Portland State University’s Conflict Resolution Program kicked off its new Student Center for Dispute Resolution Feb. 1, beginning without funding or an office. Despite that inauspicious beginning, the center’s director, A.J. Arriola, is optimistic about the center’s future.
The student center was formed from a vision of Robert Gould, director of the Conflict Resolution Program, who discussed the idea of providing a peer mediation service with Arriola a few years ago. Arriola recruited some PSU graduate students, and "once the students got involved the smoke was out of the bottle," he said.
The goal of the Student Center for Dispute Resolution is to provide free student-to-student peer mediation services to students and provide a vehicle for resolving issues before they escalate into something bigger.
The graduate students from PSU’s Conflict Resolution Program who will be the mediators have been trained in the required mediation program and will earn practicum credit.
The center will deal with any conflict other than situations that involve the law, affirmative action or student conduct code violations.
As for whether PSU needs the center, Arriola says that statistics and anecdotal information from administration and faculty has indicated a need for it.
"Hopefully time will prove me right. There is a need on this campus," she says.
Bobby Puffin, a student member of the center’s advisory board, conducted a survey of PSU students to see what kind of conflicts students were having, which showed high occurrences of student conflicts with friends, family members, roommates and acquaintances. Of the students surveyed, 83.6 percent said they were unaware of the mediation services offered at PSU, and 50 percent of them would consider going to mediation at the new center.
"It will take awhile for us to build momentum," he says, and points to the success of mediation programs at other universities that make him hopeful that this center will be the same.
The center is currently supported financially by the Conflict Resolution Program, as well as part of Arriola’s salary and staff support. They’re now working on funding and space options.
Arriola put in a request to Smith Memorial Student Union for a space request on campus and put in a late request to the Student Fee Committee for $166,636 of student fee money, missing the initial funding date because she didn’t know the center was qualified.
"Right now we feel we have a 50-50 chance of receiving SFC funding," she says. She will find out if they’ll be funded at today’s fee committee budget allocations meeting. If not, they’re looking at outside resources for funding. But Arriola and the members of the center’s advisory board maintain an enthusiasm and faith in the center and its future.
"We hope to do good things on this campus," Arriola said. "The proof is in the operation, in people coming."
Call 725-SCDR if you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment, or visit their web site at www.scdr.pdx.edu