Reflections on Campus Collaboration and Virtual Tools

On April 24 Divided Community Project (DCP) Deputy Director Bill Froehlich and Steering Committee Chair Grande Lum joined HNMCP’s Neil McGaraghan and Kyle Strickland (from the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity) to record a webinar session for the ABA’s virtual conference. Bill shares a few reflections on the session which focus on virtual collaboration, tools and training. DCP would love your feedback on the tools discussed below, as well as your ideas for community and campus collaboration in this new virtual world.

Grande, Neil, Kyle and I were looking forward to joining so many of you in New Orleans. On April 24 we recorded a session for the virtual version of the conference which highlighted DCP’s newly launched (in collaboration with the Kirwan Institute) virtual toolkit, HNMCP’s brilliant podcast “Thanks for Listening”, and demonstrated DCP’s new “Springton University Simulation,” which focuses participants on how to lead during divisive campus incidents. The full webinar will be released on May 22 at 4 pm ET as part of the ABA Dispute Resolution Virtual Spring Conference.

Kyle highlighted how we need to shift the mindset from individualized to collective problem-solving to build more equitable structures, particularly in light of the current crisis. He urged dispute resolution practitioners and academics to consider inequity (structural, institutional, and otherwise) as we design and work in dispute systems. Neil highlighted how so many people across political, geographic, and socioeconomic perspectives are working to address divides, including – as feature on “Thanks for Listening” – Mitchell | Hamline’s Sharon Press and Minneapolis organizer John Thompson. Before facilitating DCP’s live Springton mini-simulation, Grande described his experience facilitating simulations focused on community division and tension with students and community leaders across the country.

In lieu of an audience, a handful of Moritz dispute resolution certificate students volunteered (during exam season!) to join our session recording. Students played roles in the virtual focused Springton University mini-simulation and pulled out the following themes focused on leading during a crisis:
• It is difficult to make challenging collaborative decisions without strong relationships. Leaders should develop relationships with diverse stakeholders in advance of a crisis.
• During a crisis, community members want leaders to provide accurate information – and to do it quickly!
• A leader’s first steps during a crisis are critical – if a leader makes the wrong decision, trust will be diminished, rendering the leader less effective.

Indeed, DCP developed the Springton University Simulation and the following materials because the Project heard from numerous campus administrators who are concerned about handling divisive incidents and conflicts when classes resume in person.

1. The Project’s Springton University Simulation (a “mini” version is demonstrated on the ABA webinar) asks students to engage one another regarding a university contract with a research database company that also assists ICE. I’m happy to send you the full simulation (froehlich.28@osu.edu), including ideas for a de-briefing session with such questions as, “Suppose this happened here. What are we glad we have in place? What do we want to put in place?”.

2. In two new guides, campus leaders share with each other the sorts of dispute resolution–based considerations that campus leaders were glad they thought about or wish they would have, including reactions from student leaders:
Key Considerations for College and University Leaders: When Conflicts and Divisive Incidents Arise (2020)
Key Considerations for College and University Leaders: Preparing the Campus at a Time of National Polarization (2020)

3. An August 9-11, 2020 Academy, probably virtual, for teams of about eight campus leaders from up to five campuses. The academy uses a discussion-based approach in which the teams alternate between classes in a large session and facilitated discussions for each campus group to plan together. For applications, see here.

4. Funding from the JAMS Foundation allow the Project’s Bridge Initiative to offer free one-on-one conversations with campus leaders about leading in anticipation of and after divisive incidents and conflicts. Often the Bridge Initiative connects leaders at the requesting university with their counterparts at a university that has experienced something similar or with a mediator who has operated in a similar situation.

I’m looking forward to learning from so many of you virtually in the weeks and months ahead!

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