Nancy, if we can just start off by you spelling your last name for the record, Ferrell. I want
to start by getting some background information from you. Tell us, when did you begin working
as a mediator or a conciliation specialist at CRS?
I started in September of 1985.
What was your title?
When did you leave the agency?
I left in October of '95 and then had a
contract during all of '96, with the church burning task force.
What were you doing prior to joining CRS?
For 5 years prior, I was a private consultant doing conflict
management training in business. I had developed a "managing conflict in the work force"
curriculum, and was using that and doing training as a training consultant.
Were you involved with any other civil rights activities at the time?
What attracted you to CRS?
I was recommended to CRS because they were looking for
someone, but I wasn't intially interested. Then, out of respect for the person who recommended
me, I talked to them and was very impressed. From the very beginning, it was the CRS mandate
in the Civil Rights Act. When I read that, my feeling was if this agency really is doing that, then
it would be an exciting thing to be a part of. My skepticism was, are they really doing that? I
didn't have time or interest in just being somewhere where that wasn't happening, so the mandate
itself is what attracted me to it. Because I was working on a PhD and doing private work, I had
the freedom to try it; I pretty well figured on spending 6 months checking it out. Once I got into
it, though.... I doubt that I've ever done anything that I've felt more matched for skill and interest
wise, and I never felt more privileged to be able to do anything than what I did with CRS.
We want you to choose one particular case and sort of walk us through the process. How the
case came to your attention, who the parties were, what the conflicts with the mediation process
were.....walk us through as if we don't know anything about conflict mediation. Choose a case
that typifies your work. I know we use that word, "typical,” lightly, but something.....?
A couple come to mind that would be more interesting. One is a university situation; the
other is a community involving the police department.
Let's talk about the university one.
Ok, that one I became aware of through news articles. The Klan
was distributing flyers at a state university in Oklahoma, so there were some demonstrations and
counter-demonstrations on campus. Our mandate allows us to initiate contact with parties, and I
might say that's probably one of the most critical elements of the agency’s mandate. I think it's
the only federal agency that can initiate contact with a community or citizen, without first being
requested to respond to some event or some violation. So because we had that freedom,
I made contact with some of the student
leadership that I was aware of; some of the black student organizations, a Hispanic organization,
and a Native American organization. I'm going to have to back up, because
the real impetus was a fraternity party and it was an event that had occurred every year for a
hundred years on that university, called the Plantation Party. The fraternity boys would go to one
of the matching sorority girls’ houses, and they went in black face and they went as slaves or
with nooses around their necks. It was very egregious, and yet from their perspective it was a
common event that had occurred; a tradition that had transpired every year for a hundred years.
What year are we talking about then?
This would probably have been '90, '91 somewhere around there. So, that was what hit the
paper, that the Klan was distributing flyers supporting the fraternity. The students obviously
demonstrated against what had happened at the fraternity and sorority. The minority groups
wanted the fraternity banished immediately. Since this was a traditional event that occurred, that
had not caused any reaction for a hundred of years, the university was saying, so, what happened?
What's the deal? Why did somebody get upset this year? Why didn't they get upset last year? It
was an event where a minority had the courage to say, "I'm upset. This is not right. There's
something wrong." So that raised the awareness and the consciousness. So the entry was the media being aware of that. I made contact with student groups and
with university officials. The Vice President for Student Affairs and the Vice President for
Academic Affairs were both very open to our intervention. They wanted to do whatever they
could to make a change. They didn't have any resistance as far as them trying to say it wasn't
egregious or that they didn't need to do something about it. It was very positive.
Part of our approach was that you go to the highest level for entry and
so I needed to talk to the President to find out if he was open to us going
When you say you go to the highest point of entry, that's
something that CRS requested that you do, or that was your own sort of idea?
It was a part of the working style of Region 6, so that's the way I was trained. Whether this
was agency wide, I'm not sure. Now the reason is very good. The reason is: If I go in and I work
with the Vice President for Student Affairs and the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and the
President is never brought into it, we can work for 6 months and come up with a really good
agreement. But then the president can say, "What is this? I don't know anything about this, and
we're not going to support it," so you've wasted time and you've frustrated people. The people
you've been trying to help are even more frustrated now and you've probably created more
conflict than you've helped resolve. So, I went to the
President and met with him, and it's a good example of thinking on your feet, having a way of
helping an institution understand their best interest. I learned that anytime I work with an
institutional representative that my approach could not be like, "What's the just thing? You know
what the right thing is, it's the thing that will cost you if you don’t do it," because they're ready
to hear that; they're not ready to hear, "You ought to do the right thing.” They're very open to
"What's it going to cost you?" So, when talking with the president, I had to be aware of the fact
that he had a board of regents who probably wouldn't see anything wrong with what had
happened at the fraternity, and probably would be upset with him if he gave it much power or
much interest and that's a reality. So his first response to me was that bringing in the Justice
Department is just going to make it look worse than it is; this will blow over, things get out of
hand but they'll die down, it's no big deal. "If you come in here, you're going to make it a big
deal." That was a common response for an institution, whether it was city government, state
government, or IBM, any institution’s first response is that outside intervention is just going to
make it worse. I told him one part of what we do is voluntary; you don't have to participate with
us. I said, "But I do have an obligation to make our services available to you. Because, if
another incident occurs here and there's some other problems here, somebody in my agency is
going to call me up and say, ‘Nancy, did you offer your help?’ I need to be able to say, ‘Yes, I
offered my help but the president really wasn't interested; he thought he could handle it
himself.’" But you had to use the kind of approach that let him see what was in his interest, and
he saw a really big public relations faux pas, if something else happened, and here's this agency
who had offered to help and he resisted. So, all of the sudden he was open to our help. That's all
I needed from him, so he couldn't back out later. So, that was an interesting entry kind of a
From then, we went to the Dean of Academic Affairs who was not that involved except
to support the Dean of Students. The Vice President of Student Affairs became the focal
administrative person; he was as committed to the task as I was. So that was one of the big
advantages, because you don't always have somebody that committed to it. The challenge from the minority community and the minority
students’ perspective, was that they didn't see any value or benefit in working directly with the
administration. They felt the administration was not trustworthy, the administration wasn't
interested in doing anything to be helpful, so, "What good is it going to be to even engage in that
process?” So again, what's in their best interest? What can I say to them to convince them it's
worth engaging in the process? And one important thing is whatever we do is not going to
diminish your right or privilege in the future to take some other action. It's not going to cost you
anything in terms of legal recourse, it's not going to cost you anything in terms of any other
response you want to make. The other is that we do bring twenty years, thirty years of experience
to this and maybe we can help bring a different outcome. The other kind of stark awareness for
them was, is this institution so bad that it should be destroyed?
This institution, meaning the fraternity, or the university?
Was that a concern of the minority community?
Well, it was my ultimate response to them not wanting to involve themselves with the
administration because the administration wasn't trustworthy. And again my task at that point
was to help them see that the administration, regardless of what they thought about them, had a
legitimate position. Everybody has a legitimacy. And unless the institution is in such grave
violation that it needs to be destroyed, you have to honor that the institution has a position. It
will try to protect that position and part of that protection involves their regents and the people
that fund them. Everything that impacts the administration has to have legitimacy and if you
discount that, then you aren't going to come to the table from a reality perspective. Unless it's so
bad you need to wipe it out and start over. So if you agree it has legitimacy, you have to at least
honor its reality, and its reality is all of these parties and constituencies out here. So that helped
them come to the table with a little more reality about what was going to happen.
Now where do the sorority and fraternity come into this?
The sorority structure became a party to what we were doing. What do their by-laws look
like, do they have discriminatory practices and policies and then how is that impacted by the
national fraternal organizations? The first response from the minority student groups was that
the fraternity should not be a part of the resolution. My response was that they must be a part of
it. Even if the fraternity is kicked off the university, they still needed to be a part of the solution.
There needed to be some awareness around the table of where that came from and how it felt and
the whole deal So, when we put the task force together there were probably twenty
people; also it involved faculty representatives. I spent probably three months doing interviews.
