On Friday, April 23, the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution hosted ADR at the Roots: Exploring Diversity and Equity in the Field, a virtual symposium that convened scholars to consider the role of dispute resolution in advancing fairness and justice within the legal system and for society at large. Over one hundred attendees joined the program, including law and ADR faculty, practitioners, and students from around the world.
I welcomed the guests and Dean Paul Caron shared the following remarks, “There is so much work to be done in our society — to understand and uplift one another. And I am grateful that Straus has convened us to reflect, collaborate, and make progress so that the arc of the moral universe continues to bend towards justice.” Professor Phyllis Bernard delivered a powerful keynote, Welcome to the Inflection Point 2021, where she identified societal factors such as increased automation, a displaced workforce, and a widening wealth gap that may lead to social and economic insecurities. Professor Bernard highlighted the critical role dispute resolution practitioners can play in promoting peace and justice for our society.
The first plenary discussion, Diversity in Conflict Resolution Education, centered on obstacles and opportunities to promote diversity in ADR classrooms and practice. I moderated the discussion between Professors Jacqueline Font-Guzman, Homer La Rue, and Sharon Press. The presenters discussed the importance of safe spaces as a prerequisite for belonging, especially as it relates to institutional DEI initiatives. Each panelist also shared efforts they are leading to advance diversity in their work, including Professor La Rue’s Ray Corollary Initiative. Pepperdine Caruso Law Professor Tiffany Williams shared brief remarks on the ethical duties of dispute resolution practitioners–both lawyers and non-law professionals–to promote equality and justice.
Professor Stephanie Blondell, who serves as Director of Straus’ Masters in Dispute Resolution Program, moderated the secondary plenary session, Addressing Bias in Dispute Resolution, which featured Professors Lisa B. Amsler, Isabelle Gunning, and Andrew Mamo. Each panelists shared their scholarly works which provided opportunities and interventions in mediation practice and design.
Judge Danny Weinstein, who serves as Distinguished Mediator in Residence for Straus, presented the Champion for Diversity in ADR award to Professor Blake Morant, for his commitment to advancing diversity within the legal profession, as well as his dedication to promote civil dialogue. Professor Morant spoke on these points in a closing keynote address. Chalak Richards, assistant dean for diversity and belonging at Pepperdine Caruso Law, shared her appreciation for Professor Morant’s work at Pepperdine and beyond.
Aparna Gupta, associate director of the Straus Institute stated, “The roots of mediation in the United States can be traced to the civil rights movement, when communities sought an effective model to resolve conflict without violence. Our symposium aimed to unearth this history and illuminate how ADR programs and practitioners can address bias and advance equity.”
The full video for the event may be found on the Institute’s Beyond the Dialogue webpage [https://law.pepperdine.edu/straus/beyondthedialogue/].
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