When did you come to CRS?
I came to CRS in February of 1968. I came in Washington. I was recruited first under the
work I had done in Florida that was known to CRS. They brought me into the Program
Evaluation and Development Section, PED, to be the Evaluation Officer.
What were you doing before you joined CRS?
The year before I was with the Neighborhood Centers Branch of the Office of Economic
Opportunity, and was working there on a new mission for President Johnson on building
community corporations. They singled out 14 cities across the country to show how they could
better coordinate government programs. OEO was in the leadership and some of the cities there
were going to be community corporations. This was a very interesting and excellent concept.
Before that I was a priest in Miami, Florida. I did a lot of work there with Cuban refugees and
organizing farm workers.
What was it about CRS that attracted you?
CRS's work with race relations was especially appealing to me. I saw some of it when I was
down in Miami. We had problems there. I remember two members of CRS' national staff came
down. I worked with them because I was working on community issues with the bishop. One of
them (Seymour Samet) recruited me later on while I was working for the Office of Economic
Opportunity. It sounded interesting, so I came.
You started off in Washington?
Yes. I was in Washington from 1968 to 1974. In the fall of 1974 I came up to Boston. All
the problems were continuing with school desegregation and Ben Holman, the Director of CRS,
said, "I want you to go up to Boston and take over. Those crazy Irishmen up there might listen to
you." At that time I was one of the operation officers. I really didn't want to go because I saw
my career in Washington at the national level. I told Ben, "No," but he said, "We need you up
there." In hindsight it was good for the family life, but probably bad for the career.
Did you come in as the regional director?
So you've been the regional for a long time.
I have been twenty-seven years as regional director and more than 33 years in CRS.
Do you have a case that you can tell us about?
I've looked up one that might be interesting to use as a
springboard. It is one I did at UMass, the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. The problem
goes back to 1992. It was a mediation case related to problems at the university.
Were you the mediator?
Yes, I was the major one and was assisted by Larry Turner. We provided mediation as a
Start from the beginning, how you heard about the case, how you gained entry, what kind of
assessment you did.
We had done a lot of work at UMass previously. The major
previous problem was in 1986, right after the World Series with the Mets in which the Red Sox
lost in the last game. It touched off a major campus protest and ended up as racial
confrontations. We'd been out there after that to rebuild some of the relations; it had degenerated
very quickly into a racial confrontation. Many Met supporters at UMass were African Americans
from New York who were attending the school and a number of the white kids they got into
trouble with were from the Boston area.
Is this UMass in Amherst?
Amherst. We had a history of working with UMass and UMass had a history of racial
problems. In 1992, I noticed an article in the newspaper that indicated there was a
racial incident on campus. The chancellor had met with the students. There were problems
related to one of the African American dorm residence assistants being attacked. The meeting
with the chancellor and some of the students ended up poorly and there was going to be another
meeting the following Tuesday or Wednesday--a meeting with the President of the whole
university system, the chancellor and the students.
You caught this in the Boston Globe?
Boston Globe. So what I did was -- I think it was on a Saturday
-- call the chancellor and talked to him about what was happening. He gave me a little
background. I said, "We might be of help," and he said, "Would you?" Which is very
interesting, especially in light of the type of entry problems that we have in universities.
Most of the time universities are somewhat reluctant to
invite CRS or any federal agency, especially the Justice Department, onto their campus. I know
we've had continuing problems with one of the universities here. Harvard has really kept us at
arm's length with a lot of the problems that they've had in the law school and other racial
problems. We haven't had problems in some places, but across the country higher education is a
harder entry problem for us. I think the chancellor was interested in CRS because he had had a
contentious meeting with the students and the paper reported that there were racial problems.
That is what precipitated my call to him.
Was he the chancellor you had worked with before?
No, he wasn't there before. The newspaper account occurred over the Columbus Day
holiday break. On the next work day I went there with Larry Turner,
Senior Conciliation Specialist in our office. I had set up a meeting with the chancellor and his
top assistant. The president of the university system was going to be meeting with the students
that night so he came about a half hour or an hour into our meeting. It was President Hooker.
The chancellor had already told him about it and he was very appreciative of our being there
because he had relations with CRS when he was president of a school in North Carolina. He had
brought along two of his trustees and one of them knew about our work in Boston and about my
work with people up there. They were very pleased with our willingness to be of assistance. So
there was no real tension related to us. It was more a matter of how do we address the problem
and what can be done. So we met with them and the person who became their primary person for
dealing with us was an assistant chancellor who was the head of student affairs.
We discussed the issues and problems. On a Saturday, the
resident assistant, who was African American, had stopped some of the white kids who were
drinking. He told them to stop drinking. One said "No," hit him, knocked him down, and beat
him up. He was kicked outside. It wasn't done by a student, but by a guest of one of the
students. This took place in September and a week later nothing much had been done. Then
there was another confrontation between that resident assistant and a student who came to
another one of the programs and there were other confrontations.
The same visitor?
The same visitor came back the following week for another event. The resident assistant
recognized him and was trying to get him to be removed from the dormitory or be arrested. The
resident assistant apparently didn't get support for what he wanted to do. That set off a lot of
feeling that the university wasn't doing anything, so the African-American students started to
protest. There were several protests but there was no major newspaper coverage, so we really
didn't know what was taking place. As a result of the protests, the chancellor had set up the
meeting which I mentioned before that appeared in the Boston Globe that Saturday.
The students were upset, not only about that incident but the most
important issue was that they referenced a number of racial problems in the past which the
University had promised to address -- not this chancellor but others -- and the students said that
they were never carried out. There was the whole distrust element that we always talk about as a
critical community dynamic that leads to racial disorders. There was a history of the lack of
confidence in the redress system that led to the very tense situation on the campus.
Was this the background to the explosion after the baseball game?
No, the baseball game took place in 1986. This was 1992, but that was part of the history,
though. After the baseball game, CRS helped set up a number of meetings and efforts to deal
with what the university was going to do. There were a number of promises and commitments
made at that time.
Student memory was long.
Yes, and I think it was fostered by a number of the African-American teachers and
professors. During our outreach and assessment process
after that first meeting with the university officials, Larry Turner and I became very aware of the
racial history at the university and the racial problems in the course of our meetings with some of
the African-American teachers and professors. There was also an African American student
center. It was a place for people to learn about the history. There were also a number of
professors and doctorate students who were personally involved in some of the past racial issues
and were still on campus. It was part of their living history. There were other incidents that had
taken place. A major source of the racial conflict, as we were informed, was that a number of the
white students coming into UMass -- which is a large institution, 30,000 students, so it's a big
city -- come from small towns and rural areas and many of the African-American students come
from the cities. There was a potential clash as there was no background or relationships between
the two sets of groups. The university really had not done a good job in developing an
environment that would be effective in bringing people of different races and backgrounds
Were your initial talks with chancellor and president part of your
Right, to find out what had happened and how they saw the issues and problems. They
were asking for our help, but we didn't know the specifics at that time. In the back of my mind
all the time is to understand what are the issues and problems and determine whether we can get
people talking together.
What other groups did you talk to?
The university officials who were present for that meeting in the
morning were our first contacts. During the day Larry and I started meeting with some of the
faculty as I noted above. The students were in school and not available during that time, but we
wanted to get some background. So we started meeting with some of the African-American
faculty, persons who knew about the issues and problems, and tried to get their background and
some perspective on what was taking place.
How did you know whom to talk to?
We knew some of the players on the faculty from our previous work there. Then one
meeting turned to another and they would refer us to some of the students or resident assistants
and other persons who were quasi-faculty.
Resident assistants were...
The resident assistants were the ones who ran the dormitories. And there were graduate
Did you talk to the person who was in charge of the residences?
Yes, they were there at that very first meeting in the chancellor's
office. They had a sense of what was taking place; the woman who was in charge of student life,
the vice chancellor in charge of all that area and the affirmative action officer. So we had the top
people there speaking from their perspectives. That night we went to the meeting with
the students and the president. It was raucous, tense and very loud. We just stayed in the
background, didn't really do anything in that period of time. As I recall, the President said
something about the Justice Department offering its assistance. It was really an airing, especially
by the African-American students and leaders, that the administration allowed this hostile racial
environment to take place, that they didn't do anything about protecting that resident assistant,
and the fights and their lack of concern. The chancellor had come to a meeting and when the
students were kind of belligerent, as they interpreted it, he walked out of that meeting and they
were much more upset with that. The underlying issue was that, "You
promised so many things in the past and these never had taken place. We don't believe you. We
don't trust you." And the new president said, "I'm new, not even a year here. Give me a chance.
We can change it. I'm committed," and that general type of response.
Did the African-American students have an organization?
Yes, there was a Black Student Union and there was the umbrella organization ALANA
(African Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans). While there was the umbrella
organization, the leadership really came from the Black Student Union. They were the ones who
carried the protest. They had organized the protests and they were the ones directly affected by
the recent incident. The other groups joined in supporting them. We didn't say anything at that
meeting. When it was over, Larry and I went up and identified ourselves to some of the student
leaders and indicated that we would like to sit down and talk about these problems and determine
whether we could be of help to them.
Were you invited to participate in that meeting?
No, the U Mass administration didn't ask us to participate, but they asked us to come to the
meeting. Since we had not yet met nor spoken with the students, they
did not know that we were coming to the meeting with the President of the university system.
We were there but we weren't identified at the meeting. We arranged the meetings
afterwards with the students, exchanging telephone numbers and the like. We went back and
forth to our residences outside of Boston. I remember the chancellor said, "Do you want to stay
at my place tonight, stay here?" They were really worried about the whole matter exploding.
Did you spend that night there?
No, but we went back and forth. It's about an hour and a half drive to our houses. We came
back on campus the next day and started a few of the meetings with the students and more with
Did the African-American students have problems in the
community outside of the campus?
When we started meeting with them, they had already developed a listing of issues and
demands. They all related to campus issues. Nothing came up with the local police as an issue.
The campus police, yes, but not with the local police or with merchants or anything like that. It
was all on the campus. U Mass-Amherst is its own city out there.The next day we continued the
process of meeting with the students and getting an understanding of the issues.
Our first priority then was to recommend that they go
through a mediation process -- get these issues out and see what help they can get in having these
issues responded to. Their concern, of course, was, "Why do we want to go into anything with
them, what's it going to lead to?" and a lot of distrust. We said, "Well, you know the president
said that he was going to follow through on this and the chancellor has committed himself to
corrective action." I said, "We're here. It's going to be different. It will be in writing and they'll
be governed by that." So they agreed. There was some hesitation on their part, but they agreed.
Our next step was to get this into mediation quickly. I think
that was October 12, and we began that weekend and had the first mediation session on Oct. 17.
We moved on it very quickly. They already had the issues. In a lot of
the cases we are involved in, the community doesn't have the issues framed properly for
negotiations. Part of our process is getting the problems and concerns structured in an issues and
demands type of format so that they can be negotiated. In this case, it was going back and forth
to the administration -- they already had the student demands -- and whom we thought should be
at the table. At the table at the initial mediation session were the president, the
chancellor, the provost since some of the issues related to the faculty, the chief of security, the
vice-chancellor of student affairs, the director of student life and his assistants, and the director of
affirmative action. The students had their representatives from their organization, ALANA. We
met with them on how to proceed and it started to fall into place. In many ways they accepted all
of our procedures. We would be the spokespersons in the dealings with
the media. The administrators and the students would not talk to the media during the
Talk about those procedures.