The other thing, in terms of the regent
response, is we always went toward systemic change. Once we responded to any kind of
immediate danger, we started looking for systemic response and not just fixing the incident, but
looking at the systems that were there and how we needed to deal with
those. So, one of those representatives was president of the fraternity that
had initiated the incident. We also had all the student representatives from all the ethnic groups,
the Student Body President, faculty representatives, the Dean of Students and the Vice President
of Student Affairs, and any other interest group as far as the community was concerned, but
mostly it was confined to the university environment. We worked over six months, meeting
twice a month, and then went to meeting once a month, hammering out a really long
memorandum of changes in the institutional environment. It concerned how the student
government would relate to the minority organizations, how more minority representation could
be brought into student government at large, how the fraternities responses to the inclusiveness
and exclusiveness would be dealt with in the future, how their policies and their documents for
organization would be reviewed with an eye toward that anti-discrimination law. We looked at
teachers and the way they graded. There was one teacher in particular that was notorious for
marking minorities down and this was an interesting insight to me. Everyone around that table,
including the students, said there was nothing we could do because that professor has tenure. I
said, "Duh, he broke the law." Tenure doesn't mean that you can break the law and yet unclear
that grand illusion of tenure, everyone all of a sudden assumed that there is nothing you can do
If I could just back you up, before we can get into the fine details of how that process
worked. Out of all those groups that you mentioned, were there any parties who did not want you
to be involved in this conflict?
Probably the only real resistence was
from the President from the administration, through the President. After that hurdle is crossed
and of course the President buys into it, then you pretty much have carte blanc with the
institution, like the faculty. The faculty needed to be sold a little bit, because they were concerned
about things like, was this process going to give the students too much power? Was it going to
reflect negatively on the faculty? So there was some kind of territorialism there, in that
sense. But we got into the documents for the institution as far as its
compliance with civil rights stuff.
Now did you give them prior notice
before you went to the university to let them know that you were coming?
Yes, I called and made appointments with students, student leadership and administrative
Was that typical procedure of calling before you went?
What kind of questions did you ask in these interviews?
I asked them where they believed that the institution was discriminating. What kinds of
things would be helpful? One of the things that became
obvious was that the minority population was diminishing. What was the cause of that decrease
and it turned out to be lack of support from faculty, but also lack of support from other students.
The student government process had pretty much excluded minorities from it. So there wasn't
any place to be and you were very much a minority.
What percentage of the students were minorities?
I don't remember. I have that and could get it for you, but my guess is maybe two or three
percent. The Native Americans were the most
resistant in that they don't verbalize their problems much, and you have to really spend time with
them. So they were a player, but they weren't as significantly involved as the black and Hispanic
Were those meetings, or interviews
private, or did you have all the groups at the same time hearing their grievances? How did you
I did both. I interviewed individuals, and I also went to group meetings. I would go to a
faculty meeting and then I would interview individuals by their choice, or by being selected by
the group to come. I did the same thing with the student organizations. I met with them at their regular meeting and then I would have a schedule when I met
with people individually. The group meetings were more to create trust with
me. They would know me, they knew that I was really interested in what was going on.
Interested enough to know what their group was about and spend time with
them. I guess the one thing that I came to believe,
was that trust is really the only commodity that we have. If you don't establish trust with the
parties, and that's all the parties, if you can't establish trust with them, you don't have anything to
offer them. Part of that was establishing that connection and that sense that I really do
care about what is going on and I'm going to listen and I haven't come here to fix you. The trust
issue, I think, is a critical element that is hard to teach. Somebody could be very trustworthy and
yet if they don't project trustworthiness there are some people who will look at them and go "I
wouldn't trust them." It's hard to do mediation because it is the only commodity that you
What else were you able to do to help build and sustain the trust over a period of time other
than the group meetings, or attending those group meetings?
One of the things that I tell people is that, "I have as much
responsibility to protect your interests as I do my interests.” That if I violate anybody in the
process then I'm not holding up my end of the bargain. That if I do anything to diminish the
institution, the students, the faculty, anybody, if I do anything that diminishes anyone then I have
violated my commitment to you. And if you see that, or perceive that, then I want you to tell me.
If it's occurred, I respond to that in a way that says I need to fix that, I need to do something about
that. For example, if you've told someone that you aren't there to
investigate them and it shows up in the newspaper, or the Justice Department shows up to
investigate university’s treatment of minorities, well that can take away your trust.
Did it happen?
It happened a lot. The media always wants us to investigate, and no matter how often you tell them, "We
aren't investigating,” it shows up in the headlines that Justice is there to investigate.
You have to respond immediately back to the institution or the minorities, or whoever is involved
and say, "I know that's happened and I'm sorry. There is nothing I can do about it, but this is
what I told them and this is still the reality." I guess the other part of that is learning not ever to
become defensive. If someone challenged me on something, then I try to respond to that in terms
of if they believed that was the way I was acting, then I would respond to that and make
changes. That was part of
the dance, or knowing where the parties were, and were they ready to move on to the next step?
Were they ready to sit down at the table and begin to negotiate, or did they still need to vent
more? Did they still need to say that the administration was useless, or that the students just
wanted their way, or were they prepared now to sit down and talk?
Is that how you gauged how much trust
they had in you and the process, by when they were ready to sit down and move forward?
Yeah, because there was no reason for them to come to the table if they didn't trust me.
Coming to the table could be dangerous for them. You've got students sitting there with the
faculty and the administration, who have complete power over them. You've got administrators
sitting over there with somebody from the Justice Department. They always felt like there was
this potential for investigation, no matter how many times we told them, it still had its own
power. If they agreed to come to the table, it generally meant they trusted that I was going to be
able to protect their interest within that context. For example, not let the students just chew up
and spit out the administration without any real benefit to that. Or allow the administration to
just dump on the students. But that there was going to be some mutual respect and dialogue
going on, and certainly there would be some venting going on, but it would be within the context
of, "How do you feel about that?" "What was your response to that?" ...and not assassinating
people or ticking individuals off. If they trusted me with that, then they would come to the table.
How were you able to get them to trust each other?
They had to trust through me. That's why I say trust is the only commodity you have. And
you were the one that would have to build that trust between the parties. My experience and the
experience of others at the table, was that it took the President of the fraternity about four months
of meeting, before he really understood what he had done, and he was horrified. And if we had
never done that he would have never known and he'd have never been horrified. And that to me
is the beauty of what we did. Ninety percent of the people in this country are good people, a
bunch of them don't understand what kinds of horrible things are happening. And they never
have the kinds of experiences with different ethnic groups to really engage with that, and feel
that, and know what that means and the pain that's involved in it. He became the champion of
change in the whole fraternal system. In terms of their policies and their approaches and what
was going to happen in the future. So we had to hold out to get the group to agree to let him be
on the team, and they eventually did. But the only reason they allowed us to go ahead with it,
was they trusted me at that point. It was the right thing to have that guy there. They saw the
healing occur, in front of their eyes, and it also helped the minority groups have a different sense
of what was going on in the fraternity's mind. So as much as a document that came out of it, it
was what happened around that table where they began to trust each other.
When you proposed that people come together at a table, what was the purpose that you laid
out? How did you lay out what would happen?
It was initially the mediation of the response to that fraternal group, what would happen to
them. The vice president of student affairs could have summarily made a judgement, he had the
authority to do that. He agreed to let the group work through that and come up with the response
to the fraternity. I guess that could have been the end of it. But more
because of our regional response and we have rapport, we have trust, we have entry, we wanted
to see what we could accomplish here. I spent over a year in and out of there. If you want, they gave me permission
to share the document we came up with. It's beautiful, it's incredible. The kinds of things that
became institutional change and long term response. They created a long term process for
responding to incidents on campus. That became institutionalized in and of
itself. In some regions it's their style, and their philosophy was to
deal with that incident and move on because there's too much to do. Ours was more, there is too
much to do but we're here and we're invested in this, so let's see what kind of an impact
institutionally or systemically we can have. So unless there was a violent incident that occurred
something that would draw us away from that we would see it through. The first priority was
always the level of violence, but then it was how broad of an impact can we have. I know that
was different from region to region, but I preferred that. Something that I really enjoyed was to
be able to spend the time and see institutions and communities change. I think that was probably
the biggest joy, to see people who didn't have hope begin to see each other in different ways and
realize that not only have we walked through this together and come up with a good solution, but
the next time something happens and it will we have a way of responding that's built on trust.
When you were meeting with the groups and hearing what their
issues were, did it appear that the issues that you felt were most important were the same as what
the groups felt was most important?
I'm not sure. One of the things I tried not to do was to put value on it from my perspective.
