A Hot College Dispute Crying for Mediation

A story that has exploded on to the national scene is occurring in Columbia, Mo. where athletes whom are black are angry and threatening to withhold their performance due to racial aggression from other students at the University of Missouri and the lack of empathy, understanding and reasonable response from MU System president Tim Wolfe.

The football players, currently seeing no other option to being heard and facilitating dialogue and change, are demanding that Wolfe step down before they resume sharing their skills on the field for the Tiger football team.

The students feel that racism is being enabled, that leadership is turning a blind eye towards the problem, thereby conveying the behavior is acceptable.

A resignation or firing could happen but the easiest, smartest, most effective application for resolution is mediation and it’s available, with mediators in the area or willing to travel.

What shouting, stonewalling, threats and stonewalling can’t do, the process of mediation can do – get people together, stimulate conversation, help people feel heard, understood and empathized with, define the problem, identify things in common and collaborating on solving the dispute in different ways that the parties can find acceptable.

Right now, trust is absent, irrational thinking and cognitive biases are present and problem solving ability is low. Anger has triggers and is a secondary emotion. All this is in the way of moving from conflict to a receptive state of working together, to finding out how the parties can work to satisfy interests.

Of all places, shouldn’t an University and shouldn’t school and government leadership dive into something evolved as mediation to get to the root of the pain and work to heal and solve yet another situation of hurtful behavior towards part of our society?

A lot is at stake and this story is only going to get more attention, bringing either highly negative publicity to the school and town or be an example of the good that come from conflict when skilled mediation is pursued and applied.


Michael Toebe

Michael is a conflict management specialist, serving businesses and individuals in strategically, effectively gaining deeper understanding of conflicts and disputes and working through them more protectively and wisely. MORE >

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