We wanted to make sure that they were both on the same page as to how we wanted to
proceed. We laid out how we would like to see the mediation process
proceed. We would set up the agenda; the mediators would control the mediation session. The
two parties would have their own spokespersons and those spokespersons could have any of their
other members speak so long as it was an orderly process. We indicated that these are the issues
and here is how we are going to proceed, what process we were going to use in dealing with the
issues. There were, I think, seven issues or demands. The students did not have in the listing of demands-- one of the things that we thought
was important -- the whole issue of campus security and the campus environment, which were
the subjects of the protest. They had specific demands related to the number of minority
students, recruiting of minority students and faculty, oversight of new faculty coming in, getting
rid of the name Columbus Day and changing it to a Teach-In Day.
They had these various issues but they didn't have anything related to the precipitating incident,
campus security and campus life environment. So we said that since this precipitated the racial
problems and protests, we think we need to deal with them. Larry and I added them to the
So you put that first?
Yes. It was the major concern to
everyone -- what was happening, what could be done in order to deal with the safety of the
students, basically students of color, and how do you prevent this stuff from occurring. Everyone
had said to us, "You have a bad environment here. The kids are isolated. Complaints come in
about how they're dealt with by the administrators from financial aid people to others at the
university. New students coming in, we have white kids coming in from farming areas who've
never dealt with blacks and they don't go through any type of a program of orientation." At that
time there were some good programs available. Harvard had an interesting one for getting new
students together. So that was the type of environment in our preliminary talks that we tried to
get the people to start looking at, even before they got into mediation. "What do you really want
to see happen here? What are you doing? What are the problems here?" One of the problems
was the university had run into fiscal problems over the last several years. As a result, the
administration had stopped a lot of the training. There were a number of training programs that
had been eliminated because of the budget crunch. The administration admitted that when we
asked them, "What are you doing here?" A number of the training programs that they wanted to
conduct were no longer being held.
You raised the issue and put it at the head of the agenda. Had you
discussed that with the parties before the first mediation session?
Talk about the preliminary meeting that led up to coming to the table.
Before that first meeting we spent several days at U Mass going back and forth at night to
our residences. The president, the chancellor and the vice chancellor were all involved. This
was getting wide publicity, especially after we came on campus.
How so wide publicity?
The college newspaper, the Daily, was the first media outlet that covered the events. Then
the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, and the other papers covered it.
Who handled the media?
The mediators handled the media when we got started in mediation. We would talk to the
media afterwards and indicate to them the developments. We preferred that the parties not talk
to them about any of the specifics that were taking place.
Did everybody agree?
Oh yeah. There was pretty strong trust in us from the
administration. They were very much concerned about getting this matter settled. And the
students, this was the first time they were involved in mediation, but they pretty much followed
our recommendations because we indicated that this was the process. None of their faculty
advisors -- we'd already talked to the advisors -- came up with any changes in the process.
It was helpful that we had seen some of those faculty members and
conferred with them beforehand in our assessment process.
Would you say that helped them build trust?
I think it did. The students were frustrated with the administration. I think they were
willing to try this new process of mediation. We said we wanted to end up with some written
agreements and have them put into writing. They said in the past promises made by the
administration were made in general meetings and led to nothing of substance. I said, "As part of
the process you used in the past, do you have anything in writing?" They said, "In the past, the
president or chancellor made the commitment to us." "Well, is it in writing?" "No." So there
was nothing of record that they could go back to and say, "Well they did not do this." It was all
verbal. The oral history is negative because of these unfilled promises. So, part of our strategy
was to indicate to them that there were some hope for changes this time and perhaps we could
help. With the president and the chancellor being willing to commit themselves to change the
type of process used and to follow through, and our indication to them to get it in writing, then
that could be followed through. In fact, that was one of the agreements in the end that was
written out. The chancellor was going to give a report at least once a month about progress
related to each of the agreements.
In terms of generating trust among the student leaders, what would you say were the most
significant factors that lead to their agreement to this mediation and their trust in CRS?
I don't know of too many instances where we've had problems
getting the community to trust us. That has never been a problem or issue. We almost go in with
that type of an understanding where they feel confidence in the Justice Department. We always
tell them about and refer them to other places where this process has worked.
You mean referring them to other?
Other situations, cases, communities, cities, or institutions where we have been involved
and what this process led to. Institutions like police departments, school systems and mayors,
and communities in general feel more confident when they know about X city we worked in that
had similar types of things and we helped them. I mean the inference is if you want to confer
with them call them. We say that to community groups also, especially if they don't know us or
our work. But most times, like at U Mass, the faculty members and the others who were behind
the scenes assisting the students, we had already talked to them and they gave them the green
light, so to speak. But I think what's more important is that the administration, from our
perspective, was sincere about this. So it was, in effect, like in many of our mediation cases
where we have to legitimize the community to the authorities. I think in this case it was
legitimizing the administration to the students as a party willing to go with this process in good
Was there any opposition to the mediation process along the
I think the only major obstacle was setting the time frame for mediation. I recall that once
we got into mediation there were mid-terms and students trying to get the time for them. I know
a couple of them were complaining. But we told them mediation would require some work, that
they had a week to get prepared. There are going to be negotiations. The students were going to
have to have their information together, their demands. We said, "Do
you know the data? Do you know how to address the issues, and what are your demands?
Someone needs to get some of the information related to the demands from the administration
beforehand." I know it was more about getting the students to commit their time. That
was part of our assuring them that this was worth their time and effort. As we went
through the mediation process -- we really had three formal sessions and the agreement -- there
was a lot of work in between formal mediation sessions. We had students working with the vice
chancellor regarding all the numbers from the student population. One of the demands was that
thirty percent of the student population be African American. We
ended up with goals in the agreement. They were worked out by the administration and the
students looking at the numbers. It was pegged to the high school student population graduating
in Massachusetts. I think they originally asked for thirty percent and the agreement was, once
they worked through the numbers, twenty percent.
These weren't caucuses. These were actually work groups?
We had two things. We had three formal mediation sessions. Before a couple of them there
were work sessions with student representatives working with some of the administrators to get
the numbers down and decide on what could take place. What they had to do, we urged the
students and administrators, was to make sure that they really understood what they were doing.
For example, one of the demands was for an Upward Bound program
to recruit minority students to the campuses. They had just lost their federal Upward Bound
grant, so this was a big issue. The University had come up with an alternative and had gotten
money for it. Basically, it was the same numbers, but the university wanted to change some of
the people who were involved because they didn't think the Upward Bound people were as
effective in recruiting as they could have been. The administration came up with their own plan
and money, but the students wanted to look at it and meet with the people related to it to see if it
would live up to their expectations. One of the major concerns was who was going to be hired,
fired and matters like that. The students were concerned about some of the people who were
being fired, or laid off, because of the change of the program.
How many work groups were there?
There were about two or three.
How many students were involved?
About ten or twelve students were involved from the various organizations. The core group
was always there and in a couple meetings I think we had one or two Native Americans. But the
core group and the real driving force continued to be the Black Student Union leadership.
The mediation team for the community group was totally students
Did they have any advisors during this process, the mediation?
No advisors, per se, at the mediation sessions. The advisors to the students never
manifested themselves directly. The administration had the president and the chancellor, vice
chancellor, director of community affirmative action, and the director of student life, and the
campus police chief.
What was the role of the general campus community? Was it involved in any way?
No. The newspaper was covering the mediation sessions and it
would come out with periodic reports on it. So did the Globe. The information was going back
to the general campus and public. That kept the sense of getting information back to the
community. The students did a lot of reporting back. They had meetings with their constituents
after the sessions.
Did you do anything to prepare the teams or coach them before
they came to mediation?
I think we did coaching. In one sense we really didn't have to work through the demand
process -- one thing we do in a lot of our cases. We didn't have to do that. Alerting them to what
the process was, and how it would work, yes, in both groups. And whom we thought should be
at the table. That was part of our effort. And going over the general ground rules. Other than
that it was more informal communication back and forth, of knowing in general that the students
are going to have X numbers, and these are the issues, and talking with both sides, sharing with
them just a sense of a reality framework to clarify what they were thinking so that the sessions
themselves could be productive. A lot of information had to go out to the students. We hoped
they would read all of it because the administration prepared a lot of information about what they
were doing and trying to do, what some of the past practices were, a lot of information. The
whole informal communication process was important. Also, we had good relations right from
the beginning with the student leader who represented them and was an excellent leader.
Did you ever have the need for caucuses?
No. After each of the sessions we prepared a report on what the agreements were and got it
out so that each of them knew what was taking place. We got that out in between the meetings.
Did they ever have to take issues back to their own constituencies before coming back to
agree or disagree?
Well, they kept saying that they would bring them back. Basically, after there was a
preliminary agreement reached, the students would go back to their constituents and review that.
The reaction from their constituencies was the first thing on the agenda for the next formal
mediation session. Informally, we kept the lines open to get reactions.
Was this the first time that students and administration worked
together on issues like this?
The first time on racial issues. I thought that they really developed some good relations.
The next time we went out to UMass, about 3 years ago, and in that one some of the same players
were there from the administration. One of the concerns there was whether the administration
was living up to the agreements from '92. There was another major issue and there were a whole
new set of dynamics. It was graduate students and heath care, daycare and other things that did
not relate to the racial issue. Yet they built their case around the '92 agreement. They wanted us
to be the mediators to get these changes done. But it was a whole different dynamic.
Did you go out and work on that?
Yes, I was the mediator there.
How did you justify dealing with issues that were not related to racial conflict?
What they did was incorporate it into the ALANA agreement of 1992. That federation was
still in existence to see that the agreements were being carried out. The leaders in 1996 reported
back and they would sneak in these other issues and say, "In the meantime, this affects students
of color." There was a difference though between the students and the administration in 1992
and in 1996. In 1992 the relationship continued to be very positive. It was much easier to deal
with the issues. But in '96 it was very contentious because the administration would put on the
table the various developments and other agreements that had been reached, or the
implementation process that had taken place related to the 1992 agreement. Basically they were
carrying out what they had promised. The numbers were good and a lot of the other agreements
were there. But there were some other issues and dynamics that we didn't feel
comfortable with and we really didn't want on the table because they really were not our issues.
We said, "You should deal with them separately." Back to the case that we're talking about in
'92, the feedback to the student population was ongoing and I think it worked out well.
Were there ever any times when there were differences of opinion
within the student group?
They didn't manifest it at the table. In '96 there were some contentiousness because of
non-racial issues. In '92 what they did, like with the Columbus Day issue, was to let the Native
Americans take the leadership, and they supported it. There
was a dynamic that took place shortly after our mediation process. Some of the Jewish students
had some problems with obtaining a site on campus. They used the same process that we had
used with the administration and they worked it out. So, I think the administration was very
pleased in '92 how this process really helped to settle things on campus and get the issues
resolved and it was the type of process they should use.
Would you speak about your decision to use team mediation in this case?