When I did my first case on my own in Oklahoma, I went into a small community, and it was a
police situation. Allegations of excessive force. I have always had pretty strong opinions. If
somebody hired me as an arbitrator I would do a pretty good job, because I know the answer. So
my first instinct when I went into this community was listening to the stories, then thinking I
know what the answer is, I know who's telling the truth and I know who's lying. I thought, now
how can I deal with this process that requires me to be neutral in terms of outcome, with any
integrity, if I have such strong feelings about the parties and their interests? I knew that if I didn't
make that leap, I couldn't do it, because my integrity would be in question. It would obviously
show, but just personally I couldn't do it. Because I feel that strongly about being honest about
where I am. What I came to believe and be absolutely committed to was that regardless of my
personal advocacy or personal interest in a particular position, what I had to offer with that
advocacy was a tenth or less of what I could offer them as a process person. Bringing a process
to them, to help them come to their own solution. So my advocacy or my bias for myself in a
particular position was insignificant compared to what I could offer as a person with a process
that worked. It was the ability to take in everyone's interest and the ability to say with integrity to
that police chief, that I have as much responsibility to protect the interest of this department as I
do the interest of the community. No less, no more. If I'm doing my job, I'll be protecting the
interests of both and the outcome is better than anything I could do as an advocate for either.
And I believe that. I really came to believe that the process that CRS uses has infinite value for
communities and individuals, and my advocacy role or my biases were of no value to them, so I
could easily set them aside.
Let me play the devil's advocate here for a moment. Say you are dealing with the police
chief who thinks that the interests of the department are to keep out minority officers, or treat
minorities differently then they treat whites, and this chief gives you a story about how this is in
the interests of the department. Is it then your job to protect those interests, or help him see that
maybe there's a more enlightened self-interest?
The one constant was the civil rights law, so I wouldn't have had to deal with that. It
wouldn't have been that blatant. Another criteria I use, another standard of operation is if it's not
on top of the table, it doesn't exist. I could tell you what their real interests were, but they would
tell me their interest was to do the right thing for the community, protect all of the community.
They wanted to abide by civil rights law and when they told me that, I held them to that. I didn't
let what I knew to be their underlying biases affect how I related to them. I related to them from
their best image. And I didn't allow that other to become part of that public dialogue. I had one
police chief that was never going to meet with these people. He thought those people just want to
break the law, they just want to get away with breaking the law. I understand that chief, but
what's going to happen if we don't do something? Talking about what his interests were in the
community and all that. Same kind of thing. But the exciting thing was that in six months he
was saying, "I've got to go meet with my community group." And he meant it. That to me is the
beauty of it. It's that young college junior, who was a white boy going from never having any
experience with what it meant to be black in the United States saying, "My God, what have I
done?" And the sheriff or the chief referring to my community group. People really change.
There's a difference in the way they relate to each other after that. That young boy will carry that
experience into everything he does. I believe it'll have an impact on how he relates to minorities
the rest of his life. In a positive way. Maybe some of those minority students will have changed
the way they interact with the Anglo world or the white world, because of having sat at that table
and experienced that together. Those "ah-has” are the payoffs for me. You can get people to
comply with the law, but to be able to have the time to spend with people to really begin letting
them see where people's hearts are, their hurts are, their interests are and that they are legitimate.
They have a legitimate interest that needs to be heard.
I've been avoiding asking the whole time, but what is the university?
It's Oklahoma State, in Stillwater.
How big is the student body?
It's pretty big.
Again going back to what you were telling people before you
brought them together. You said that you wanted to mediate the university's thoughts on this
incident, but did you tell them at that point that you had a broader interest too, or did you bring
that in later, or did it just happen naturally?
Well again, it was as much a part of our regional interest as my propensity. My propensity
was to let that open itself up wherever it went. Generally people will say, that's just the tip of the
iceberg. That's just an incident. The real issue is that we're isolated on campus, we don't have
any opportunity to serve our student government, we have professors here, and it just comes out.
So you either say, "well that's too bad, good luck with that, but we're going to deal with this
incident with the fraternity" or you can limit what they say, and just limit the discussions to that.
I went into a small community in Texas and I can't even remember
what the triggering incident was, probably police use of force, I'd have to look back. When I got
there we were in a community center and there were about fifty people there. I said, "Just talk to
me. What are your concerns?” Within about an hour, I realized there were people there who
were concerned about the school district, the police department, there were four different interest
groups, and I just divided them up in the room.
Everyone that's most interested concerns in the school district, go in that corner.
Everyone that's more interested in police here, city government here, contracting here. And just
divided them up and it turned out to be a five-prong community conflict resolution kind of thing.
So we were dealing with just about every major system in that city. But I didn't know that when I
Were you handling this all by yourself?
So then how did you deal with that?
I was in and out of there for about three years, going back and
forth. I began letting each group come up with the primary issues that they wanted to deal with,
and identify a three to five person task force that would work with me and the institutional
parties. I created that kind of a network where I could work on two or three different things on
one trip. That depended on who I could get appointments with. I just managed it as five
different cases, or four different cases that happened to be in one community. I didn't know
when I went there, that it was going to develop into that. But I think that was one of the things
that was exciting about it to me. I was able to let them define what their issues were and what
their needs were. Because of our philosophy, I was allowed to then respond to that over time
rather then just saying, "We'll deal with this police issue but then I'm going on." The perception
that the administration just doesn't want to respond, most of the time wasn't correct. Most of the
time they did, they just didn't know how. Given the opportunity and given an environment that
expects it of them, in a positive way, they responded. Another good example of that was the
difference between what happened in Orange, Texas, when the Federal Government went in
there and tried to impose housing integration, and a case I did in Grand Selean, Texas I was in
there by myself, and I gave the community and the housing authority the opportunity to do the
right thing. The biggest difficulty there was keeping the federal presence out so that they didn't
come in and cause them to back into a corner. Because they are just like everybody else, if you
back them in a corner, they're going to become defensive. But if you go in and say, "Here's the
higher good, and what's it going to look like if your community does this? But what would it look
like if you do this and rise to the occasion?” There was a public pride in saying, "We're going to
do the right thing,” and they kept the trouble-makers out. They made sure that the property was
safe. There are occasions when that doesn't happen -- when people really are not of good will
and that's why we have law enforcement. But, my experience was that most people want to do
the right thing if given the opportunity, and it can save a lot of money and a lot of lives.
Let me bring you back to the University case. How did you get
people to the table?
We defined the players, the different interest groups like the minority groups, the black
student group, the Hispanic group, and all of those groups then self-selected their representation.
The fact that we were committed to a broader review of the institution was very appealing and it
gave them some sense of value, legitimate value for having an impact on the whole institution.
And the administration felt comfortable with that?
Yeah, one of the things that made it work could have been more
difficult if the Vice President for Student Affairs was not so committed to what we were trying to
do. He didn't know exactly what to do, but he was in, he was there all the way. Once we sold the
President and he bought into it, he was free then to do what he wanted to do, and knew it was the
right thing to do, but he knew he couldn't do that without support. So, it really made that part of
it easy. Again, the next hurdle was the faculty and the faculty's perception of potentially losing
some power or influence. But they did come around and there was faculty representation from
the general faculty and also from minority groups within the faculty on the task force.
Now how did you bring them around?
Which, the faculty? I met with their whole group. I talked about our process. There's always
the unknown and they wonder, "What's the person from Federal Government doing here?” But I
have to project, "I'm not going to undermine this institution, I'm not going to undermine the
faculty, nothing is going to be diminished if we rise to this and cause something better to come
from it.” If it doesn't work then we'll refer it to someone else, and again if the group doesn't rise
to that, you can always refer it to somebody who can enforce something. You're giving people an opportunity to rise to a higher level and when they see that and
they trust that you can take them there, most of the time people will go with you. Now here's the
thing that I was beginning to sense the last 3 or 4 years I was doing this work with Justice. Of the
people who did not want to rise to that -- or as I just described it, didn't want to come to the table
in good faith, there were two different profiles. One was coming from the establishment
perspective, saying, "My influence is going to be diminished if this process is put in place
because when a broader base of people is in power then individual power is diminished,” if it's
an authoritarian kind of power. So, those people are intimidated and threatened by what we do.
