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Forty students, tutors and faculty members have applied to join Dean of Students Archie C. Epps' new campus Mediation Service.
Fifteen of the applicants including seven or eight students, will be selected and announced at the end of next week, according to Epps. The service created by the College's race relations Czar is intended to train participants in resolving conflicts on campus.
Conflicts Management Group and Conflict Management Inc., the professional conflict resolution groups hired to train the mediators, will perform the initial review of the applications. Epps will then make the final decisions.
Selection will be based on a demonstrated level o maturity, commitment, communication skills and experience, according to Epps.
The first training session will occur the weekend of March 11th.
At the beginning of the application process, Epps sent letters to the heads of many student minority organizations asking them to apply.
But Epps said that while a number of the students who applied are members of campus organizations, they are not necessarily the heads of students groups.
"Many of them are students I have not met before," he said.
Responding to some house tutors' concerns that racial disputes should be handled by the administration, Epps said, "I don't agree that students shouldn't be involved. I don't think students are too young for this responsibility."
He said that the students will always work in teams of three which will include a faculty member and tutor. Coaching from the professional conflict resolution groups will be available during the mediation process, Epps added.
Applicant Andrew M. Pitcher '94 said he thinks the mediation service will fill a void in dealing with race relations on campus.
"I think that racial issues are ignored by the administration," Pitcher said. "The campus thinks this is a happy, friendly place for everyone. That is not feeling I get."
He acknowledged that peer mediating will involve certain tensions. But he said the purpose of the Service is to involve students. "The whole idea is that may be adults aren't the best ones to deal with this," Pitcher said." Its best to have people from all parts of the University."
He said it will be difficult, but ultimately worthwhile, to mediate for upperclass students. "What are you're a senior?" he asked.
But not all students feel that the mediation service is an appropriate resource for handling campus disputes.
Pankaj Tiwari '95, president of the South Asian Association, said he drafted an application but than decided he "didn't see a point to the whole thing."
Tiwari said he couldn't conceive of many concrete situations which would necessitate the intervention of an outside mediator.
"I couldn't see when student groups would turn to this over in house mediation," he said. "They have no authority, only a supposed monopoly on mediation skills."
Tiwari added that he thinks the training will help those involved but will have no practical application.
"I can't decide if [the service] is just a superficial effort by the Dean of Students' office now that [Students at Harvard and Radcliffe Against Racism and Ethnocentrism] is gone," he said.
But Ellen Fox, director of the Office of Student and Residential Life in the Graduate School of Arts and sciences, said she applied because she is "extremely committed to the goals of the service."
Fox said the service will prove an important resource within the Harvard Community "by helping to promote communication, understanding and problem solving."
"I would be interested in being of assistance in whatever area it would be helpful," she added.
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