What we often try to do is, if we can, have a team. I prefer to
have a team, especially in high profile cases when there is a lot of contentiousness and racial
conflict; if for no other reason than to have all the parties feel comfortable with the process and
with the team.
Implicit is that it's an inter-racial team?
Yes. Inter-racial team is usually what I'm talking about. We tried to use it in a lot of work
and high profile cases, such as in the Latino community.
Do you think race tends to be a factor in generating trust in terms of the race of the
I think so. What we try to do is neutralize anything that could adversely affect the process.
I think it's easier to gain trust when you have a biracial team. The history of long competency of
the mediator is critical, but it's another part of the process. Sometimes you don't have the luxury
and you have to do it yourself and we do it. In the UMass case we felt that because of the high
profile and the intensity of the tensions that it would be important to us to start right away with a
Are there any other advantages aside from the biracial dimensions
of having a team rather then a single mediator?
I think so. The team is less cost effective and with our limited resources although it's
preferable, it is often unattainable. Having a team helps the process go better. In our rides back
and forth, Larry and I would talk to one another about the dynamics of what took place, what we
saw happening, our different observations and what we could do. I think it helped each of us to
process the conflict better.
Did you often find that each of you saw different aspects of the process?
Oh sure. You get different observations and feedback. Just in strategies of what we should
and shouldn't do two minds are better then one, especially when they both are on the same type of
level on processing information and dealing with problems.
Were there any differences among administrators that were
evident in the mediation?
Not at the meetings, but there were differences. That was part of our working with them.
There were some things they needed to work out. Part of the problem was that they had cut back
programs. Outreach to the community, training, the numbers of faculty and the recruitment of
faculty all had been reduced. They were unable to carry through a lot of the things that were
promised to the students, because the legislature had reduced the budget of the university.
In terms of security in student life what kinds of agreements were
A lot of it related to existing police practices. That would include hiring more police
officers of color and improving the relations between the police and students. The students had
resident assistants and one of the things that developed out of this was an action team to respond
to racial incidents on campus. The action teams would not only be composed of police but also
the persons from student life and others who were much more pro-student. There was the whole
question of orientation that had to be corrected. There was the matter of the training of the
support people, such as those who were in the bursar's office, and financial aid office and others
to prevent racially insensitive actions or statements. There was also the whole matter of the
faculty and how to address the problem that some teachers were insensitive to the racial issues in
their work. The provost came up with some different ideas of how it could be done. Included in
this discussion was the free speech issue and the type of workshops they could hold for the
So they did decide to do some workshops
Oh sure. They really wanted to change the campus environment. You could see it.
They did not come up with as comprehensive a program as nearby Smith College did.
We worked with Smith College, I think it was two years later, and they come up with a whole
program on diversity on their campus. One of our guys, Ed McClure,
worked in developing a really comprehensive and excellent program on diversity and how to
make it work.
Would you talk about the emotions of this conflict and how you
addressed them? Was there anger or frustration? In terms of easing emotions?
The important thing was that meeting with the president and students. We had met
previously with the president and chancellor to discuss what they were going to say. That was
important for them to help allay some of those tensions in the sense of what he was going to say
or not say.
Did the president ask for your advice?
Yes, we talked to him about how that meeting should go. He was sensitive to our work and
his work in racial problems at the previous university and he knew the dynamic there. And the
chancellor knew that he should not have walked out on the students the previous time. And that
some of the language youth used in angry situations are part of the venting process and it's
needed to occur. We talked about that. The most important thing was his willingness to convey
that things were going to change and that he knew the issues; that the students did not have trust
that the university was really going to carry forward and live up to whatever they would say. He
also had to say something about the legitimacy of their demands and that the university was
going to deal with them. So he set that tone. He did not increase the anger.
The venting process takes place and I think that no matter
what the person says it's going to be an angry type of confrontation that can leave people very
upset about what the university didn't do, about that incident, about that person being beaten up
and nobody doing anything and letting this guy come back on campus and nobody ever paying
attention to the students and other incidents. That was the whole process and I think it's
important for those things to take place. But they were able to go from there as they had planned
to the next step. We've seen so many of these things. If they aren't prepared to go to the next
step, then where do they go? That anger just percolates out there. It may recede over time as
people do things, but it's there beneath the surface. If anything else that takes place, another
triggering incident, that relationship is bad and then something else builds up and Boom!
Did you do anything that you haven't mentioned to help prepare
the students to be ready for that next step or were they pretty much ready? You said that they had
They had an agenda but we talked with them and assured them how it was going to proceed
and the most important thing was our view of the administration's good faith. That this was
going to lead to something. What they really wanted to do, here's how they wanted to do it.
"Give them the demands and you feed back to us what they're going to do." They told us, "We
gave them our demands and we want to hear from them." It's an exchange of papers. I said, "I
don't think that's the way to really do it. We'd like to make sure that we sit down together and
talk about these issues. You explain what you want and they explain, but there is some
information that has to be exchanged. Otherwise, it's not going to work. In the past there have
just been promises. Let's go through these issues and work out what an agreement is. What is
the administration going to say about your demands?" So we talked about the complexity, the
demands, and the mediation process and how you reach an agreement so that people can live up
to it. "It's a good faith agreement and each party needs to know what's entailed in carrying this
thing forward and arriving at a solution." The students' sense of it was, give it, come back and
that's the end of it.
Several things you said suggest that this might have been a good
learning experience for all of the participants. Do you think that you helped them develop a
capacity for managing conflict in the future?
Yes, I think so. When the newest conflict came up, the students
were able to resolve it through their own mediation process by sitting down and without any
external person. To manage that type of conflict was good for them. When we went in there in
'96, they really were talking to one another. There was a lot of trust between the students of color
and the administration. There was a new dynamic that came in, the graduate students,
but they were sort of grabbing that group and organization and using it for some of their own
interests. Undoubtedly in their minds was a real conflict as to what should be done and they
wanted to get some progress made in that area.
As part of your agreement did you develop a contingency plan to
deal with future conflicts or some kind of conflict management system?
The most important one, I thought, was the monthly reports by
the chancellor in the campus newspaper to detail what was taking place.
Whose idea was that?
I think in our preliminary discussions there was always a question of good faith.
Preliminary between the parties, or meeting alone with the parties?
Meeting alone because the concern was this whole lack of confidence. They continued to
say, "We don't trust you, you've promised these things in the past." We talked with them about it
and the students met separately because I think it would have inhibited any good faith
negotiations and discussions. I don't know who put it on the table, but it became the way of
satisfying everyone that there would be progress reports. We didn't want to build ourselves into
something that we would have problems complying with.
You mean you didn't want a long term involvement?
Yes, we didn't want to have it that we would meet with them every 6 months or every 3
months to have a review, but it would be built into the process. It was something that we like to
do, in our terminology, a se1f-enforcement mechanism, a process that we try to develop in the
agreements so that there is some accountability system.
Could you talk a little bit about how you terminated this case?
At the last session we went over the written agreements, we had a signing of the agreement
by the administration staff and the students. So there was a written public agreement. It's a
public document. In the last session we had the final agreement and then we had a press
conference in which we spoke, and then the administration and the students. It got a real big play
in the campus newspaper.
You spoke about the media and that you set some ground rules
that during mediation you would speak for the teams. Were the representatives with you when
you met with the media? Was there any resistance to them not being able to communicate with
the media or did they anyway?
No, the only time we had everyone together was at the last session. Other then that they let
me be the spokesperson. It was more a perfunctory type of thing. We worked out a progress
report at the table. We wouldn't share with the media any of the specifics that we had agreed to
during the interim period. It was more pablum in many ways, just to reinforce that we were
meeting and that progress was being made. We really wanted to get out the message that the
groups were very serious about these issues. The media spokesperson for the university worked
closely with us. She referred all the media people to us and the students abided by it as well.
Do you have a recollection of the approximate percentage of students of color at that time at
I think the total number of minority students of color was about twelve per cent.
Is there anything more about this case you want to say at this point?
I just thought the interesting part of this case was that it was a
higher education issue related to issues that keep coming up on college campuses and the process
of dealing with it, which we constantly try to urge campus administrators to do, is that if they are
going to work through these problems they really should have some type of ongoing dialogue, a
communication process around the concerns of students of color. We just saw those problems
this year down at Penn State. Right now we are organizing a region-wide conference on race and
higher education, two days dealing with a cross section of these issues.
In this case did the agreement call for continued communication
between the parties?
No, I don't think we had to put it in there other then that ALANA was a recognized group
and I think the understanding was that if there were problems the reports would come back.
Their relationship had developed to such an extent that the student leader could pick up the
phone and talk to the chancellor. There was a real good relationship that had developed.
In the UMASS case, you had easy access and felt comfortable
enough moving onto campus. In a more typical case, would you make a phone assessment before
going on site?
Will you talk about that process and how you decide whom to speak to and in what order?
A number of our cases come from the media and basically the
process we try to use is that unless there is already a major conflict taking place that involves
violence, there is usually time to get the information. Even when there
is major violence, say a civil disorder is taking place, our process is to alert the people that we are
coming and get as much information as we can from the community on the background of the
incident or conflict. I would say the critical aspect when we meet with any of the authorities is to
have more information than what is in the media or the press. It is critical at those first
meetings with the police chief or the mayor. They often say, "It was an isolated incident," or "It's
something that we are in control of," and there is either a deliberate or a non-deliberate attempt to
block and head off any further deliberations from outside. They often say, "We're handling it, we
can handle it, it's really nothing major."In my mind, that's the usual mindset of authorities. If you
have no more information than they do, there is nothing you can really go on. That's why before
we go forward to have a meeting is to get as much information as possible about the totality of
the picture. Often we are dealing with police-type cases. I remember one shooting and
there were two dynamics working. In going to the community and talking to them about the
issues we were trying to find out not only their concern about the officer who shot the person, but
to explain to them the process that was going to happen, the chances of prosecution, the trial and
the like. That was their immediate need. We can't satisfy that need other than explaining what
process they can use and what their options are for getting redress for what they think is an
unjustified shooting. We also need to meet with them to find out what else is taking place. That
is, what lends itself to our process, that is, to mediation and conciliation processes other than the
prosecution of that officer. That is the second dynamic.
Can you talk about this case? How you proceeded.
A police officer in Herndon, Virginia shot and killed an African
American. The newspaper headlines had "Community protests shooting by officer at the 7-11
Store," or something like that. Our first thing was to look at the newspaper article.
We didn't know any of the players at all. There were a couple of
names in there, so the phone calls started as to who was dealing with this issue. There were
some ministers and there was a community group that had taken the leadership role. We talked
to them about what was happening and what they knew about the matter. I said, "We want to see
if we can be of assistance. I would like to sit down with your group to explore this thing."
