A New Mediation Center

Linda A. Cicero

Molly Roberts has been mediating disputes since she was 12. In middle school, it was “mostly girls’ rumor stuff,” and in high school she helped resolve conflicts between teens and their mothers through juvenile courts in Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, British Columbia.

When the Washington state native arrived as a freshman in 2004, she contacted the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center in San Mateo and the Santa Clara County Dispute Resolution Program Services to see if she could help out. Roberts also got in touch with the University’s ombuds­person, which is how she was selected to coordinate services at the recently launched Center for Mediation and Communication on campus (C-MAC). “It really does take a student to understand other students’ journeys,” says associate dean of students Thom Massey.

For several years, Massey, ’69, MA ’72, has been meeting with like-minded colleagues at more than a dozen Bay Area schools and with Bea Herrick, ’55, of the Santa Clara County Office of Human Relations, to find ways to offer mediation services on Bay Area campuses. C-MAC will help Stanford students with “simple problems,” Massey says: “relationship issues of a romantic nature, or conflicts in classes or the dorm.”

Thanks to training and certification they received last year from Santa Clara County, 10 undergraduates are ready to take on knotty issues when the center officially opens in winter quarter. And about 60 students are headed for county certification as a result of completing Psychology 152: Mediation for Dispute Resolution, taught by education and psychology professor John Krumboltz.

In a recent class session, four undergraduates faced off across a table—two women pretending to be high school girls competing for the same boy, and two women who acted as mediators. Addressing the high schoolers, the student-mediators explained that everything would be held in confidence, and that the girls should be respectful in what they said to each other. But when the accusations started to fly, a mediator coach stepped in. She urged the student-mediators to identify specific issues and look for positive things to build on. “Focus on anything that finds common ground,” she added.

Thanks to a drive by Herrick, C-MAC has received $31,000 from the Class of ’55. And certified student volunteers are now spreading the word about the center’s services. “Stanford students feel there’s very little time, very little space, and they can’t have problems,” Roberts says. “Mediation offers space, time and confidentiality.”