There were minority people whose power was based in the fight, and if the group begins to rise
to a higher level with everyone really working toward the best interest of everyone else, those
individual powers will be diminished and they would try to sever ties. So, that became an
interesting phenomenon to me in the last 3 or 4 years, seeing that as more and more mediation or
conflict resolution or consensus-building or multi-culturalism became a part of the fiber. These
individuals began to say, "I'm losing control, I'm losing influence, I'm losing power," and there
began to be a push to keep the thing from working. My response to that was usually to go with
the group, whatever group they were a part of, and talk about that in private and say without
naming any names that there seems to be some sabotage going on. "Can you help with that? Are
you interested in helping with that? Because either that person's going to pull the group away or
the group will have to move away from that person.” But, I never tried to engage those people. I
would try to bring them to the table, I tried to get them in the midst of it and hold them to their
Did that ever work?
Did you ever run across a situation where a group was engaged in a
legitimate protest activity that might have been undercut if you started some sort of consensus
I'm not sure if I could think of an incident. I wouldn't try to stop a protest. The protest is
what really gets the establishment's attention and gives me an opportunity to say, "So what
happens next?" If you do nothing or what you've been doing resulted in this, is it worth trying?
Give me a chance, maybe I won't do any better but what's it going to hurt to try? So the protest in
many instances was the impetus to get the establishment to go for it. If this woman thinks she
can do something, send her out there. So generally that protest is the catalyst and this is where
my integrity and my trustworthiness would have to come in. If I went to the
establishment and I didn't believe that there were some people there who really wanted to do the
right thing, it would be my responsibility to tell that group this needs to be referred out. I
wouldn't bring them to a table with somebody that I didn't believe was honestly trying to work
through their concerns. I've stopped a process before because I found out at the table that they
had come there under false pretenses. I said, "Are you going to talk to the parties or are you just
going to intimidate?" and it became a trial kind of environment. The parties really couldn't
answer him, and I said "You all need to go and talk about that," because if the attorney (for a
school district) is going to continue to interrogate witnesses, (which is what he was basically
doing), I said that's not what we're here for. The court can handle that. This had been referred by
the court but you told me that you came here because the school board was willing to talk to this
group of citizens and that's not happening. So, they go off and talk and they come back and say
"No, the attorney's going to continue," and I said, "Okay," and I just got up and walked out with
the community people and left. It was turned back to the court and our response was not ever to
give any kind of biased response one way or the other, but just to say to the court the parties were
not willing to negotiate and that's all that it took. I mean the judge was 10 times harder on them
than the community wanted. The interesting thing about that was that particular attorney had
practically every school district in the metroplex. But, the next time I came along he listened to
me. Because he finally thought what we were doing was better for him and the school district
than if he ended up back in front of the judge.
Well, once again going back to the University, tell me
about the dynamics at the table?
I was the facilitator. They each had an opportunity to express their opinions about what we
needed to be dealing with, as far as bringing the issues out to the table, and then validating that
with everybody, because we couldn't deal with everything. Prioritizing those issues and building
a consensus around the table about what issues we were going to deal with, so from the very
beginning I was teaching them what I do. The next time an issue came up, they had been through
the process and I had basically facilitated, but coached and modeled that behavior as we went
along. The main thing is keeping the environment safe for everybody, so that nobody was
diminished and that was always one of my ground rules. They were obviously able to create
other ground rules that they felt like were important once we validated the issues and began
hammering out responses to it. In terms of faculty, one of the responses was that the
research division was going to do a statistical analysis of grading practices and that was going to
become a matter of record. There was an ongoing task force that established its membership.
They identified how the members would be selected each time, and how complaints would be
channeled into that. For example one of the biggest concerns the students had was, "I'm the only
minority student in that classroom, how can I possibly file a complaint that my teacher has
control of my grades?" So they built in some safeguards for them. The same thing went for any
kind of complaint in housing. Building in safeguards, we developed a brochure about race
relations and anti-discrimination policy and procedure on campus. The fraternal system was
looked at and the whole process for evaluating their documents that they have to have on
campus, organizing documents or whatever they have. A process was put into place to review
and look at that for complaints and charters. There were some specific steps for the student
government to bring in minorities into representation under the student government. More
multi-ethnic activities were generated out of that.
Was that all done by the group working as a whole, or did you break into test groups?
No, we did it together and the group stayed together. We had about 20 people, and almost
always, everybody was involved.
How often did you meet?
I want to say once a month, once we got going. I was up there probably once a week at the
beginning and then once every couple of weeks as we began to settle in. Then just based on
scheduling and everything, about once a month, we had a set meeting, like the 4th Tuesday of
How long did this last?
I was up there over a year. In and out.
You mentioned coaching. Did you coach everybody
together, or did you coach some groups individually?
In the initial contacts, part of that would occur with the individual groups, talking to them
about what's going to happen. Certainly you have some rage, certainly you have some interest in
sharing that feeling that you have. But what is it going to get you? You need to be very clear
about what your concerns are and they need to be definable. They need to be stated in a way that
they can be resolved. Saying you're angry at the administration because they're not responding to
you, doesn't tell the administration anything and there's nothing they can do to respond to that.
So coaching them to really clarify what their concern is. That's definable, something you can
respond to. Not being treated fairly in student government is a valid concern, but what does that
mean? You can't be elected because it's always at large, so you can't have representation at
student government, that's specific. So I coached them in being prepared to sit at the table. I
think that's always a big part of it. Not diminishing someone, is making sure they are prepared
for what's going to happen. If you put somebody there and they're not ready, then they feel like
they've been put down by the other parties that can talk more easily. The other party is more
prepared with the response, then you haven't done them any favors. My coaching there would be
getting them ready to come to the table and feel confident. The student had as much power at
that table as the vice president of student affairs. There was no power and no rank. And that was
part of my process, my responsibility. And everybody had to agree to that, the tenured faculty
included. They had no more influence on the group than a student did.
Did you do any coaching of the faculty or the administration?
Yes, the same kind of thing. Sometimes from a different perspective of being able to hear
and listen to the students or listen to the other group without becoming defensive. It was that
whole issue of helping people understand that being defensive is not helpful and it doesn't help
resolve problems. It just entrenches people. So the coaching may be different, sometimes not.
Generally it was more from that side of, you do have the power, but what's going to happen to
you if you don't have the students. What's going to happen to you if the community believes that
you are this kind of institution. You're more likely to be appealing to their public relations image
than anything. Coaching them in that sense would be more geared toward listening and not being
defensive. It was hard for an administration or an institutional mind set to listen to things that
they believe to be completely contrary to what they were doing. They believed that they were
doing the right thing. For somebody to attack them with the opposite, it was hard for them to
hear that. I could coach them in saying that community or the student's perception is that they're
treated unfairly. Now if that's not true, don't you have an interest in helping them understand
why that's not true? If it is true, then you should have an interest in helping them figure out how
to change that. So either way there's a response. I never went in and tried to get an institution to
say they were wrong. That would just be wasting time for one thing, and I didn't have to get
them to say that. The only thing I had to get them to say was that things could be better. That's
another one of those little keys, that if you go into an institution, or a minority group for that
matter, and say, "Your system is deplorable, and if law enforcement people came in here they'd
take you to court and everything's terrible." If you go in there like that, why should they listen to
you? Why should they come to the table with you? But if you go in there and say, "this is what
the community believes, this is how they feel about it, now if that's not correct, then you have an
opportunity to help correct that perception. But even if some of it's correct, can your institution
do better?" I've never had anybody say they couldn't do any better. And it's amazing what that
one little thing will do for any kind of mediation. If you try to make the respondent say, "I was
wrong," then it's a hurdle you may never get over. But if you can get them to say, "Well sure, we
can all do better," then I can help you. So that was the dance to me. It's moving with them,
where they are, and not trying to drag them somewhere. You dance them into the place where
you want them to be, but if you don't keep the rhythm, then you're pulling and dragging, and
they're not ever there in good faith.
You have referred a couple of times now
to "the dance”. You've had a really nice description of mediation as a dance that you're now
referring to but haven't put on tape. Do you remember how you put it before, can you tell us
I came up with the imagery in the middle of a mediation one time, sitting around a table.