It was a matter of then trying to identify who are the players. I think regarding the
community groups, it is who is moving this issue along? Often it takes awhile to do it, but that's
our first process. I remember then calling the police chief
saying I would like to sit down with him and we set up a time for that. Then it was the county
supervisors who were in charge of the police department and calling them and saying, " I would
like to sit down with you and talk about what is happening here and what happened there and the
problems." Now because of being with Justice, I think we
can get to first base. Very few if any people, I can't recall anyone, outright say, "No, I am not
going to meet with you." In those types of cases the most
difficult process issue is the reaction in the community. There is no one reaction in the
community to a shooting death. There is no one leader. How the community will process the
death is the critical issue. The first thing in meeting with the
community was to assure myself that they were the leaders dealing with the shooting issue. After
checking out the matter in a few phone calls, those identified in the media agreed to bring several
of the leaders together who were meeting about this issue. It seemed that they were some of the
people who were moving this matter. And so I sat
down with them. Of course, they are talking about being angry; they want a prosecution; and
"What can the Justice Department do about this?" and "What are you doing?" The first thing you do is to go through the spiel about here is the process. There are
several avenues. "There is the internal review process by the police to do the investigation; you
have the county attorney; you have the state attorney general who has jurisdiction; and you have
the possible investigation by the FBI and Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice." So
at least they know what their options are, what can take place and what the process is. After that,
the other option is a civil case that can take place. "While that is ongoing," I tell them, "it is
going to take some time. You can be recommending that and asking for this investigation or that
investigation and things like that. In the meantime, I want to talk about
other things that are taking place here. What is the relationship with the police department, how
is it?" That starts the ball rolling as I try to elicit from them issues, concerns that now, with the
attention given to the shooting, lend themselves to the dynamic of dealing with the problems and
concerns in the relationship between the police and the community.
You are making an assumption about what is going on in the community?
Yes, it's based on experience, but it is also important for CRS to
try to determine whether -- it's part of the assessment process - there is a hook for us? What is
the dynamic there? If in those meetings, the community leaders said, "No, we're great; the police
are doing this; we have no problems, etc." than we would not proceed further. But we know
from our background and all the data about communities of color, especially in the
African-American community, that the general relationship between police departments and
minority communities is not good. There is a lack of trust, a lack of response, access, and it's
even worse between the youth and police. So protest activity
by itself can lead to a lot of frustration and anger and that can lead to nothing. But, if directed, it
might lead to getting at some of the issues and problems that are affecting the relationship
between the police and community. It can be a springboard to doing something positive. The
two things that have to be taken care of from our perspective, as I see it is, first, we need to know
what can be done about the specific shooting itself and the redress systems for the shooting. So
that was the first thing. We've got to clarify that and put it into perspective. It gives them a sense
of direction to follow if they want to and it puts that aside because we really can't do anything
about the investigation or prosecution. Then it gets into analyzing and assessing what else is
taking place in that community that, with the attention given to this, that maybe we can help both
the police and the community to deal with it. Anger is there. So what we are trying to do is get
that tension directed into some effective type of response. That's the
process of talking with community leaders. In that information gathering they start talking about
some of the problems, issues and concerns. After that meeting I had a meeting with the chief
coming up and the superintendent and country supervisor. So I got enough information there and
said to the community leaders, "Well, in general would you like to pursue this and deal with
some of these problems if we can get the chief and the county authorities to address some of
these issues?" And they said, "Yes." So I went back and met with the chief. When he
told me the shooting was a justifiable police action, I said, "Well you know, there are a lot of
other things the community is concerned about," and I mentioned several. He was defensive
saying, "Oh, we are doing this, we're doing that." Then I used the argument from our experience
in other places and said, "You know, we recommend meeting face-to-face with the community
leaders. We can facilitate the meeting, so you can have discussions with the community right
there about these issues. We think it would be helpful." He agreed, and most often, I think,
police chiefs do agree to meet with community leaders on police-type conflicts.
You scheduled your first meeting with the community group.
Is that typical? Do you tell the other party that you're going to meet with the others first or
that you have met with them?
It all depends upon the individual circumstances of the conflict. In some of these cases,
when there is no overt conflict, I often meet with the community first. But when there is overt
conflict, like the case we had here in Medford, I sent our people to the high school where there
were the problems and they didn't have a chance to talk to the community first. Schools were
shut down because of racial problems that occurred the previous day. I saw in the paper that the
school was closed and the teachers and administrators were meeting. I wanted our people there
early so that we could be offer our help to school officials and others who maybe didn't know
what to do in that situation. So in that situation we met with the superintendent, principal,
teachers and other school people to get a sense of what took place and the dynamics. We offered
some suggestions on what the officials might consider doing and then we set up meetings with
the community and students to get a better understanding of the issues and problems.
But in a police conflict and meetings with the chief or administrators,
the more information we have about the dynamics of the conflict, the greater the possibilities of a
worthwhile meeting. I always think that in our assessment process when we're meeting
face-to-face, authority figures give us little information voluntarily. It's that face-to- face meeting
or negotiations that we want to have, if possible, between the authorities and the community.
We're selling ourselves. We're making an assessment, getting his or her information, but we're
selling a process, and uppermost in my mind is what do we really want? What process works out
here the best? If there are organized groups in the community and they have issues,
we want face-to-face meetings. That is the optimum. Getting people face-to-face with the issues
so that they can work out agreements. The next best thing are the other alternatives where there's
sometimes a fractured community. You don't even have a group out there. What are other
possibilities? Sometimes we provide training or technical assistance
where, basically, one group is taking the lead role in creating change.
What does training and technical assistance involve?
We do a lot of training with police departments related to issues that are affecting their
relations with the community. It can be from hate crimes to police-community relations to
multi-cultural training. The training will sometimes be our response to an incident. This can be
part of or independent of their meeting with the community. For example, we had a racial
profiling complaint, but we could not get the people who filed the complaint to meet with the
police to work it out. We wanted them and the NAACP in a meeting. The chief was willing to
meet with people who felt they were victimized, but they did not want to meet. They just wanted
to file the complaint and get a response to it. I think they may have wanted to file a suit. So we
met with the chief and he was willing to take the next step. He said, "It would be good for us,
good for the community to know that we are going to have a training program with you guys on
how to avoid these types of problems in the future." It was a response to the situation or
problem, but it didn't entail mediation or even the involvement of the community in the
You were talking about the importance of developing
relationships and building trust.
I think this kind of work in race relations, especially with mediation and conciliation, relates
to the trust and confidence of all of the parties. In most situations these problems come about on
account of discrimination and there's a lot of history related to it, a lot of distrust especially of
officials and police. We do most of our work with police. So getting
everyone dealing with these problems requires that the mediator or conciliator be a person of
trust. That's the first thing, to get the confidence of the parties. The interpersonal relations
depend upon the mediator's respect for the individuals who often haven't been treated with
respect by authorities. The mediator needs to get their support and confidence that this
intervention, this problem solving, is going to lead to something. In the end, all of our work is moving toward ending the discriminatory
practices or perceived discrimination and in building relations between and among people.
I think the mediator has to be that person who already has built or is building these
types of relationships of trust between persons. In fact, I see some of our least effective
conciliators and mediators as being low in the interpersonal relationship category. Something
about their personality, how they relate to people, how they carry themselves in that relationship
is so critical. Some of the negatives of bad relations are a distance built up with the parties and
you see it in the aftermath. They're not called back by those who were involved in the problem.
They're not seen as a resource. Some of the persons who were involved in their work complain
about them. Very often they don't complain overtly, but afterwards they try to avoid them. Good
interpersonal relationships have not been formed.
They try to avoid?
Community groups and/or the authorities. It can be both, or just one of the groups. I
especially notice it with two of the groups that I think that are very critical of outsiders and I
think pick up relationships more quickly than others do. Police is one. Often it's the hardest
group other than maybe college presidents to break through. And the other is youth, young
What do you do specifically to build that trust when you come on
the scene or begin to interact?
I think a lot of it is how you come across to the person. The respect you give them, how you
treat them, the importance of it. I've seen some of our people, while doing the assessment, they
are not building the trust but almost building a negative relationship by the questions they ask,
how they ask them. It is almost interpreted, as I perceive it, as interrogation, investigation.
Could you give me an example of an ineffective question and then an effective way at
getting at the same kind of information?
Well, one of the big concerns in one of our conflicts was the lack of minorities in city
government. The mediator came into the meeting and said, "I want to ask you some questions
about your minority recruitment. How many minorities do you have in your agency?" and start
writing it down. "What did you say? Ten percent? Twelve percent?" So the mediator starts
conveying not a mediation-conciliation role but conveying an interrogation-investigative manner
and already starting to build a different type of relationship with the person. Right from the
beginning the mediator's role is being interpreted wrongly. The other is just conveying respect for
the person you're talking to. We refer to it as the informal, non-verbal communication process --
how you're relating to persons, what you're saying, what they're saying, are you listening to them,
are you hearing them, are you relating to them? That's the thing and if the persons don't feel
you're listening to them, basically you don't care about them, then you are not building that type
of interpersonal relations with them that builds the trust, confidence and the amount of respect
and feeling that while you're a professional, you're also understanding.
If you were going to initiate the discussion about minorities and the particular government
example you gave, how would you address that issue?
To the mayor, after the "who we are" and whatever, "You know one of the concerns that
we've been hearing about from the community is that there's a lack of African Americans,
Asians, other minorities in city government. What can you say about that? What's been
happening and what's your perspective on that?" Then they can start talking about what they see,
what they've been trying to do. I think their initial response is to be defensive anyway and they're
going to talk about all the things they've done and the obstacles. I lead them on, too. "Have you
had problems recruiting and what are they?" After they go through it, they'll probably say, "We
have this we've been trying to." What they have done in the past. What has worked and what
hasn't worked from their perspective and their willingness to go to other lengths when the issue
gets into a mediation process.
How do you let people know that you're hearing what they say?
I think the body movement is important with people. They can
see that when you're listening, talking to the person, what they're saying. I've seen people who
basically are not listening to what is being said and that behavior is being conveyed back to the
other person very quickly by interrupting what they're saying; by no reaction, verbal or non
verbal, to what they're saying; no empathy. It' s all these factors fitted together. This is a special
matter with police, because sometimes the natural inclination of the individual
mediator-conciliator is that this chief hasn't been doing his job and has created all kinds of
problems. He's starting to get defensive. Whether or not there's an understanding of what he's
doing or conveying, already there's a turnoff by just the looks. I think it's that relationship, that
from their perspective they are testing us out, especially when meeting a CRS person for the first
time. They really want to know who this person is, where he or she is coming from. We say
we're impartial, that we're here for a process. That has to come through. With also the empathy
that you know what they're doing, what they're going through. I think that's the problem with, I
hate to say age, but it's a certain maturity type of thing, that the person you're dealing with and
talking to knows that you understand what they're going through. Maybe you don't agree with
them, but you're not outwardly showing that one way or the other. You understand it and you
know what they're talking about. You're communicating.
Talk about building trust when you have an exceptionally
emotional or tense situation. Do you behave any differently and how do you deal with those
tensions during that time?
