focused reports which participants could consider implementing on their own campuses.

Because the participants spanned five time zones, from Maryland to Hawaii, the schools were divided into in two groups (east coast/west coast & Hawaii) and the simulations/debriefs were conducted asynchronously.  The two groups came together at the beginning of the second day for the remainder of the Academy.

Beginning Monday, August 10, participants dove into two days of fast-paced plenary sessions and work groups, beginning with a plenary session on dealing with unrest as it occurs. A university chancellor and police chief kicked off the session, providing inspirational lessons by highlighting their own experiences dealing with campus division and unrest, and illustrating concepts including tips for honest and transparent communication.

The second plenary session featured a former U.S. Marshal and a former regional director with the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service and focused on preparing campuses for division and unrest during this time of extreme national polarization. Panelists included leaders from law enforcement and academia. The discussion highlighted protocols and best practices in dealing with conflict and division. Panelists emphasized the need to recognize different categories of incidents on campus in order to respond effectively – distinguishing those incidents that are planned versus spontaneous and those that are structured versus leaderless. Panelists encouraged participants to understand that conflict is a natural phenomenon that is neither inherently positive nor negative, recognizing that once conflict is accepted, it can be managed and channeled into a positive force.

Day two concluded with a plenary session featuring a provost and a chief diversity and inclusion officer who highlighted the need for developing campus resilience, focusing on the proactive positive roles campus leaders can play during times of crisis when a culture of resilience exists. Panelists emphasized a need to rely on pre-existing relationships within the community to create and sustain a culture of resilience. Accessibility and transparency of campus leadership is particularly important. Constituents, including faculty, staff, and students, need to know who their leaders are, what values their leaders align with, and how to reach their leaders when needed.  Transparency builds a culture of trust and respect that fosters the constituents’ willingness to rely on campus leadership. Given the nature of the pandemic, panelists recommended prioritizing technology platforms and social media to sustain accessibility to leadership in a timely fashion. The panelists warned that slow, vague, or defensive responses can be interpreted as invalidatingf constituents’ perspectives. Campus leadership must demonstrate to constituents that the various perspectives are being heard, valued, and considered even, and especially, if the university’s answer is “No” or “This will be a long process.” A genuine, empathetic answer is more important than a perfect one!

On the third and final day, participants attended plenary and small group sessions led by subject matter experts focused on addressing challenges for working in the current context of COVID-19, racial tension, social media and political polarization. COVID-19 brings unique challenges to college campuses. Traditional campuses leveraging on-campus residence halls place great emphasis on sharing common spaces in order to foster community. Social distancing measures and virtual classes can create barriers to the social cohesion. The panelists also discussed anticipating new disciplinary challenges, as thousands of students are asked to adhere to strict public health guidelines. Panelists emphasized the importance of a healthy campus culture that instills communal values in all students, encouraging them to be accountable to each other and themselves.

Panelists highlighted, however, that being “in this together” does not mean that students experience pandemic-related hardships in the same way or to the same extent. Students from backgrounds of privilege may experience new feelings of loss and marginalization due to restricted sense of freedom. Panelists noted that this could create an opportunity to build empathy across student groups, where students in privileged positions could begin to understand the frustration and trauma that accompanies loss of freedom. However, university leaders should be cautious not to allow students in privileged positions to create false equivalencies between COVID-related experiences and the lifelong marginalization of students of color, from low income backgrounds, and other less privileged groups.

Panelists also revisited technological tools for building relationships and provided insight regarding first amendment protections during divisive moments. Notable recommendations included leveraging dispute resolution protocols to help create sustainable environments of empathy and trust on online communication platforms. Additionally, in discussion regarding mitigating and managing hate speech on campus, panelists recommended that campuses provide clear communication on campus values, making clear that hate speech does not align with the campus’s culture of inclusion.

Finally, the third day concluded with an opportunity for participants to self-select from a number of small-group sessions based on their specific interests. Session topics included effective communication on racial issues, designing systems to address conflict and build coalitions to effect systemic change, and understanding social media as a source of abuse and amplification of harmful rhetoric. Participants had the opportunity to engage in small group discussions with subject-matter experts, allowing time for intimate conversation and question-and-answer. Following these sessions, participants came back together for final closing remarks from each other as well as from DCP leadership. Altogether, participants and facilitators spent nearly eighteen hours on Zoom over the course of three days.

DCP will continue to work with the six campuses who participated in the Campus Academy and will look for opportunities to expand this work in the months ahead.

The Campus Academy was funded by the Jacques M. Littlefield Foundation.