Because of the dynamics of what was going on, I realized that I was kind of having to move back
and forth with the parties with where they were with their anger and frustration, with the
establishment's sense of indignation, and trying to move with them and keep them moving
toward the goal that I had. That goal was for them to begin to talk to each other. I realized that
when mediation and conflict resolution is really working well, the mediator can go in with the
skills he or she has, but listen to the parties and move with them on their level of info, frustration,
indignation, whatever that is, empathizing with and understanding them, whatever their mood or
tune, or dance is at that time. If you're not willing to dance with them, they're not going to trust
you. They'll play my tune later if I've danced with them. But if I haven't been willing to dance
with them they're not willing to play my tune, they're not going to go with me, when I want to
take them somewhere. I think that kind of movement is what captures me when I'm thinking
about mediation. It's exciting. You go in, and some people are just doing the tango and you've
gotta go with that. You're trying to get them to some harmony, maybe a waltz. I don't know
music that well, which is kind of interesting that I use that imagery, but it just fits so well for me.
When I teach mediation, I use that imagery with new students, you have to be willing to
understand where the parties are. Think about it in terms of being willing to dance with them.
You may not enjoy the rumba, but if that's where they are, you're going to have to start there and
then move with them and get them to where they trust you enough to take the rhythm that you've
got going for the mediation.
What does that imply about your thought
process before you go into a case? Do you have any kind of a plan laid out, or do you go in with
pretty much a blank slate and just wait to see where they are before you start coming up with
I learned after ten years that I did have some ideas, but I tried to protect against going in with
those expectations. Or going in with a plan. I really believe in the power of the parties to resolve
their own problems. My greatest gift to them is the process to help them do that. That's what
they're missing. Like I said, in ninety percent of the cases, people want to do the right thing, and
given the right environment, they'll rise to that. That's the gift I bring. If I go in with a solution, I
may miss the real issue. Like the university case. I would have missed all of the other things that
really were more important to them than the fraternity party was. That fraternity party was a slap
in the face, but had they been treated fairly on that campus and felt like they were a part of that
campus, that wouldn't have occurred or they would've gone to someone and said, "What is going
on here?" So to go in there because of my preconceived notions, limits their environment, and
the ability to really get at the core of their issues. Sometimes it's hard. Because you've seen this
situation before, you think you know what you need to do. The power of that is that you do have
some things to say, there is hope. I've seen people work through these things, and I've seen good
things come from this. Here are some things that have helped in other situations. So it gets them
thinking, but I very much try not to go in there with a preconceived plan. It's like the city that I
went to and we ended up with five groups that night. I'd never done that before, but it seemed
like the right thing to do at that point, because it's what they needed. I guess that was one of the
most important factors for me, trying to respond to what they needed. It was critical to try and
keep an open mind about the situation. I was always surprised. Hardly ever did I go into a
situation where what you expected to be the most important issue actually was.
Now did you generally try to move people toward mediation, or
was that open for later determination?
It was later. I think probably as far as sitting down at the table, if it looked like it would be
a good tool in the long run, yes. If not, no because it was so time-consuming. We worked
territories, generally, and I had Oklahoma and Northwest Texas. I may be in Stillwater, and then
I'd be back in Stillwater again dealing with the school district, or the police department, and some
of the same players in all of those situations, especially with the community. So maybe we could
deal with the university and you ended up with formal mediation, but you're dealing with some of
the same players with the local school district and you really don't need to go that far. They've
already been through some of that, they already know some of the process, and it's just a matter
of helping them focus again to use the process themselves. Sometimes the parties weren't willing
to sit down at the table, and the best you could do was to try to minimize the tension and the
potential for violence. That's all you could accomplish, so a lot of things would be a factor if you
ever got to a table. I guess the driving interest for us in region six was, is there an opportunity for
a systemic change? Then we would move there, whether that resulted in a formal mediation or
not. We may still get some sort of document where they change the way they recruit teachers,
even though we never sat down and had a formal mediation. But we made a systemic change.
So that was more of a driving thing than the mediation.
In the university case, did you have any problem getting the individual groups to work
together cohesively? I mean, were there conflicts within the minority students, within that one
group, or between different faculty members that caused problems in the ongoing negotiation?
As I remember, there was more friction among the faculty ethnic groups than there was
among students. All the minority students probably felt so isolated, that they were more able to
cooperate with each other. The faculty groups had created more interest and identity groups for
themselves, and it seemed to be more difficult to get them to see themselves as a union. They did
not want to lose any power or influence. So that, as I recall, was more of an issue than the
students. The hardest thing with the students was to get the Native Americans to engage. They
would rather have not, I think.
How did you do that?
I just continued working with them and tried to get them to see what they would add to it.
That their voice was important. It would be diminished by not having them there. The others
were ready and prepared, ready to be engaged. And theirs was more of a cultural tendency not to
How did they feel about it at the end? Do you know?
The Native Americans, I couldn't say, I don't remember thinking anything different about
You didn't get the sense that they felt like they were forced into doing something that they
didn't want to do?
No. The outcome was so broad-based, that it really involved everybody and there was some
sort of a ceremonial ending, and they bid me farewell. They sent back reports for several
quarters on things that they had done.
This was the
same group that you had constituted?
Part of that group became the first task force. Then they had in place the criteria for
replacing themselves over time. Because the students would have to rotate. But they put in the
document, ways for the group to replace itself as time passed. We did the brochure out of the
group. We had it designed and printed up out of that process.
And what is the task force's purpose?
There was one overwhelming interest that came up. That was the minority students' lack of
anonymity when they needed it, when they felt they were being discriminated against. So part of
it was to create a buffer between them and the complaint in the classroom or housing or
whatever. So that they had a place to go to deal with the problem, and then that group became
part of their voice. Obviously they'd still be identified, but here's this task force group looking at
it, so that the faculty member or housing authority or whatever is not just dealing with this
student, they're dealing with this task force. And the task force is made up of a cross section of
the university, who says discrimination is not appropriate. So it gave them some buffer against
the majority because you can't create an environment where they can be anonymous, when there's
so few. So how do you create a place where they can be safe? So that was the purpose.
The other was to try to be pro-active. Looking at additional ways where we are not
meeting the needs of our students, where we are not encouraging minorities to stay here, and be a
part of the campus. They looked at things dealing with handicap access, housing, the systemic
kinds of things that affect students. The different programs that the university has, why are there
no minorities in this particular program? They had the two goals, as I remember. One was to
create this safety net for the individual, and the other was to be pro-active in proposing and
recommending change for the institution to continue to do that. I think they called themselves
the multi-cultural action team. They wanted to be sure that "action” was a part of their title.
I might let you go home and confirm the documents and I'll give them a call and see if they
still exist. Going back to the internal conflict with the faculty, is that something that you worked
with them to try to help them resolve or did you let them deal with it themselves?
I really didn't deal with it that much except to try to get representation. I guess that was one
of the things that didn't become part of the process, because one of the limiting factors was
student relations. So I didn't really get into faculty relations that much. I remember talking to
some of the faculty individually about some things they might try, approaches, but not making it
a part of the formal process.
Did representation ever become a difficult issue? "Why's he at the
table and I'm not?” or vice versa?
More, "Why is that fraternity here since they're the perpetrators?” Because they were
self-selected out of the groups. If a group was a party, then they self-selected their representation
to the table. Now they could've had two or three choices maybe, but generally any group in the
student group population, I believe, had two or three representatives at the table. But they were
self selected, so that was part of the way they were not competing with each other. They'd
already taken care of that. If we left a group out, that might become an issue. Why wasn't this
group represented there? A lot of times the parties will want to leave out the most outrageous
groups, and we try to make it clear that those are the very people you need at the table. They
definitely need to be a part of that environment of discussion, where they see that people are
trying to reason, and that their approach is not the acceptable approach. Sometimes they'll drop
out once they see that they're not going to be able to dominate. But at least they need to be
Were there any groups like that in this case?
No. There weren't.
How did you deal with confidentiality in this case? Were the
discussions around the table all confidential?
Everything except what became written documents was considered confidential. Anything
that was the workings, the process, the exchange of dialogue was considered confidential so that
it didn't become gossip outside the room. Any contact with the media was directed toward me
until it was over. As a contact person, my response was always, "We're working.
We're not investigating, but we're working toward some solutions." Again, part of the ground
rule setting was how we would deal with the media, and how we dealt with confidentiality.
Part of the end of each meeting was generally, what do we need to
report back to our constituency groups? So there was reporting back. Part of that is keeping the
constituency groups with you. One of the things that is a real danger, is that the group comes up
with a solution, but all the constituency groups are still out here fighting and they don't buy into
the solution. So part of the real process is keeping the constituency groups informed, and feeling
like they're part of what's happening. That's part of the coaching too, helping them understand
the value of that, making sure you report back to the group, get input from them on what they
think. "Here are some things we're working on. Do you have any suggestions? What do you think
we could do to make this work?” Keep that dialogue going so you really have all of them
coming to the table.