I think that how you deal with those are probably going to be the same way you deal with
them in a non-tense time, but with an acceleration; perhaps the problem solving has to go more
quickly. I remember one time when there was a major civil disorder in Lawrence, MA and our
people were in the day before. There were two nights of civil disorder. After the first night --
and CRS staff came in the next day -- CRS recommend several things that the city should be
doing. The city didn't accept the recommendations and there was another evening of civil
disorder. So I came in the next day and met with the mayor and police chief and said to them,
"These type of issues and problems don't have to continue. There are ways of trying to deal with
this that have been effective in other places." All I did was really repeat some of the
recommendations our conciliator made to them with the heightened sense of, "This has worked
elsewhere and can work here." I don't know whether they rejected the
advice when the other CRS staff person told them the same thing the day before because he was
an African American. They finally did all the things that we recommended. The day before they
had not. Two things I think happened. The problems continued and there was a sense that their
rejection of our recommendations did not work for them. Maybe the fact that I was a white
person stating it to them helped them accept our recommendations. I was more
directive because we had already made a number of suggestions of how the authorities could
bring in the community as a partner, from the issue of the curfew, bringing in community patrols,
the matter of an information and rumor control center, and other things that worked in these type
of situations. It was a matter of someone being directive and telling them, "If we want to avoid
any more nights of violence, let's get these things moving now and get them started or otherwise
we can continue this cycle of violence."
How about communication with the protesters, were there any
strategies for reducing the volatility?
We have a protocol and policy on what to do when violence is
occurring. Basically, it is to reach out to the community. We want to get our major course of
action there. Our goal is to reduce the violence on the street and get the issues into some other
type of venue where the people are talking and are planning meetings with one another to reduce
the violence or eliminate it and get it off the street. One of the strategies we employ for that is
getting the community leaders patrolling their own streets. We talked to the community and they
were willing to do this the night before. The first part of our response to civil disorder, before we
sit down and start dealing with the problems, is that we've got to eliminate the violence in the
streets and people getting hurt. So the community was willing to do its part. In some places they
wear yellow hats. We had them wearing shirts to identify themselves as they went out into the
streets to end the disorder and violence. The authorities accepted it and
the rumor control the second night.
Could you talk about Rumor Control Centers?
That is where there have been civil disorders. One of the ingredients of civil disorders
always is that misinformation is going around. There's a lot of fear; there's a lot of people
picking up bits and pieces of information and spreading it. Rumors come out and most of the
time they're very destructive. The police pick up things like, "Carloads of Hispanics are coming
up from Boston." This was in Lawrence. There are all these type of rumors. How do you
control that and get the correct information out both to the authorities and to the community?
What we recommend very strongly is setting up a rumor control and information center so that
information can be filtered and rumors can be investigated and properly handled. People are told
to call the police or whoever is doing the verification process. There's a whole protocol of how
to set it up and how to do it and to assure that there is a centralized type of information center
that basically is there to end the rumors and to dispense proper information to the public and the
Who generally manages that?
Our recommendation has been that they get a person from the city, usually from the Mayor's
communication center, to be in charge of the center and the people who answer the calls can be a
cross section of persons from the community. A centralized number is issued so that persons
hearing rumors or wanting reliable information are urged to call the rumor control and
information center. The team at the center checks out each rumor with the proper authorities and
provides the accurate information both to those calling and to the public through the media.
How do the people know that this kind of thing is set up and created?
Through the media, especially the electronic media, television, radio and the press.
You talked about being seen as a resource when you were talking
about building trust. You talked about communications and you talked about being seen as a
resource. Do you want to elaborate on that a little bit - what you do to be seen as a resource?
I think, especially with the authorities, we don't go in with one
strategy and one canned plan that can work. Looking at the issues, the CRS person has more
information from the community that usually wants to get access, get these problems resolved
and they have all these issues with the authorities. What you're really doing is processing
information. You're starting to get that response back on how far the authorities are willing to go
and what they're willing to do. CRS is able to cite how we were able, in similar situations, to
provide various types of services. "We had this case we mediated where they had a similar type
of conflict, people sat down, they came up with this." Or, "In the next city we trained the police
officers, we had a community forum, we had the police and the community working together on
it, or the police changed their protocols on use of force. They got to an accreditation process so
they started building community trust." In each one of those cited experiences, we're describing
CRS' efforts and the type of services we provided in that type of conflict.
That was why right from the beginning when we set up the
conflict resolution program back in 1970-1971, we pulled together all the types of experiences
we had as an agency and codified them so that we had a more uniform and proven process. Then
we buttressed that by referencing in writing, "We did this in X city or Y city." Even though the
individual mediator or conciliator has not had all that experience or gone through that particular
conflict, he or she can cite what the agency has done or what we're doing. The more current the
experiences or examples of CRS effectiveness, the better impact they have on both authorities
and the community. We're basically saying that to authority figures who often,
especially when they are in the midst of a civil disorder --we often call this a paralysis of inaction
--don't know what to do. Here, someone comes in and says, "In this civil disorder, here's what
they did in X city or Y city and it works. Here's the thing on the curfew, here's some of the pros
and cons?" It's all codified in our thinking, and that's what we try to do, pull it together so that the
mediator is not totally relying upon his or her experiences but those of colleagues and
Is that an available document or just an internal document, the codifying of those
I think it's an internal document; it's the Management of Civil Disorders.
Do you ever use as a resource, for example, a police chief from
another community who has had successful experiences?
Not usually at the time of a civil disorder. Maybe in the mediation stage afterwards, but not
in the height of the problem. Usually it's our people in there trying to get to first base, getting the
process going. Often, we will refer them to another chief or a superintendent of schools or
someone who has gone through that experience. To have them in there immediately, no, but as
part of the resolution, yes. We've used police chiefs as consultants in such issues as civilian
oversight, complaint processes, hate crimes policies and procedures; and, in addition, we have
used other citizens as resources. But I don't think any of that will work until we get the people
accepting our services and then we can do a lot.
What do you do when you can't break that barrier and someone
says they don't want you in this case, or one of the parties says we just don't want to deal with
you." Have you had that experience?
I think the hardest thing is less that they are verbalizing that they don't want you in and more
the other battle where you can see that they don't want you in and they want to put you off. I
think that's the more frequent thing. They will say, "We can handle this," or, "It was an isolated
incident." The techniques that I always use are that I don't like to allow them to make a decision
for us. I don't want to give them the opportunity of "Yes, you can come in," or "No, you can't
come in." I try to put it in a way, "Related to this incident, I'm going to be in your community
talking to some people and I'd like to meet with you." So basically, it's not, "Well I can refuse
you," as much as you don't give them an opportunity to say "No." But then in the meetings with
them, often their reluctance level goes up and down the scale. We try to get as much movement
as we can from them and that's why I say in some situations we'll get a conciliation approach
rather than a mediation approach.
What's the difference between a conciliation approach and a
I guess in our conversation here, even though we are changing the languages within CRS to
include mediation across the board, when I try to differentiate between conciliation and
mediation; mediation is the formal or informal process of people dealing with one another across
the table. It's a negotiation and problem-solving process involving the parties communicating
with one another. Most of the time directly, sometimes indirectly. Conciliation is everything
else. It can be the training that did not go through both parties; it could be technical assistance
that is provided in a situation. Much of our prevention work is conciliation because we don't
necessarily bring the parties together.
Are you saying it's anything happening before the parties began to sit down to talk?
Well, we try to differentiate the assessment process from conciliation or mediation even
though they run together very often. I distinguish the assessment as all activity that leads up to
our making a decision as to what we are going to do. That usually entails acceptance by at least
one of the parties. Everything after the assessment is the conciliation process or the face-to-face
or problem solving process which we call mediation.
Let's go back to the assessment. When does it actually start?
I think it starts right away with the first phone call that you're making. You have the alert.
In fact you can start with the alert if a person calls it into us. If a person calls into us, a
community group or superintendent of schools and says this is what's happening and I would like
your help, then the incident is the alert itself. Obtaining the details and the cooperation of the
parties is the assessment process.
You talked about working with a community group that was cohesive and you said there are
other situations where you work with them in another way because they are not as cohesive.
How do you make that assessment as to the community's state of readiness to move ahead in
different ways and address the problem?
I think a lot of it is trying to see if there is a community group.
There is a problem of a shooting death of a Salvadoran that I am in the process of doing an
assessment on right now. I'm trying to find out who is the community? Who's the leadership? Is
this an issue to the community?
Is there always a community?
When we can't find one, we're really not going to do much other than conciliation, probably
with the police or other authorities. That's when we may be getting into some training or
technical assistance. We're probably not going to be able to go further than that because we can't
bring anyone else to the table. You get bits and pieces, but there is no group.There was an article
in the paper of an African-American reporter who was stopped by the police while interviewing a
person along side the road. The article written by the reporter stated that the police stopped him
and it was racial profiling. The policeman said, and this was in the article, that he stopped them
because a motorist passing by reported that the reporter had a gun. That was in the paper. It took
place in a small community, but I didn't know if there was any type of community organization
there. So I called the NAACP, which we had worked with and asked, "What do you think of
this? Do you have any problems? They said, "Oh, yeah, that's a problem!" "What can we do
about it?" I asked. "Are there any community organizations or groups that you're working with
down there?" He said he would check it out. It ended up there was really nobody, other than the
reporter, in that community who was interested in dealing with that issue. We did not have a
local community group dealing with this issue. In the subsequent meetings on this issue, the
community was just the NAACP and the reporter. So, it's who is
taking the leadership; who are the real players in these incidents. Sometimes we go by who
comes forward and is willing to address the problem. I remember one of the problems with
which I was involved in my hometown of Wellesley, MA. One of the cases there was with Dee
Brown, a basketball player with the Boston Celtics. He was stopped as the alleged bank robber
who robbed a bank in Wellesley the day before. It led to a celebrated case in the paper. There
was a lot of publicity. Into that process came a public meeting which the selectmen held in
Wellesley at which the issue of the police treatment of him was discussed. The police were
defending their procedures. But the major issue that came out of the meeting was that other
members of the African-American community came forward and said that they had been stopped
driving through Wellesley. The issue was racial profiling even though we didn't call it that then.
There was a real problem. From that meeting, one leader reached out and helped convene a
group of African Americans, some who testified. They became the community group. Was
everyone reached out to? No, not necessarily. But, I always think you want someone who might
be on the negotiating team. If you want to make some progress, I think the best way is through
the mediation process and getting the community involved. But sometimes you don't know
whether that group is representative of the community. There was no election and there was no
formal group formed. I suggested that they call themselves something,
so they called themselves the Wellesley African-American Committee (WAAC).
They dealt with a number of problems, not only with the police but a number of other issues like
schools in Wellesley.
In that case, you were helping the community develop a state of
readiness and really coaching and helping to strengthen them.
Helping them to address the issues. The issues were out there. There was a
meeting; there were problems between the police and the community; but before you could get
into an agenda to deal with it, there had to be someone who would be representing the
community's concerns. That was a suggestion on my part. "Why don't you call a meeting of
some of the leaders and persons who are concerned with this issue and I'll talk to them about the
process that we can provide." They had a meeting and I came and talked about our process.
If they wanted to deal with these issues, here are some of the things that have
developed that are related to it. We were not going to deal with the specifics of Dee Brown and
whether he was going to be compensated or not, but all these other issues that emerged in our
discussions. It was a part of a process, just like when there is a group in the paper that is
protesting and you meet with them. The question often is: are they a
representative group or do they need to involve other people, especially if we have already talked
to other persons. We can make suggestions like the NAACP is concerned about this and so
When the minority community is organized around perceived
injustices and they make demands do you do anything to reach out to majority groups that might
feel they would be adversely affected by the demands of the minority community?
Probably in most of our cases the ones that are most directly affected would be police
unions in some of the police-community type conflicts. Sometimes they have come back and
raised questions about what has not occurred. In fact, that's one of our initiatives right now.