JAMS Announces Additional Support for DCP

On Monday June 8, 2020, JAMS issued the following press release in which it announces an additional $100,000 contribution to the Divided Community Project through the JAMS Foundation.  With today’s commitment, JAMS has committed a total of $1 million to the Divided Community Project:

A Message From JAMS President & CEO on Anti-Racism and Diversity

As the CEO of a dispute resolution provider that is driven by a core set of values including neutrality and diversity, the tragic death of George Floyd and the loss of so many other lives has left me, like many throughout the world, angry and sad. We cannot be neutral when it comes to injustice and equality. JAMS must fight against racism, commit to speaking up and stand with those whose voices need to be heard. We are unwavering in our support of diversity and inclusion.

We embrace diversity and recognize that each individual is unique. We strive to listen to each other and celebrate the rich dimensions contained within each person. No matter a person’s age, race, color, gender, sexual orientation, disability or religious beliefs, we value everyone.

JAMS may not have a solution for all that is transpiring right now. However, we want to continue to create a work environment that serves as a safe haven for our associates, panelists and clients. We recognize that not everyone is okay right now, and that in particular our black panelists, staff and clients need to be supported and heard. 

As a leading provider of dispute resolution services, it has always been our mission to bring people together.  As an example, The JAMS Foundation is the leading non-profit in providing financial and other resources for conflict prevention and resolution. They continue to support organizations that specifically address the deep divisions within our country and some of the resulting consequences as we have seen during these past weeks.

As a continuation of those efforts, JAMS through our Foundation is making a $100,000 donation to support ongoing and new efforts of the Divided Community Project’s “Bridge Initiative,” which will bring the overall contribution to $1 million over the last five years. Based at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, the Divided Community Project is a multi-pronged initiative that aims to bring together a broad coalition of dispute resolution professionals, government leaders, law enforcement officials, community organizers and other stakeholders across the country. This program provides public officials and community leaders with resources and technical support to plan for potential civil unrest before it occurs and to respond constructively to violent social conflict that does erupt. 

The JAMS Foundation has long-standing relationships with, and provides financial assistance, for many conflict resolution and community mediation initiatives such as The New York Peace Institute’s Police Training and Mediation Referral Initiative, which provides training to police officers to de-escalate and resolve conflict and to foster more positive relations with the people and communities they serve.  This program has demonstrated positive results and is pursuing expansion in several cities across the United States. 

Supporting these types of organizations is incredibly important, especially now. We believe in their work and encourage others to learn more about them, which you can do by visiting JAMS Foundation.

We’re proud of the strong relationships that JAMS has built with dispute resolution professionals and community advocates who are fighting racism, injustice and division through focused and meaningful programs.  This is just a starting point. We are dedicated to not only seeing how we can support diversity and inclusion internally, but also being part of a larger solution. While we cannot alter the past, we can work together to create positive change in the future.

Chris Poole
JAMS President and Chief Executive Officer

Smallwood & Stulberg Named DCP Co-Directors

In March 2020, Joseph (“Josh”) B. Stulberg transitioned to serve as the Divided Community Project’s Co-Director.  Josh, recently retired Michael E. Moritz Chair in Alternative Dispute Resolution at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, has been engaged with DCP since its inception in 2015.  One of the nation’s pre-eminent mediator trainers, Professor Stulberg is the only individual to participate in conducting mediator training for the U.S. Attorney General’s original Neighborhood Justice Center programs in Atlanta, Kansas City, and Los Angeles. He has trained nearly 10,000 people across the nation and the world to serve in court, agency-based, or community-based dispute resolution programs. Josh has published more than 60 articles in professional journals on theoretical, policy, and practice issues in dispute resolution.

In May 2020, Carl D. Smallwood joined Josh to serve as DCP’s Co-Director.  A retired partner at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP in Columbus, he focused his community service on diversity/inclusion, particularly on broadening law-related secondary school academic enrichment and post-collegiate educational opportunities for underrepresented and underserved communities. A past president of the National Conference of Bar Presidents, he was the first African American president of the Columbus Bar Association, where he also led the Managing Partners’ Diversity Initiative, a five-year commitment by 22 local law firms to make a concerted effort to recruit, hire, retain, and promote minority lawyers.

Carl has attended each of the Divided Community Project’s conferences at Moritz. He spearheaded the development of – and now chairs – the Greater Columbus Community Trust Initiative, the model ‘community leadership team’ format used in DCP’s National Academy initiatives.

Josh and Carl take over leadership from DCP’s second director, Becky Monroe.  Becky, now leading The Leadership Conference’s Fighting Hate and Bias Initiative, continues to serve on DCP’s Steering Committee and supports the Project’s Bridge Intiative @ Moritz.