Did significant changes get brought in from the outside, from the constituency groups?
I'm not sure that I would be that aware of it. The ideas would be brought to the table by
There's another way to phrase the same thing. Were there any major changes in direction,
when people went back to their constituency groups and found out what they were doing wasn't
going to fly, and came back to the table and said we need to do something differently?
I don't remember it in that case. I do remember that sort of thing would happen, and I would
define that again as the dance. You've got to be prepared for that new tune and incorporate that
into the process. Again, if you believe in the people having their answers, you have to listen to
that, you have to hear that. Because you don't know how it's going to read out in the end, you
don't know how the Board of Regents is going to respond to that. You need to know that. You
need to know if we go this way, the university could lose funding for this.
Before I was in consulting, I was in the ministry. I was a Baptist
minister. I was doing student work and mission work. A lot of the people were from
ministry-related backgrounds. So, it was interesting, the kinds of people who became a part of
I've just got a couple of other questions, still about the University
case. How did you decide when you were done?
We had the document. Once we began
writing it up, we spent time clarifying the issues that we were going to deal with, and then took
them one by one to develop a response or a remedy. Part of the technique there was that each
time at the end of a meeting, I had drafted what we had done as far as issues and remedy. I
brought that back to the table at the next meeting with the draft working paper and that's where
we started each time. The problem with not having something like that is that you keep backing
up. If you don't keep a consistent group, you have to start all over again. So the consistency was
critical, and we did have consistency. Each group had an alternate that was available, who came
to all the meetings. That was part of the reason for having more than one representative. So that
we had the consistency and could keep moving forward.
Once we had all of these issues addressed and some remedy proposed, we checked a
couple of things, institutionally or legally. We would have to check to see if they were viable. If
they were legitimate, within the context of either policy or law or whatever. Once we had all
those things cleared up, and everybody agreed, we had a document. We got everybody to sign
off one, and then I was finished. They were just beginning, but my role was finished.
I went back a couple of times just as a kind of a courtesy, but also it's fun to go back and
work with the group on a issue or something, or an educational thing. I went back one time and
did one of the trainings that they had proposed in the document for the students or for the faculty.
I think I did a faculty training on multi-culturalism or something like that. So it is that kind of
interaction. I was in town for other things with other issues in Stillwater but from then on, it was
Were there any
provisions in the document that addressed what would happen if any of the provisions weren’t
followed, any enforcement mechanism?
Generally, I would say yes. I can’t remember specifically on that document. We always
had the "what if’s," and our agency was a recourse as far as calling us to come in and help
interpret and redefine or help the parties begin to implement. The things we did, like the task
force, became recognized groups under the president, and reported directly to the president. So
they had their own legitimacy and recourse. Any violation fell in under existing policies and
procedures. So it wasn’t outside the system. It was just creating this place where people were
focused on ethnic relations and discrimination and helping these people who were pretty much
isolated get redress. The remedy was available there; it just wasn’t being exercised, because
people were afraid to seek remedy.
Were they less afraid once the committee was formed?
Yes. I think it was a significant step. The interest to the institution was partly that they
needed to keep minorities on campus, so their interests were being served in different ways by
the whole process.
How did the president feel about this?
Good. I think his fears were similar to
what most institutions’ fears are. He was afraid that they were going to be diminished. It was
looking like they would have to get somebody in there to do their job, and that was part of why
this worked. We didn’t take credit, and that's why the CRS organization has such a hard time
selling itself to congress. You can’t sell the fact that we avoided a riot. You can’t sell the idea
that we now have students on this campus who feel like they have redress. You get lots of
money flooding into Los Angeles when there’s a riot. But it’s hard to get them to appropriate
money to avoid a riot. Then the commitment of the CRS mandate was that we would do this as
low-profile, and it wouldn’t work otherwise. If we were showboating and taking credit then the
institutions would have to worry. Their interests wouldn't be protected, and they wouldn't be as
forthcoming. But if we really are there as an instrument of change, with everyone’s interests at
heart then you have power to make things happen for them. If your interest is to get credit, then
their interest is diminished and the next leader is not going to let you in. It's really a catch-22 and
I'm not sure what the good answer is.
I think you've already answered this
question, but I haven't asked it overtly. How do you measure your success?
For me, the biggest success was that awareness was raised around that table about people's
feelings; what it feels like to be black, what it feels like to be white, what it feels like to be a
faculty member. That awareness was genuinely raised for everybody there and there was some
empathy created across those lines. That was a personal success and that's something that I'm
glad to be a part of. The professional success is in the changes that occur for the system. I don't
know if any faculty member was ever sanctioned for grades. I don't know that, but I know there
was a study in place to consider that. And that was the first step, but that's not acceptable.
Maybe the faculty simply knowing that the study was going on could have some long term
impact. So I felt professional success most often when we could create institutional change.
Personally, it was when I saw individuals raise their awareness. Once
I had a banker in a community, a little tiny community, make some offhand comment about,
"There's no reason for us to have another park. We have a nice park, this city's not that big. Why
do we need another park in the minority part of town?" I said "Well, these kids would have to
walk across town. It's about a mile away. Would you let your children do that?" "It's not that
far." But then he had the courage to go drive to the other part of town, which he hadn't been to
lately, and he thought about his children walking that distance. He said later, "You're right. It's
not fair." He gave the land for the park in the other part of town. Those are the personal
successes because that was the beginning of several leaders in the community, black and white. I
don't know that there was any other ethnic group involved. After a hundred years of knowing
each other, they began to really talk to each other and value each other and honor each other. In
that instance, a situation occurred about 6 months later that would've been disastrous had that
process not occurred 6 months before. Do you want to hear this?
There was an incident and the local NAACP president was a part
of the group and then the president of the bank was the other major leader. I mean, the group was
bigger than just those two people, but they were a part of it. The police chief was, too. It had
started over police stuff. Six months after the incident with the banker, a young black man had
come home one afternoon and told his mother that someone had kidnapped him and tried to hang
him. They went to the police department and the police chief couldn't find anything to support
what the boy was saying. But he also knew he couldn't go to the community and just say, "I don't
have anything." He had established a rapport with the president of the NAACP and had
established a trusting relationship. He went to him and said, "You've got to help me, I don't
know what to say. I can't find any evidence and I know we're going to have another problem if I
just come out and say that I can't find anything to corroborate the boy's story." So the NAACP
president went with him, and they went to talk to the boy and the mother again. The short of the
story was that the young man had lied, that he had skipped school and he knew the only thing
that was going to save him from his mother's wrath was a really good story. Well, that wouldn't
have come out if the police chief didn't have rapport with somebody in the black community,
someone who trusted him, someone who knew that he wasn't trying to cover something up.
Because of that trust, that incident didn't become an incident. But you can't sell that. That
success is long-term. That's where the success is, as far as I'm concerned, because my hope is
that there's instances like that all over Oklahoma and Texas where people are going to each other
and avoiding incredible hurt and disaster. Hopefully they've learned they can trust each other.
That was one of those things where it confirms that it was worth the 6 months I spent there.
Initially there are 20 people who are
sitting at the table, developing these trusting relationships, developing a mutual understanding.
But the goal is to eventually get the whole community to develop a more trusting relationship.
How do you transfer what's learned at the table to the rest of the community?
I think the critical element is who you have at the table. Most people follow values of
particular leaders. One of my techniques is to try to identify not only position leaders, but also
personal leaders in groups. There were always people who had personal power over and above
position power. If some of them won't sit at the table, you can still keep them in the loop if you
know who they are. As long as you can keep them involved in the process, it will spread because
most people are looking for someone to give them direction. In one instance, I went to a housing
authority meeting every month for four months before one woman finally stood up and said,
"You're not going to go away, are you?" I said, "No, not as long as I think I can be helpful." And
that's when they started working with me. So if I earn the trust for myself, then they can easily
transfer it into the community. We saw it over and over again. In Tulsa, we began to establish
trust groups. The police department had so much trouble and once the community began to
relate to the police department, the housing people began helping police rather than avoiding
them and/or not being helpful. It became safer for the police and it became safer for the
community. Once somebody who is a personal leader says, "We can trust the police," then the
group begins to cooperate. But when that person says, "They're not trustworthy," there's nothing
the police department, or me, or anybody else can do to convince that group. So the key is
finding those people. Who are the personal leaders? Position leaders are essential for
institutional change, but to get change in community, you've got to find the personal leaders, the
people who are really respected and honored.