Related to police-community relations, we are trying to bring about a partnership between police
chiefs, the union and the community. We really believe that the union should be at the table. In
a lot of places the unions and the chiefs are still in such a state of conflict that they don't want to
get together. But for real progress to take place we strongly believe that the unions and the chiefs
have to be working together, especially related to race relations. They can have differences about
some other types of things, but we've done several of these types of programs where we are
urging the partnership through the proactive process. I can't say that we ever had a mediation
case -- this region hasn't had one -- in which the unions are a party along with the chief in the
mediation process. Hopefully in the future there will be.
How do you know when the parties are ready to come to the table
for formal mediation?
The most important thing, I think, is that they have a listing of issues and demands that can
be the meat and potatoes for the mediation. An unproductive process, and maybe that's part of
the conciliation approach, occurs in some communities when we get together a cross section of
leaders, both officials and the community, to have some open forums. We've conducted open
forums, but we wanted to have the forums lead to setting up more continuous and on going type
of meetings. The problem of a general meeting -- it's good in some ways, it can ventilate, get the
issues out in the open --- but most of the time it doesn't lead to anything concrete. The next stage
is getting them into, "What do you want? What are the major issues and what do you want from
that? What are your recommended remedies? What's going to be put on the table?"
Do you influence what goes on the agendas? You mentioned one
example where people forgot to put an overriding issue on an agenda. Do you help them shape
Well, most cases I'd say, you might use the terminology of coaching, but I think it's more a
sense of feeding back to them what you heard in the assessment process. Sometimes they haven't
done this before, so it's a matter of clarifying the issues.
Do the parties ever ask you to do anything that you are unable to
Yes, often what the community wants is prosecution. In a police case, they want someone
fired, they want someone prosecuted, things like that. Often that starts the process. This
development often occurs whenever there is a highly publicized incident such as a police
shooting of a minority youth under disputed circumstances and people have already made a
conclusion that they want something done. It fits a pattern. There was another case CRS was
involved in where there was a whole series of problems of racial/ethnic harassment and forms of
discrimination by the police department and the community was low keyed. I forget the exact
incident that finally precipitated our being called, but the community leaders invited us and the
state attorney general's office to come to a meeting. We went and sat down with the community
leaders. What they wanted was the prosecution of these officers. They started talking about all
these incidents that had taken place. Some of them had been referred to the state attorneys office
or the district attorney and nothing had been done. What they wanted was prosecution.
In listening to them, I noted that there were many other issues: no
Spanish-speaking officers, kids having to come out and interpret for them, and other matters. So,
I said, "Why don't we have the attorney general's representative work with you on all these
incidents about misconduct, harassment, and violation of your civil rights, and I will work with
you on some of the other issues." That's how I broke it down and basically we really had to guide
them from prosecution to seeing the possibilities of other things being done. In that way you as a
conciliator/mediator are interpreting some of the things you are hearing. You are saying, "There
appear to be other issues than just the prosecution that can be addressed in another forum in
which maybe we can assist you with the police department if you're willing to sit down and deal
with these things." It's like I said before, people want that prosecution, but what CRS has to offer
is addressing other issues in a different way, that is, by mediation.
Have you ever found yourself in a position where it was difficult
to maintain a neutral stance?
I've never had a problem with impartiality. I don't believe we're neutral because I think we
have a responsibility related to the civil rights that people have. We don't get into any problem
with what we're basically attempting to do, to use our process so people's civil rights are being
protected. We never really take any position. The law has been allegedly violated.
Discrimination has taken place or is alleged but it's not up to us to make a finding of
discrimination. So it frees us from making those type of judgments. The process we provide is
neutral. What we provide is neutral in that sense, but it's within a framework of civil rights laws.
Have you ever found yourself serving as a scapegoat or doing
things to help the parties save face?
We talk about that, about being able to go in there and, I'm trying to think of specific
incidents where the authorities will basically say, "The Department of Justice has asked us to do
this, they came in, and in effect, they suggested or told us to do this." So yeah, it comes out. We
tell them "There is no problem with that. You can say, the Justice Department thinks you should
do this." I think sometimes it comes about, especially when you're talking about the Sunshine
laws where you can't sit down with the deliberating body without all the people being there. But
we get around it one way or the other.
Does the confidentiality requirement create a problem for you?
Have you ever found a situation where you found it necessary to violate the confidentiality in a
case or matter?
I never had a criminal matter come up in my sessions or anything like that. I think
confidentiality has been part of the process of gaining the acceptance and confidence of people.
Do they accept it when you tell them you will hold what they say in confidence?
I think so. Part of it is they're accepting you and the ground rules. Sometimes it's part of the
selling or marketing process. I must say that it usually is not a big issue. I have not seen that as a
problem. I think there is a greater acceptance in the latter part of my career for the whole process
of community mediation than there was in the beginning. There were many more barriers to
what we were trying to do and how we were doing it. It's more the environment really.
How about situations where a party is proposing an agenda that
includes something that you view as a possibly intractable issue. How do you address a party
relating to that?
Often times it comes up in the initial discussion. "We want to fire the police chief." "We
want the superintendent fired."
How do you deal with that?
I try to finesse it in different ways by saying, for example, "If we are going to be dealing
with the police chief," or the mayor or supervisor, or whoever it is, "let's deal with these issues
and the issue of whether the police chief is going to stay or not will be up to the administrator. In
the meantime, he is the chief. Do you want to deal with these problems or do you want to wait
until someone makes a decision?" Other times I say, "What's the reality of this? There appears
to be a lot of support for the chief from the city council. How feasible is this?" I think most of
the time community leaders are astute enough. It will be on the agenda, but after that it is the
mediator's job to get to the next step. The message is out there. The mayor might say, "Chief
John has done a good job over the years?" There is a conversation about it and they get it. It's not
one of those things that is usually going to end up as something that is going to be negotiated.
And on the other hand if one party says "That's non-negotiable, I refuse to discuss it?
What I try to do is to get it where it doesn't become an intractable issue. "You can get your
message across. You have already said this. You can use a different forum for it, but in the
meantime if we are going to go forward and make any progress on these issues, are you willing to
let that impair us?" Usually they make decisions to pull back or get the message out. I think
everything can be discussed. They want it out there, but I must say that I have yet to have any
mediation situation where it just stopped everything. Clarifying it, getting people to talk about it
beforehand, realizing the environment, giving a reality check and doing all the things related to it
help to finesse it one way or the other.
Are there situations where parties come to the table and do not
bargain in good faith?
We had a couple. There was a major one here in Boston in which we could not get to a
final resolution. The biggest problem was HUD (Department of Housing and Urban
Development). It was a federal case and we gave it back to the court. They kept running around
in circles. It was a great mediation case, but they were a critical party to the resolution.
So, when you get to that kind of an impasse...
If the parties are not willing, can't get permission from Washington and are just wasting our
time, you really don't want to mediate these things.
In organizing an agenda do you have any criteria that determines
what should come first, last, and come in the middle?
Well, like in the UMass case that we talked about, matters of immediate importance had to
be addressed first. They basically agreed to what was important and what steps could take place.
They were on the same page on security and safety and it was a matter of fine tuning and getting
some of these training programs through. The mediator has a
major influence on the progress or management of the mediation process. It's what you see in a
thing and what can help move the process forward. It's people getting to this confidence level
where they're making progress on issues, where they aren't so far apart, where the communication
process and problem solving are working.
Will you comment on building trust between the parties?
I think that's one of the critical things that the mediator has to do and I think getting the
parties to be willing to sit down is the first step. Once you get people to sit down, with the
proper facilitation people get to realize that the others are not that bad. Even in some of the
worst situations of chiefs of police and community distrust, where some very negative things
were said about the chiefs, once they start meeting with the people, hearing their complaints,
hearing their stories and hearing them out, they change and progress can be made.
Do you have an example?
The one in Chelsea. The chief had all kinds of problems. At first he didn't want to go into
this process. But the type of relationship that he built with the community group was very
positive, with the Hispanic leadership and some of their allies. It was a major change of his
perspective. Also in the example that I gave at UMass in Amherst. An excellent relationship
developed there. The chancellor and the students ended up talking to one another and phoning
one another. The student leader could call and talk to the chancellor without having to
go through the secretary. It's in building relations. I think that's what
we've always said. If our effort is really to be successful, the parties have to be willing to sit
down and work through things and to use you as the mediator. If they aren't satisfied with one
another, with their relationship at the end, I don't think we've really been successful. They may
do things under duress, but if that relationship hasn't been developed, and communication and
trust between the parties isn't good -- and I know of some cases we've had a sign off, but it was
just getting through the process?then the mediation process has, in my mind, been a failure. I'm
thankful that I haven't been in a case where we really didn't do the job. The whole idea of sitting
down, I think, is an excellent process. It works out. I've seen it time after time. If they're not
acting in good faith and keep stalling, then we have to break it off. In the communities where
authorities and community leaders are going to be dealing with one another in the future, the
mayors, superintendents of schools and police chiefs often just never had the opportunity to do
that kind of communication that develops in the mediation process.
You said that the two most difficult groups were police and
university presidents. Do you have ideas on how to deal with them effectively?
I think the hardest ones are the university presidents. Some really believe that they are a
resource to the country and to the world. How dare anyone else provide assistance and be the
resource. Some of them are like that. I don't know of any strategy of getting through to them
other than trying to convince them that we can help them and using some of our past successes
with other university presidents. With police, I think it's more the lack
of an entry skill. With police, there is a reluctance to get involved. There is a defensiveness,
especially when it's related to an incident of alleged misconduct. When you are on the phone
following a shooting, for example, they will justify it. If you don't use proper entry, they want to
cut you off. So it's a matter of being able to develop an entry strategy. The bottom line
of the strategy is if there's an incident, you at least want to have a face-to-face meeting with the
chief, unless it's something where we're just doing a cursory check and only want to touch base
with the chief. But if we want to be involved, we want to be able to set up that meeting with the
chief. The important thing on that is not to let them have an opportunity to deny the meeting.
That's the first thing you want to be able to do. Entry is to get that meeting, and to get it there are
several things you might do. If you already have a relationship with the chief, you're going to get
it. As we get older at CRS, we're experiencing better relations with
police. The support is coming from the IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police), and
other national police organizations.
What do you attribute that to?
I think what we did was reach out to police chiefs and their organizations and more and
more brought them into the process where they did not see us as a civil rights enforcement arm.
They have a lot of problems at the Civil Rights Division, the patterns and practice section and the
like. So it was a matter of education, outreach, communication with them. I think recruiting
people on our staff who came from a police background helped. And then I think it's also a
matter of what message about CRS goes around the police community. The image of CRS has
changed with police over the years. In the early times of major civil disorders and very negative
feelings about the police in minority communities, a number of our field people were very abrupt
in dealing with police. There wasn't the comfort level. There was really a distance between us
and law enforcement and I think law enforcement was very responsive to what was happening in
civil rights and race relations. They did not feel comfortable in dealing with communities and
problem-solving. It was a 'we against them' attitude and mind-set. So there's an historical
sequence about the relationship between law enforcement and CRS over the years.
