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Frequently Asked Questions

Why mediation?

Mediation is meant to provide a safe space for two or more people to talk through a conflict. People involved in a mediation are asked to be as honest as possible about their thoughts even though new information can sometimes arouse unwelcome feelings. The program attempts to help each participant understand and come to terms with the issues involved. We hope in this way to foster agreement or closure regarding the situation for both parties. As an alternative to adjudication (see next question) mediation can be a help in preventing graver consequences.

How can mediation be used as alternative for judicial and grievance procedures?

Faculty, staff and students have handbooks with well-defined grievance and judicial procedures. In addition to these formal steps, mediation is available as a first step in an attempt to resolve a conflict. Mediation is informal and involves the conflicting parties without having to involve supervisors or judicial officers. Notation on a work record or student's record are not involved when mediation is used. Supervisors and college officials do not need to know that a mediation took place.

If the results of mediation are not satisfactory, either at the time of mediation or in the future, either party may always revert to the official judicial or grievance policy. The discussions held during the mediation process are confidential and will not be revealed to the judicial or grievance official by the mediation moderators. You will start fresh in the judicial or grievance procedure.

Does the program only handle room-mate conflicts?

Although the mediation program receives a number of room-mate disputes, we are also prepared to handle a variety of conflicts. Cases between a student and a professor, two members of a club or sports team, two staff members or even between a staff member and his/her supervisor are welcomed by the program.

What if I have problems with someone in a position of authority?

One characteristic of mediation is that it can allow a more equal and therefore honest exchange. Enhanced communication is sometimes the only thing two parties need to resolve their dispute. Having a dispute with someone in a position of authority or someone you supervise should not inhibit you from trying mediation instead of using more formal procedures. Mediation will not preclude other options should mediation fail. In the past we have conducted successful mediations between students and faculty and between staff members and their supervisors.

What do I do if the other person does not want to do mediation?

Since mediation is voluntary for all parties concerned and since this is an integral strength of the program itself, there is no compulsory participation. If the other person involved in your conflict does not want to do mediation, mediation staff may be able to help find other alternatives for conflict resolution.

When is mediation scheduled to take place?

The mediation program often schedules mediation for certain times of the week but if none of these are convenient to the participants, different times can be arranged. An effort is made to schedule the mediation in less than a week of the received request.

Sessions can usually be arranged for employees on or off the work schedule. Supervisors are often willing to schedule mediation during working hours, but if a participant does not want the supervisor to know about the mediation it can be scheduled after work hours.

How long does mediation take?

Mediation sessions generally last between one and two hours. Not all issues may be resolved in one mediation session. Mediators welcome second meetings or follow-ups if such are deemed necessary by the participants.

Can I choose my mediators?

You cannot choose your mediators. The person arranging the mediation tries to balance the mediation team in terms of gender, category (faculty, staff, student), etc. The mediators are told the participants' names and generally will not mediate a case where they are familiar with one or more of the parties.

If you get to a mediation where you cannot work with one of the mediators you may refuse to continue with the mediation and ask for a new set of mediators. This has not happened in our experience to date.

What if mediation does not solve the problem?

In spite of the clarity that better communication brings, this does not always produce mutually agreeable resolution to conflict. The mediation program has no power to impose or enforce any proposed solution. Any resolution created/discovered within the program must by definition be mutually agreeable and acceptable to all involved parties. If mediation does not bring about a mutually satisfactory solution for the parties involved, another strategy for conflict resolution should be considered.


Phone Mediation: 610-690-6853 or email: mediation@swarthmore.edu

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