Go back to what
you just said about the woman in the housing authority, where you came into a meeting for 4
months. That sounds interesting. Tell me about what was going on in that case.
There were allegations of the housing authority not responding to tenants, and Tulsa became
one of the prime targets of the housing authority investigation. The housing authority was
siphoning money and spending it on other stuff, so the housing was falling apart. The minority
groups living in the communities had complained to us because by then some of the players knew
me and asked if I would come in. But the housing people didn't know me and, people
who lived in the housing areas didn't know me. Too often, people come in and do their little deal
and say their little speech and they leave. They figured that's what I was going to do, so they
weren't going to spend any time with me. Nor were they going to give me any time. They let
me say my little spiel, but that was about all. I just kept coming back. What we were looking at
there was the housing authority's anti-discrimination policies that were a federal law.
Unfortunately, they were so but was so complex that nobody could interpret them without an
attorney. So we were looking at a way of redrafting those into common language. As far as the
really imbedded stuff with the corruption, I really didn't have any authority to deal with that. But
from my perspective, there were people in the community who were beginning to deal with that.
There were people who were getting board members elected who wanted to deal with that. There
were 2 groups at the establishment level. One was siphoning money, and the other one was
saying, "That's not right,” and they were beginning to act on that. So we focused in on the
discrimination policy and on getting the community a form of redress. Again, the housing
authority didn't want any public light shining on them, so they wanted to cooperate. We had to
work some with HUD. I wasn't even sure we would have permission to rewrite the document,
but that didn't seem to be a problem. It makes you wonder why somebody didn't do it before...
What kept you coming back to meeting after meeting?
They hadn't told me to go away. I guess that was part of my nature. If they didn't tell me to
go away, I kept coming back. If they did tell me to go away, I'd go away. But this group hadn't
told me to go away yet and the community leadership had asked me to try to help. The people
who lived there in the housing projects were the ones not ready to trust me yet. The community
leaders still wanted me to try. As long as the people living in the housing projects didn't tell me
to go away, I kept coming back to see what I could do. Eventually this woman, who obviously
was the personal leader, stood up and said, "You're not going away are you?" I don't think she
meant that in a negative way, she meant, "You really are here to help." I said "The only way I'll
leave is if there's nothing I can do." I had one situation where I had been going into the school
district and I could tell that the superintendent didn't really want me there, but he wouldn't tell me
to go away. As long as he didn't say go away, as long as he kept opening his door, I kept going
in. But I sensed that he really didn't want me in there. After about three or four months, we got a
call in the office from a senator's office in Oklahoma telling me to leave the superintendent alone.
So I had to write up a response to show that at every point I had told him this is voluntary. The
good part of it was that particular community group was more sophisticated than most. I felt that
they were going to move ahead fine and would probably be more aggressive than if I would've
guided them in. Within a year, the superintendent was indited for embezzling funds. So that's
why he didn't want anybody in there.
Certainly not Justice Department.
Right. People who are not people of good will are generally hiding
something. They really did need to be investigated, so it's just as well that we moved out. It's
just as well we get on out of there and let whoever needs to come in, get in there and investigate.
That was always a big dilemma for me. Will my involvement be more helpful to the parties than
if they went through law enforcement or court action? Is the outcome going to be significant
enough to them that it's worth this kind of intervention, or is it going to short-change them? You
cannot always answer that, but that was always a question in my mind. If I convince them to
move in this direction, am I taking away from their right to some other action? That was always
something I would try to consider.
If you came to the conclusion that they
would be better off going another direction, what did you do?
Refer. Our confidentiality wouldn't allow me to call that party or call that law enforcement
group, but I could refer them. Sometimes it would happen because I didn't believe that the
institution or the establishment was going to act in good faith. I would not bring people to the
table if I didn't believe that.
Were there any other general rules that helped you make that decision, just like that one?
If there's potential for violence or harm, you were just there. And you stayed there and did
whatever you could. So without that, there was more to consider before making a commitment
to long-term involvement. For example, I went into one community and found out that
everybody in our agency, in the whole region for the whole history of our agency, had been in
there and nothing had changed. When I went in there, the community still wasn't going to do
anything. I did some training with the police that they asked for and I left. The community
wasn't prepared to do their part, and that was part of my criteria. Are the parties willing to move
into long-term and be involved? If they're not, my time and the resources of the country can be
used better somewhere else. In one case, one of the remedies was that employers in this little
town agreed to allow specific minorities time off to serve on grand juries and the police review
board. That was a problem. They couldn't get time off and they couldn't afford it. Most of the
people on the juries and review board were self-employed lawyers, house wives, or people who
had their own income. So it excluded the minorities. So some of the business leaders agreed that
it was like jury duty. One of the things that I had to make sure of is that the community people
would be willing to really serve. I said, "You're going to really do yourself an injustice if we set
this up and then none of you are willing to serve. The establishment people will say, ' see I told
you.' You're going to be worse off than if we never start this." So that was the other thing. If
what you're going to do is going to make them entrench in their biases more, then leave it alone.
You're better off just to leave them where they are, don't reinforce their current biases. There was
always a cry from the establishment that they could not get minorities to serve on boards and
commissions. Then there was a cry from minorities that nobody ever asked them to serve on
boards and commissions. So if we put in place a resolution, they're going to look to you for
referrals, that you've got to have those referrals ready. If you're not prepared to make those
referrals every year not just this year then you're going to do yourself more harm than if we'd
never had this conversation. So the commitment to work for a long time was another issue for
me. Again, you're never going to have the whole community, but if you've got enough people,
you can make a difference.
Let's talk about what you do when you
see a potential for violence?
It generally involves police departments. The best thing to do is to create as much public
awareness as possible about what's going on. The more light you can shine on this community
issue and make everybody aware of what's going on, the less likely that violence is going to
occur, regardless of where it's coming from. The first thing is just to get everybody out there and
talking about what's happening. Then you try to create response systems that include the
community. For example, one situation was in a park at night where there was a lot of violence
involving black youth. The police were trying to deal with it and one of our recommendations
was to get the adult male pastor to come into those parks and help. The police were more likely
to cause more violence to occur. So our suggestion wasn't the answer to the problems, but it was
a way of working with the current situation and trying to diminish possibility of violence right
We try to find people who have influence with the people who you fear might cause the
violence. Again, those personal leaders. I used to tell school districts, "If you want to stop
trouble in the hallways, put some other kids or parents in the hallways." A generation of school
administrators cried "We want the parents out of the schools." Same thing in a community. You
can't hire enough police officers to police the community. We have got to get the community
involved in policing. It's amazing our presence, whether it was me or any of us, could create
calm. There was a calming effect. We are good talkers, we can create hope. They don't have to
take one particular route, there is an alternative. That takes us back to the Indians as a good
example. The potential there was violence. The potential was that the people inside had guns.
Start at the beginning.
Okay. This was
a situation where two different people in an Indian tribe claimed to be the chief. But they both
claimed to be elected. Being chief of the tribe means having control of a lot of money. So there
was interest in being the chief. The person who was in the compound said that he was the chief,
and the people around him agreed. Another man in the community said he was the chief, so he
took his friend and guns and took over the compound. I called in from Lubbock, Texas. It was
routine on a Friday afternoon to say, "I'm coming in, is there anything going on?" "As a matter of
fact there is. This chief in Oklahoma said that he won't do anything until you get there. Will you
go talk to him?" "Okay." I had to drive to where this is. It was noon on Saturday by
the time I got there. When I got there, people were parked all along the highway. I parked and
walked up to where the gate of the compound, and all law enforcement at both the state and
federal levels were there. Bureau of prisons, state police, local police, sheriff's department,
highway patrol, everybody. So here I come, walking up, going in to talk to these people. Law
enforcement thinks, "Yeah right." About that time, one of the Native Americans comes out, gets
me, and takes me in with him. I was pretty new in this; I'd probably been with the agency for a
year and a half or so. The building was like an elementary school, it had the same kind of layout.