Real-World Scenarios for Campus Leaders

by Henry Wu

During this period of polarization in our national life, college and university leaders’ decisions are pivotal. National unrest can quickly manifest into unrest on college and university campuses. But new challenges come with new opportunities. Campus conflicts provide teachable moments — university leaders can encourage students to engage in the issues of the day and learn to advocate, negotiate, facilitate, and understand each other. Preparation is vital to making wise choices in the immediate aftermath of a divisive incident or conflict.

We believe that it can be helpful for college and university leaders to learn from examples at other institutions. Wayne Maines, Vice President, Safety and Operations, Austin Community College, explained that he uses examples of campus conflict or crisis from another institution to engage everyone in the regular cabinet meeting in a 10-minute “what if” scenario where they are asked to talk about how they would respond if confronted with similar facts. The practice of regularly talking about how they would respond has helped clarify roles, identify areas of need, and improve crisis preparedness.

As part of the Divided Community Project’s Virtual Toolkit, we have created several short hypothetical fact patterns about divisive incidents on college and university campuses. These examples discuss a range of important issues. For example, how should university administrators respond to student protests against racial injustice? What role, if any, should campus police play when there is student unrest? What policies should schools consider to ensure student safety/well-being and to protect free speech on campus? These are only some of the questions that are worth discussing. We encourage campus leaders to carefully think through each example, talk through the steps that one would take, consider relevant questions, and develop actionable plans.

The fact patterns are available here.

Bridge Initiative Issues Report on work in Bloomington

On December 4, 2019 the Bridge Initaitive @ Moritz issued this report to the Bloomington (Indiana) community summarizing its work and highlighting potential next steps for the Bloomington community.

This Indiana Public Media article discusses the publication of the report:

A community conflict consultation group released a report Monday suggesting Bloomington assemble a task force to help oversee racial issues in the city.

The Divided Community Project’s Bridge Initiative, which is run out of The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, began its report in August after Mayor John Hamilton reached out to the group to help create “a structure upon which local leaders could begin to address these issues through action planning.”

At the time, the city had to shut down the Farmers’ Market for two weeks because it could not guarantee people’s safety after one vendor’s ties to a white supremacist group surfaced. 

While the Bridge Initiative report was spurred by the Farmers’ Market controversy, Bloomington Communications Director Yael Ksander says its purpose was to provide a broader view on racial issues in the city overall.

“This report and that community task force, that is something to deal with ongoing issues of racism in Bloomington,” she says.

William A. Johnson, former three-term mayor of Rochester, New York, led conversations with just over 45 individuals, including dozens of local community leaders and nine city officials. Both the mayor and chief of police participated.

Ksander says the report’s main findings show Bloomington has some work to do, but seems up to the task.

“The report very much concedes that racism and other forms of discrimination are a real thing here in Bloomington,” she says. “The other takeaway was that Bloomington does put its money where its mouth is and does have the engagement and the caring and the desire to address things head-on.”

The report suggested the task force be comprised of a diverse group of voices from around the community, and it should be the community that puts it together.

“That is very specifically and explicitly meant to be a community-led effort,” Ksander says. “So, although the city will for sure support it and city people will be part of it, how that is to be developed and next steps are all to be determined – and to be definitely determined by the community stakeholders who partake in it.”

The Board of Parks Commissioners will meet next Thursday, Jan. 9 to discuss the future of the Bloomington Farmers’ Market.​

To read the full report, click here.

For additional information about the Bridge Initiative @ Moritz, click here.

DCP Launches Campus Academy Initiative

The Divided Community Project (DCP) will work with teams of college and university leaders as part of the Divided Community Project’s Campus Academy, scheduled to take place on August 9-11, 2020, and simultaneously conducted at the host campuses of The Ohio State University (Columbus, OH) and Menlo College (Atherton, CA in the Bay Area).  The Academy will take place either with teams meeting in-person at the host sites and connected to each other virtually or entirely online, depending on what seems wise given the course of the pandemic.

The program’s goals are three-fold:

  1. Strengthen conflict resolution-related planning and capacity building.
  2. Support and strengthen the development of a local ‘core’ leadership convener group for a handful of campuses.
  3. Provide planning opportunities for each core leadership group.

The application for the 2020 Campus Academy is now closed. For more information for campus leaders, please visit our virtual toolkit page. For more details about the Campus Academy Initiative, click here.

Funding for this initiative is provided by the Jacques M. Littlefield Foundation.

Thomas Battles to Lead DCP’s Bridge Initiative

Effective in February 2020, Thomas Battles joined the Divided Community Project as the Lead Mediator of the Project’s Bridge Initiative @ Moritz.