But basically, the entry process of making sure that we can
meet face-to-face with the chief is important or we cannot proceed further. If you have a
relationship, good. If you don't, you say, "Chief, I want to sit down
with you about this incident. I am going to be in the city tomorrow. How's your schedule?" It's
harder for them to say, "No, I don't want to meet with you." Often the chief will say, "What do
you want to talk about?" You indicate you want to talk about "how you feel about what's
happening, to get your point of view." So you put him at ease and you make it more difficult for
the chief not to want to set up a meeting. So that's getting to first base, or half way to first.
You're not out of the ball game. The important thing in meeting with the chief is to
have more information and a plan of action. The conciliation/mediation process can terminate
there at the first meeting if you don't have further information and a plan of action as to what we
think we can do related to the problem. The chief will very seldom come forward with a
recommendation, especially if it's not someone who has called us for assistance. He'll seldom
come forward with a suggestion, "Well here's how you can help." The mediator needs to have
more information because you've already met with the community, so it's going to be more than
just the shooting that took place and his justification for it, or whatever the incident is, or "we're
still investigating" type of response. We want to get beyond that as to what are some of the
issues, what are some of the problems there, and how can we be of help.
What do you do in situations where community protests serve
several functions for the community organizations, and they don't want to stop the protests?
I haven't run into any of that myself. I know out in California, in the Taisha Miller case
where police shot her through the car window, the community wanted to continue protest
activities because, I think, they were dissatisfied with the internal investigation, or dissatisfied
with the Justice Department's decision not to intervene. I don't know the full extent of what our
approach to them was, but there were continuous protests. Our job, what they did out there was
to facilitate the protests, was to keep the protests from being violent. So it was working with the
police and the community to assure peaceful protests. I don't know what the end result was.
Have you run into any cases where you felt you should withdraw
from moving toward the table because the community felt its interests were better served by
staying in the streets or doing other things?
Two high profile situations in our region were the shooting death of this off duty
African-American sergeant by a police officer in Providence, and there was a shooting death in
Hartford, Connecticut, related to a young African American who was 13 years old, by the police.
Both of these places had protest activities. In neither case did we get to the table. In Providence
-- Larry Turner handled it -- our basic response was related to the violence in the streets. There
were demonstrations at City Hall, there were people talking to one another, there were open
discussions related to what could take place. One of the community
demands was that during these other investigations the state attorney general hire an independent
prosecutor to look into this shooting. Larry Turner talked to the attorney general and
there were meetings with the community. The attorney general was determined that he would
keep it in his office and have one of his assistants do the investigation. There was unrest. The
governor set up a blue ribbon commission. We kept the lines open, but we never ended up in
mediation. The mayor ended up convening a blue ribbon commission also. The police chief
eventually retired, and there are lawsuits pending. Much of the tension was directed toward
waiting for the investigation to take place and the results to be announced. We were not able to process that into mediation. There were other activities which
involved CRS that took place. We helped the governor's blue ribbon commission looking at
community relations around the state. We lowered our goals and objectives into keeping the
peace, keeping communications open, making sure people understood the reason for the U.S.
Attorney not taking the case for investigation. That was a conciliation approach. I didn't handle
it. The conciliation approach is often not conducted at the highest level. It doesn't lead to
development of relationships between the authorities and community leaders. The continuing
conflict and unresolved differences are probably going to have to be revisited some other time.
In Hartford, there was a shooting death of an African-American youth by a Hartford
police officer. As a result, we were heavily involved in a number of activities. The chief asked
for our help in addressing some of the internal issues in the department because the chief said we
do have racial problems in this department. He directed his attention to issues within the
department and community forums outside the department. The police came to the open forums.
The chief then resigned. The dynamics of the conflict really never lent themselves to a mediation
process. There were other issues that came up. There was a court agreement that had not been
carried out. CRS participated in a number of meetings regarding this agreement. Nothing
positive came back from city officials related to opening discussions about the agreement. The
community leaders finally went to court again to make sure that it was reaffirmed and restated.
The process didn't allow itself to evolve into mediation and we were not able to process the
tensions and issues into a mediation process. With the police chief resigning, there wasn't an
appropriate leader to meet with the community.
Do you see media coverage of your work as an asset or a
I think the media has been a major asset in the work we do.
The first thing they do is uncover the problems. By uncovering the problems, CRS has an
opportunity to deal with them. If they are not publicized, we may not know about them.
Secondly, it puts a lot of pressure on the actors, the players, the parties, to at least respond to
what the media say.
How about the coverage of CRS?
I think it's helped us. First they uncover the problem, then their attention is directed to the
problems. When the media say the Justice Department is coming in, everyone is on notice that
we are there dealing with the matter. Most of the time they have been very responsive. They
call. In my dealings with them, they have been very active and positive. They get the message
out. Sometimes it's up to us how we want to steer that information.
Do you ever try to use the media as an ally?
Oh sure, absolutely. They call us to find out what's happening. Here in Boston for
example, from '74 to the '80s we developed excellent relations with the media.
Your life in those years was built around the Boston school
desegregation case. Maybe you want to comment on that.
I think the Boston case was an anomaly in many ways. Most of the cities going through
desegregation bought into the concept of avoiding violence as good and valid. CRS put out a publication, "Desegregation Without Turmoil" in the mid '70s. That was
our approach. In the South we developed "Project 81." CRS did that in 1969 when we sent teams
to communities throughout the South to assist them with the desegregation process when the
Supreme Court said in 1969, "Desegregate now." We recruited a number of new staff members
and sent a number of teams to the South. This infusion of new staff helped build our agency
while CRS helped the desegregation process to take place with a minimum of resistance and
violence. In the North, before I came up here to Boston, CRS had assisted Prince Georges
County to implement the court-ordered desegregation of their schools without problems. There
was a lot of political opposition, but we reached out to the opposition, reasoned with them, and
said, "You may be against school desegregation; but if you resist, someone's going to get hurt.
You don't want to have that." We helped build the environment around that common
thread-avoid violence. The ideology might not have been there in that they didn't think it was the
proper process. But most of the communities, like Prince Georges County, accepted CRS's
approach of avoiding violence. They accepted CRS assistance and we helped them implement
the desegregation process, by and large, without violence or turmoil. There were a
number of school desegregation cases, similar to Prince Georges County that CRS worked on.
Then Boston comes up and it was really anarchy here in Boston because the authorities walked
away from carrying out the desegregation order.
You were working at the elbow of Judge Garrity, right?
Yeah. When I was in Washington, we used the methodology that we had done in Prince
Georges County, in the South, and elsewhere. Get the people involved, work it out, avoid
violence. But in Boston there was a lot of resistance and the authorities, school officials and
police, didn't do the proper planning. I remember Ed McClure went to see Judge Garrity in
August of '74.
Ed McClure was on the Boston staff.
Yes, he was a conciliation specialist here. He went over to meet with the judge, and talk
with him about whether CRS could help him. There was a lot of controversy in the sense that the
authorities in Boston weren't taking the desegregation order seriously. So the judge asked CRS
to help him work through the desegregation process, similar to what CRS had done in other
communities throughout the country. The judge issued his order and
instructed the parties to cooperate with CRS. So, throughout the whole desegregation turmoil up
here, we had two roles, our mandated conciliation/mediation of racial/ethnic conflicts and
assisting the court which was a special type of relationship. In other cities we had some types of
relationship with the courts, but it was a special one here on account of the active involvement of
the court. Otherwise the whole city would have come apart. The mayor said, "It's not
my problem. The federal courts have ordered desegregation, let them enforce it." So the judge
had to make the city a party to the desegregation process. The School Committee was adamantly
opposed to anything connected with desegregation. They would not put a plan together to
desegregate the schools as the judge had ordered. Toward the middle of August when the judge
had asked us to assist him and the city to implement the desegregation order, we sent more
conciliators to Boston. Ed Cabell came up from our New York office to help with the public
safety planning. After reviewing the plans, such as they were, he told the judge, "These guys
aren't ready for desegregation." So the judge ordered the city to come up with a contingency
plan. There was the lack of preparation, and the reason was that the city, school officials, and
others really believed what some of the leaders were saying. In Boston, "Never" was their motto
and the politicians were saying that. They honestly believed their motto, because they had
confronted the Massachusetts State Department of Education when the state courts had ordered
Boston to desegregate before. They said, "We can't do it." And they got away with it. They kept
postponing, coming up with reasons, and they thought they could get away with avoiding any
desegregation process. When the judge said, "You're going to do it," he imposed a plan on them
which was developed by the State Department of Education. It was a bad plan. The judge knew
it, but the court had no alternative. Regarding school desegregation after a finding of
segregation, the Supreme Court said, "You have to desegregate now. You can't keep putting it
off. There is a violation of peoples' rights." When the desegregation order came out, the judge
told the school department to come up with a plan if they didn't like the state plan and the school
committee refused. So the only plan out there was the State Department of Education plan. It
was disaster in the way it transferred students, especially pairing South Boston and Roxbury.
Did Judge Garrity bring a master in the case like some cities did?
Not at first. When CRS offered our assistance, the judge's basic
concern, and our recommendations to him, was to deal with the turmoil in the streets, try to get
the violence and turmoil under control. But in the subsequent year the full city would be under
desegregation orders. So the judge developed a new desegregation plan. We were heavily
involved with the judge in the process. He hired two desegregation experts and appointed four
For the second year?
Yes. The judge had no time before the first year of desegregation to develop a new plan.
His order to desegregate the schools in September came out in June. The plan used in the first
year of desegregation was the existing State Department of Education plan I mentioned above.
So the planning for the subsequent year was part of a major process that CRS worked with the
judge on. It was a good plan, but the opponents never accepted it.
In preparing for desegregation, did anybody involve the parents of the white kids?
Oh yes. Part of CRS efforts in 1974, prior to the court-ordered desegregation process, was
to work with the school system to develop a plan for implementing desegregation. But the
school system did not really believe that it would ever have to desegregate. They had one guy,
the associate superintendent, Charlie Leftwich, and an assistant who were ostensibly in charge of
planning for desegregation. But the superintendent and school committee did not agree with
them that they should be serious about the planning process. Our people were working with
Charlie, but he had no authority. He was wasting his time developing ideas. He talked to CRS
about all the important planning elements: information centers, rumor control, all the elements
that should be done by the school department and city. The city didn't take it seriously either. He
had some meetings with people, outreach to the white community, talking to them. He was met
with a lot of hostility. "Never here, we're not going to go through with it." He tried, but the
school committee said he didn't have any authority to do it. The school committee did not want
to do any realistic planning and the superintendent said his hands were tied.As soon as school
desegregation began under the court order, action started taking place. The judge ordered that
there be bi-racial parent councils in all the schools that were undergoing desegregation. They
would be composed of white, black, and Hispanics. After the school
department refused to voluntarily implement a number of CRS's recommendations based on CRS
experience in the South and other communities going through desegregation, CRS brought these
recommendations to the court. During the course of CRS work with the court, the judge had to
order the school department to implement a number of these measures which had been found to
be effective in communities going through desegregation across the country. Boston did not
voluntarily accept our recommendations even though in all the other communities, e.g., Denver
and Prince Georges County, the school systems and communities accepted CRS
recommendations. So that's why I say Boston was an anomaly. We basically were working with
the court to reconstruct a governing system for the schools. That's what we basically were doing.
