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New Course Will Focus on Diplomatic Skill

By Andrew Multer

A Law School professor hopes student input into his Gen Ed course will sharpen and improve the advice he gives to professionals in the field of international negotiations.

Roger Fisher '43, Professor of Law, will lead seminars on negotiating skills with foreign diplomats and military leaders this September in Vienna and possibly Warsaw, the International Peace Academy, sponsor of the seminars, announced in a statement yesterday.

Fisher said yesterday his new course, Soc Sci 174, "Coping with International Conflict," will develop skills in bringing international political and bargaining theories to bear on action--the same idea he will stress in his seminars this summer.

"I am hoping to find a few students in Soc Sci 174 who will help beat some of my ideas into better shape for the diplomats and military officers in Vienna. It is not a course in what to say about a conflict but on how to do something about it," Fisher said yesterday.

The course seeks to develop analytical skills aimed at developing workable methods for future negotiations, Fisher added.

Fisher said he will require each student to research a particular conflict and analyze it, proposing a specific course of action for a specific international figure. The course will have no exams.

Nuts and Bolts

"I'm concerned with a workshop approach. I think they'll learn more by trying to work with ideas rather than being told them. That's why there's no exam--I want them to deal with reality," Fisher said.

Fisher has taught at the Law School since 1958, after serving as an assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General and as an aide to W. Averell Harriman, then ambassador to France. He also orginated the public television series "The Advocates."

John Edwin Mroz, executive vice president of the International Peace Academy, said yesterday that Fisher's "insight, his understanding of the diplomatic and military dynamics of world politics, and his open-minded approach to options for dispute settlement make him a unique resource to the Academy in its professional work."

"What counts for me is the relevance of ideas to action. Knowing everything we know about international conflict, can we say anything useful to those faced with a choice?" Fisher said yesterday.

Fisher outlined the concepts behind both the course and the upcoming seminars yesterday, stressing a desire to simplify the negotiating process to a point where reasonable goals can be achieved.

"There are skills in coping with conflict so that one does not produce needless effort or bloodshed," he said.

Fisher also stressed "reason and realism," along with a willingness to learn from past mistakes, as keys to successful negotiations in situations involving high political stakes.

"I don't want to suddenly rush in and solve the world's problems. I want to make a scholarly approach to the problem of applying theory to practice. I think it's as important as gathering new data," he said.

"There is an extent to which, when you're playing with such large stakes, a three percent chance of success is a good one. Anyway, it's better tilting at windmills than writing about them. If you're going to an insane asylum, you don't want crazy doctors," Fisher added.

Fisher said the International Peace Academy will pay him as a consultant this summer, and that he will be back at Harvard in time to teach his Law School courses next fall.

Soc Sci 174 will meet this morning at ten o'clock in Harvard 104

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