'Getting to Yes' Redux
HMS should broaden its scope, at least for weekends.
Two years ago this month, my first piece for The Crimson appeared. It was an editorial entitled "Getting to Yes: Sex at Harvard." This piece lamented the structural impediments to hooking up as a first-year at Harvard: few truly "common" spaces, no listings of parties, and general fear and loathing on the East Coast.
Two years later, I return to this noble issue. It is spring after all: the living is getting easier, and the proverbial fish and cotton are starting to rise from their slumber. Moreover, since this column will hereafter strictly concern politics, education and books, this may be my last opportunity to reflect quixotically on eros and the public sphere. Indulge me this once, and then forever after, crack the scourge of reason upon my back.
The title of my first article is borrowed from the eponymous bible of Roger Fisher's Harvard Negotiation Project. Ironically, HNP has just completed the training of the newly-established Harvard Mediation Service (HMS). I wonder if the cosmic forces at work here know of the link between the HMS and my first article...
You see, the HMS was founded to serve as a facilitator of dialogue between conflicting groups on campus. Not just any conflicting groups, mind you, but racial, ethnic and other 'difference'-related ones. This focus on only certain kinds of conflict, however, discriminates against conflicts which are not "difference-related."
What is this discrimination founded on? Doesn't Dean Epps realize that all sorts of conflict seek recognition and resolution from the Harvard Mediation Service? This discrimination is strikingly odd, no? After all, the entire theory underlying the mediation enterprise holds that all sides are more or less equal. But as evinced by the fact that the HMS will not take just any conflict, this will to neutrality is not extended universally. We should reject this narrow definition of interest. It's time for the HMS to broaden its scope. Why?
Because when you're about to give your significant other a Costanza special--i.e., "It's not you, it's me"--you will not be able to take advantage of the able skills of the HMS to work out a friendly break-up. Of course--and here's the real problem--the HMS does not only not help out with breaking up, it rejects its responsibility to help bring people together.
This is no laughing matter. For years now, we've been inundated with cries of "No means No!" Whatever happened to "Yes means Yes?" What kind of mediation service abdicates its duty to get Harvard students to Yes? Now, maybe, since the HMS is just in its infancy, we should cut them some slack. But, as long as HMS decides to focus on inter-ethnic dialogue and problem solving, it will be grossly underutilized.
For the HMS, a campus relatively at peace With itself means that it cannot justify its organizational existence. Last we stir up conflict for publicity's sake. Crimson headlines bleat: "HMS Saves Yard from Riots It Started." I say to Dean Epps, "Let's diversify our interests."
Perhaps this expansion is premature. After all, in these largely post-ideological days, racial conflict still endures. My compromise is that during the week, HMS stay focused on its original mission of resolving ethnic conflict. For weekends. however, HMS must establish a task force dedicated to the resolution of eros-driven passions.
Only when HMS declares itself the Harvard Matchmaking Service will it be worthy of its name. No earlier, no latter. Two Years later, it's still necessary to help Harvard students get to Yes. Perhaps the HMS can help you.
Dan Markel's column appears on alternate Wednesdays.