Parent councils in the schools and the whole planning process, especially the role of the experts
and court masters, were intended to signify an outreach, as much as possible, to the reasonable
people in the city. For example, Eddie McCormick from South Boston was the former lieutenant
governor and the judge chose him to be one of the masters. The people the judge selected as
masters and court experts were of the highest caliber. It was a partnership process that the judge
wanted to do right. In CRS's role with the court, CRS was basically the helper to keep the
desegregation process moving as the judge had all the authority. In our other role, CRS was
concentrating our efforts at first on trying to stem the violence at the schools in South Boston and
then Hyde Park. We were holding the line and getting ready for the development of a plan where
we could put into action some way of healing the city. We were tasked by the court to establish
the city-wide coordinating council, a blue-ribbon body to help heal the racial strife brought about
by the desegregation process. We reached out to the universities to partner with the
schools and to the business community to partner with the schools. We reached out to the media.
A number of good changes took place: excellent programs in the schools; magnet schools;
partnerships with universities, businesses and cultural institutions; scholarships, etc. The judge
was interested in what took place at the end of the bus ride. He didn't just want to move students.
He was concerned with the education taking place. He made a number of major changes. For
example, he ordered that there would be a principal at every school. Before his order there
wasn't. There would be schools with several annexes. One principal supervising several schools.
Segregation existed throughout the school system. The system was in chaos as was the city.
What do you think are the greatest strengths that you brought to
I think it's my ability to deal with people. I think it's more people skills. I think behind the
people skills is the commitment to the cause of civil rights and the correction of injustices in the
country. I think my commitment helps to solidify the relationships I develop. As a mediator,
you're building trust with people. I think people can see through things, especially young people,
where we're coming from. I think that is part of it. I think the knowledge base is important and
my background is in sociology. I have my master's degree in sociology.
I think also important are the experiences I had when I was in Miami, setting up systems, dealing
with racial/ethnic problems and learning how to work effectively with various institutions.
When I went down to Miami, I set up a human rights commission; I was in charge of
developing the family counseling center; and I worked with the Office of Community Service
there. I was heavily involved in a lot of the problem solving in the Miami area right from the
beginning. I had the opportunity to develop new ideas at OEO (Office of Economic
When you hire, what kinds of skills are you looking for? And when you train people, what
kinds of skills are you looking to develop?
The most important thing that I look at is what's been their
history, what's their experience in dealing with race related-issues. So that's the first thing, to see
if they have any experience. I must say I look for a person who is as mature as possible: being
able to deal with a cross-section of communities, organizations, groups; that they were effective
or successful in their work. Then the second thing is do they have the people skills, do they
relate to people, and what are people saying about them. Then I get into the whole concept of
their knowledge of civil rights and commitment. I try to get a sense of where they're coming
from, their value system. From there, I think we can teach most other things. If they have been
able to deal with people of different races and been successful, they have people skills, they have
a commitment and their values are pretty much what I think they should be then I think other
things can be taught but I don't think some of those prerequisites can be taught.
At the end of the day how do you judge your success when you
consider your casework?
I'd say there are three levels. The first level probably is if we have developed a plan of
action as we should in our assessment and whether that plan was carried out and was it
successful? Basically, the assessment outlines what the limitations are because every incident or
every problem in every community is different. A good assessment is going to look into every
incident we're dealing with so it gives us a chance to set the parameters of what we're expecting
to get done. If we say we're trying to reach for the process that will have the highest impact,
which I think we agree is face-to-face negotiations and getting grievances out, then a good plan
of action will give us a road map. At the end of it, how did we do? That's the first part. The
second question is what is the impact at the end? Was an impact really made? We planned our
response. Was our planning right? Did it lead to the impact we were hoping for? There is a
third level at the end of this. What changes have taken place and what is going to be the
continuation? Are there changes of relationships, changes of institutional elements? What is
going to be the future of that community, that organization or that institution?
Can you think back to what you would consider one of your most successful mediations and
was that community different when you left?
Take the one I started with at the UMass-Amherst and the
community there. The plan of action was related to those demands, but we suggested adding
safety and the school racial/ethnic environment to the list of issues to be negotiated. I thought
that at the end, the agreement reached related to all those points. It was worked out by both
parties, their commitment to it was in good faith and they could carry it out. That was the first
stage. The second is, what type of changes. This was the first time they'd ever had something
written about the types of issues and problems they'd had in the past.
The mechanisms to continue that dialogue and feedback were there in the reports from the
Chancellor to the school newspaper. There were some
significant things that were on the table that they agreed to. The change of the makeup of the
number of students, including the faculty, the role of students of color. One of the changes was
in recruiting new faculty. The students became part of the process of hiring new faculty and
administrators and how they were recruited. There were a number of very significant things that
took place there and I thought the relationship between the parties was great at the end. I really
felt very satisfied with that. Even when the university said, last year or two years ago, "We
cannot keep our goals, our quotas," -- they thought they were going to be brought in under a court
suit -- they said, "We can't keep that, but we're going to continue to reach out to the minority
student population." There was a sense of real commitment there which I thought was good and
that we like to see in all the communities we're involved in. There was also the one in
Chelsea with the chief. One of the major changes was that the Hispanic community became a
part of the decision making process in Chelsea. They had never been a party to that. Right after
the mediation sessions, Chelsea went into receivership due to lack of money. The Latino community became a critical part of a lot of the community building that we
were also involved in subsequently in Chelsea. I
think that the most important rewards that come out of CRS work is the type of feedback that
comes to us from these cases. There is a challenge in the matter of what can take place from the
conflict or the horrible incident. Seeing these changes, especially what the community feels has
changed as the result of our involvement, I don't think you can beat that personal satisfaction.
The parties attribute so much to us. It is they who have done it, but it's our process. They really
wouldn't have been able to accomplish many of these things without our involvement. It was our
process that helped to bring about these types of changes as noted in the agreements and in the
You've been at this a long time. The civil rights movement and
the protest activity has changed over the years. How did these changes affect the challenges that
you confront in your work?
I think there has been forward movement over the years. Probably the most significant
development, from my viewpoint, is the changing nature of the resistance. At the beginning
there was much more overt stonewalling, not willing to take corrective action. I think there was
also not an environment in which these problems could be resolved through a process of
community mediation and reconciliation. It was more difficult at the beginning to get authorities
to sit down and address the problems. I think that's been one of the most important changes. The
second are the institutions where there were the greatest problems before -- the police and the
schools, especially the police. They have been more and more open to change. I think their
environment has changed, especially when most of them say, "We're into community policing."
This is certainly a major change from the type of we-versus-them and isolation that the policing
profession had back in the '60's and '70's, probably in the 80's too. There's a whole change of
philosophy of policing that's out there. The leadership is there. I think some of the good things
are that the environment has changed and many people are not as overtly hostile and expressing
the negative views of race. The part of it that is more
difficult to deal with is some of the remnants of what is out there. Dealing with the first 60%,
70%, 80% was the easiest. The hardest is the last 20% and I think that's where we are now. The
hardest is the type of corrective action that has to be taken to remove some of the long standing
discriminatory actions that are part of our system, part of our culture, part of everyone who lives
or who comes to the United States. For example, the new immigrants coming in quickly adopt
the type of perceptions and feelings about race that characterize the general population. I think
that it's tougher now in one sense, but I think the environment for CRS is easier and it's up to us
to try to move the ball a little further, to try to get to the end zone. That's our challenge. How to
get to some of those remaining issues and to unearth them. I think there are some things that we
do, some things that the media do and others do that uncover issues that we can work on. When
they're uncovered, it makes it easier for us. Take the question of racial profiling. We know that
police and others have been doing it, and there were people being stopped. But now that it's an
issue that the media and others have helped to put out there, it can be dealt with much more
easily. We can train people to deal with it and I think we can correct it, in general. At least some
of the major parts of it and make it costly for those who don't. That's part of the dynamic that's
Do you use new strategies or do your old strategies work?
I think there are new issues that are out there and new approaches to them, like police
community relations. One of the workshops we're having for the
regional directors is Creating a Contemporary Vision for CRS for Dealing with
Police-Community Relations. Well, what are the issues that are affecting police-community
relations? You look at them and just listing them from excessive use of force, racial profiling,
the whole matter of police unions and chiefs, the whole matter of race-biased policing. These are
issues that are out there. How do we deal with them? What is our strategy? Accountability and
civilian oversight are becoming more and more pronounced. It used to be off the screen. Now
accountability is on the screen. Now, how are we going to move that forward? How do we work
with the police culture? How do we work with the racism that's within police departments?
We are getting new ways and new manners of looking at that because
basically what we are trying to do in police-community relations is to develop a good relationship
and a good relationship has to be based upon justice and equity to the communities. To
accomplish this require different steps along the way. I think that's where CRS's process is.
We basically can't go out and tell police what to do, but we have the opportunity to
address the issue when it is raised as an issue in a particular community. Now, how can this
issue be turned into helping to improve relationships? What can be done? Racial profiling?
Gather statistics and bring the communities together to look at the issue and talk about it. That's
going to build relationships. The police are then going to know that they can't stop willy-nilly
persons of color just because of their racial/ethnic identification because there's going to be an
accountability system and they are going to be talking about it and no one wants to be seen as a
racist or bigot.
Is there anything else you want to add any thoughts that maybe we haven't covered?
CRS has this opportunity to look exclusively at race relations and
thus to constantly be a barometer for what's happening in the country and a force for trying to
correct these forms of discrimination. I think the greatest problem this country has had is race
and the most unfortunate problem is that the country has not been willing to provide the
resources to deal with it. They really don't give us the resources. I think the vision of Lyndon
Johnson has unfortunately passed. I believe he really wanted to address this issue and felt that it
could be addressed and I believe it can be, but it requires a lot of leadership and resources to do
Is CRS the only federal agency that addresses race relations in
Well, I think that CRS is the only one that deals with race relations in a prevention and
response type of capacity. The U.S. Civil Rights Commission does investigations and hearings
and comes up with educational products. They have not been as powerful in race lately as they
were at one time.Most of the civil rights resources in the federal and state governments are for
enforcement. And enforcement is the corollary to ours, the hand maid. You have to know and
believe our laws are going to be enforced. So there is a backstop. They need to be there so that
they give a signal to police departments and to others that our laws are going to be enforced. But
the most important aspect of civil rights in any country is compliance, compliance with the law.
That's what we are, we're a compliance agency that's getting people to abide by the civil rights
laws of this country. In doing that, it involves getting at what are the underlying ways by which
people are being discriminated against. It's often very difficult to prove in a court of law that it's
there: when we have segregated communities giving out messages they don't want minorities;
when we have schools that still don't outreach to kids of color; or when they're in there, they don't
provide them the necessary support and assistance. All these forms of discrimination that are out
there perhaps cannot be dealt with by laws. Laws help us in setting parameters of what is
allowed and not allowed, but the vision is something which people like Robert Kennedy and
Lyndon Johnson had regarding race relations. And I think Clinton tried to put it out there. But
we don't have the support across the country to do that. That's where we're failing as a country,
even though we're so much further ahead than some of the other countries that don't have the
structure to deal with discrimination.