Mr. Battles recently retired as a regional director for the Community Relations Service (CRS) division of the United States Department of Justice. The unit was established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to serve as a “peacemaker” in communities with tension from race, color and national origin-related conflicts. It is the only federal agency dedicated to working with state, local officials, and community groups in, “restoring racial stability and harmony” in regions impacted by racial tension. In 2009, the agency’s mission was broadened to include hate crimes related to gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion and disability.

Mr. Battles became a regional director in 2003 — overseeing eight states including Florida — after working more than two decades in a front line role in Miami, Florida. As a director, he was responsible for mediating racial and ethnic disputes. His unit gained national attention in 2012 during the racial unrest that erupted in Sanford, Florida, after an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman.

Harvard Podcast features DCP

Release on March 10, 2020, DCP is featured on the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program podcast Thanks for Listening.  Titled “Listening for the Divide“, podcast hosts Sara del Nido Budish and Neil McGaraghan interview Becky Monroe and Bill Froehlich about DCP’s work.  The podcast and an accompanying transcript are available on HNMCP’s website.

This description is pulled from HNMCP’s website:

Welcome to the sixth episode of our podcast, Thanks for Listening!

What can communities do to bridge divides and address simmering tensions before they boil over? Our guests on this episode, Becky Monroe and Bill Froelich, ask this question each day in their work at the Divided Community Project, based at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.  As we heard in Episode 3, facilitated dialogue helped communities in MN heal in the traumatic aftermath of the killing of Philando Castile. The Divided Community Project supports communities seeking to reach across divides and engage tension before it boils over, and builds their capacity to engage when a crisis does erupt.  Join us in this episode as Becky and Bill describe the origins of the Divided Community Project, the challenges of surfacing underlying and long-standing tensions, and how they engage with communities to “listen for the divide.”

DCP Hosts Second Academy Initiative

On March 1, 2 and 3, 2020 DCP hosted the Project’s Second Academy Intiative in Chicago, Illinois.  Working in partnership with the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution, DCP used its reports, case studies, simulations, and tools to train diverse leadership groups from four communities:

  1. Bloomington, Indiana
  2. Charlotte, North Carolina
  3. Indianapolis, Indiana
  4. Midwest City, Oklahoma

Funded by the AAA-ICDR Foundation, the Academy is desinged to

  1. Strengthen conflict resolution-related planning and capacity building.
  2. Support and strengthen the development of a local ‘core’ leadership convener group for four communities.
  3. Provide planning opportunities for each core leadership group.

Second Edition of Core DCP Reports Released

First published in 2016, the Divided Community project is proud to announce the release of the second edition of its core documents, Key Considerations for Leaders Facing Community Unrest and Planning in Advance of Community Unrest.  Both documents were updated with The Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.

The second edition of Planning in Advance

. . . distills lessons from recent experience with community unrest that can be useful to those who want to have a plan in place before turbulence occurs. Each community can adapt these general lessons as its leaders prepare a plan tailored to their community and the reasons for division within that community. The planning suggestions offered in this document can be used to assess and improve the resilience of a community, to identify issues and create ways to address them before they cause an eruption, and to be prepared to deal constructively with unrest if it occurs.

The recommended strategies do not stifle the public expression of concerns and emotions in large group settings. Indeed, the strategies recognize the key role protest and unrest play in a  democracy. Rather, the message offered in this document
reflects the conclusions of experienced mediators, public  officials, and advocacy group leaders that communities with division need not become polarized communities with groups that have stopped listening to opposing viewpoints, have demonized those who subscribe to them, and are prone to destructive and violent community unrest. Instead, communities can develop effective ways to solve problems even in the midst of differences and avid advocacy for change. They can also gain by being ready in the event that community unrest occurs, either as the result of local concerns or outside groups
seeking to use a local event to express concerns about a national issue.

The second edition of Key Considerations

. . . addresses key considerations for leaders faced with these difficult situations.  The first section provides suggestions leaders can employ to help their communities handle the immediate aftermath of a divisive incident. These considerations include: bringing in skilled mediators to help mediate the conflict and assist in developing strategies at every step; working with law enforcement, key stakeholders, and the media; defining and framing the issues; and building trust. The second section deals with longer-term strategies for addressing the causes of conflict. The goal of the strategies is to facilitate the constructive expression of concern and to guide this advocacy to enduring resolutions rather than to violence and deeper bitterness.  Each of the suggestions includes some possible strategies for implementation and an illustration of the strategy in practice. The Appendix lists resources for securing additional information.