I walked in the front door with this fellow, and this was one of those potentially violent
situations. I had called ahead to the compound and talked to the chief. He had agreed not to do
anything until I got there. Also the police and law enforcement had agreed to stay outside until I
got there. The very fact that we were coming gave law enforcement an out for not going in. It
gave the people inside an out for not escalating this thing. The fact that this person is coming
who doesn't have an interest and who doesn't have a gun gave everybody an out to back off.
Otherwise their tendencies move toward violence. I get there, the guy walks me in, there's
nobody else around except him, walking me in.
Which side is he on?
He's inside the compound with the guy with the guns. I don't see anybody inside the
building. He takes me down the hallway. It's very dark, and I'm beginning to think, "Alright,
what's he going to do?" I could sense people on both sides of the hallway, I could sense there
were people there. It was dark and I was following this guy. I turned to the left, down the hall,
and went to a room where the chief and another person were. I started
doing the interview and asking questions about what their issues were. What occurred to cause
them to take these extreme measures? What was it going to take to resolve the situation? I'm
taking notes, I'm getting everything down. They're telling me, "We should've talked to you a
week ago. This wouldn't have happened. We're so glad you're here." Retrospectively, I realized
that every now and then one of the two people would leave. But somebody else would come in.
So I would start a whole new discussion with them. What do you think is causing this? What
got us to this point? How do we now move ahead without the violence?" I was taking lots of
notes because they would leave and somebody else would come in. This happened for probably
an hour, back and forth. Within two hours, I'm still interviewing people as they jockey in and out
of the room. They're just so pleased I'm there and they think it's going to make all of the
difference in the world. "We're just so glad you could come." So all of a sudden, after a couple
of hours, I realized nobody had come back. One person had left, I'm talking to one, and then this
person leaves. I sat there for about five minutes and nobody came back.
You're by yourself now?
I'm in the room by myself. Not feeling particularly comfortable. I get up, look out and don't
see anybody. I'm thinking this is really weird. I decide to venture out, back toward that hallway.
The hallway's lit and nobody's around. I go through what would be the administration part of the
school, back into where there's a little cafeteria and gymnasium. Still nobody was there. I'm the
only person in that building. Now what? It's Saturday. I try to call our regional director in
Dallas, but I can't get anybody on the phone. I'm thinking, "So what am I supposed to do?
They're gone." I picked up my briefcase, marched out to the gate and told the law enforcement
people, "Everybody's out." I kept walking down to my car and everybody along the street was
clapping. I got into my car and went back to Dallas. I was their cover. They had everything
packed up in that hallway, ready to go when I got there. When I got there, they knew that law
enforcement people weren't going to come in while I was in there. They were jockeying back
and forth different ones, getting stuff ready and getting out. The last two left in the last van and
they were taking people out in the backs of vans. They had been letting individual vans leave,
but didn't realize they had taken everybody out while I was in there. So we had accomplished
what I went there to accomplish. They had a good plan. It worked. It was one of the funniest
Did you do anything further with their grievances or anything?
No. They left and the other people came in, the ones who felt like they were the legitimate
elected officials. Mostly it just gave them a face-saving way to get out of there. They were
hotheads and got in there and didn't have a way out. We gave them a way out without knowing
it. The interesting thing was, it was probably another three or four years before I had an occasion
with some of the same players again. In that tribe, they all knew each other and nobody ever
mentioned it. It was never brought up, but they started working with me after that on some other
issues. It was a great story.
You said you didn't know what was going on at the time. Would you do anything different
I probably would have screwed it up if I had been aware of what was going on. It was their
deal and they had decided if I came it would give them cover. I did figure out a way of
responding to their needs, but they already had it figured out. It worked faster than anything we
could've done. No, I don't think I would've done anything differently.
Earlier, we started talking about building trust, being white, and
being a woman. How did you feel about being a white woman and did that help you or hurt you
in your interactions with other people?
I think it's probably personality. Growing up in the mountains in West Virginia, I was pretty
strong and independent. I don't think in the terms of being a woman or being white. I'm pretty
self-confident, so I don't project that. I think that helps. People who didn't know me and didn't
know what I was involved in, would ask, "Aren't you frightened?" My response is, "If I were
overtly frightened by the job itself, I wouldn't be in the job." I tried not to be stupid. I tried to
take precautions. A couple of time I've felt I was in danger. I would make sure I called back to
the office and make sure that whoever I was around knew that people at the Justice Department
knew where I was and who I was with. I tried to make sure I didn't stay in communities where I
knew there was a threat to me. I would drive to another community to spend the night. I tried
not to be stupid, but I wasn't frightened by the job and I wasn't frightened by being with people. I
never felt uncomfortable about going into any community, but again, I tried to make sure that it
was obvious, by the way I looked and by the way I dressed, that I was from the Justice
Department. That was intentional. If I got to know people, I may not be so stark or so
professional, but my first contact with people was always very professional. If they saw me
coming into the community, they'd know that, "she's the one from the Justice Department." In
terms of being a woman and doing the job, I think there were some hesitations about it because I
was the first woman in the southwest region. I remember the regional director saying, "I used to
wonder how you'd be able to handle some of the sheriffs up in Oklahoma, but then I saw this
picture." One of the communities sent a picture to him with three or four sheriffs sitting around a
table and me standing up telling them something. He said, "It looked like you were doing okay."
What I discovered was that it was a disarming effect. When I came in, they weren't expecting a
woman. I wasn't defensive about being a woman.
People were especially open to talking with me almost to the point of confiding in me. I was
somebody they could talk to. I think with a man, that wouldn't have been the tone of the
conversation. It would've been more ego and positioning. They would confide in me things they
wouldn't often tell any of the men. So I got more done because I was a woman. In the minority
community, I never sensed that there was resistance because I was white. There might have
been, but it wasn't overt. I didn't give it credibility. If somebody overtly challenged me, I just
said I was there to help them and if I could not be helpful, then I would leave. My intent was to
be helpful. In most instances, people don't really care once they trust the fact that you really do
want to be helpful. Whether you're a woman or white or black, or green. If you're there to help
and you've got some resources that will be helpful to them, they're willing to use that resource. I
think the biggest thing for me, and it's been my personality all along, is that I'm not defensive
about who I am. People perceive that and know that I'm comfortable with who I am. And I
know my limits. I know that I don't know what it feels like to be black. I don't try to pretend like
I know that, but I try to understand it, and I learned a lot. I remember thinking about some black
men who talked about situations they'd been in. I thought about my brothers being in those
situations and how they would've responded differently. Theirs would've been a different story.
So I tried to learn how to at least empathize. I never pretended like I knew what it was like. I
think people honored that. There was always a mistrust from everybody's perspective at the
outset. "You're from the federal government, so you're here to tell us what we have to do.
You're white, so there's no way you're going to be able to help us." So it didn't matter which
group you went to, there was going to be a bias against you for one reason or another. That's part
of the deal, that's part of establishing trust. You've got to be able to go beyond that and say,
"Here's what I have to offer."
What did you do when parties were resistant to what you had to
I think most parties, at the outset, are resistant because they don't understand what you have
to offer. Like I said earlier, the approach was to try and figure out what their self interest was and
appeal to that. I never, especially with the establishment, went under the illusion that I could
appeal to their higher good. That may come, that might be what brings them along further, but
it's not going to be what gets them to engage. The thing that's going to get them to engage is
what it's going to cost them if they don't do this. What's it going to cost? Is it worth trying? At
that entry level, I generally was very pragmatic, not idealistic. We talk about personal successes
when I see those people understanding, and clearly knowing what they've done, and they feel
horrible about it. That's very abstract, but that doesn't happen if you start there. My experience
shows you have to start with pragmatism. People respond to that.
Did you ever keep on working on a case when a key party was not
willing to work with you?
No. I may continue in a different direction. One whole group may decide they may not want
to participate, and you can't really address the problem systemically without them. But you can
still coach or guide the other group through either helping them move toward a referral, or
helping them develop a strategy to respond. For integrity's sake, I would tell the other group, "I
understand that you don't want to participate, but I am going to continue doing this." I wouldn't
do it behind their backs.
Does that bring people around sometimes?
Sometimes. Sometimes they'd see what the wanted outcome was, that it wasn't an attempt to
undermine the whole structure of the institution or destroy the city. Everybody had these huge
fears about what was going to happen. When they realize that something good can come out of
it, or at least nothing bad is going to happen and they're not going to end up on the front page of
the newspaper, they'll sometimes change their mind.
Did you ever tell the administration or the
authorities that you're going to be working with the minority group and then they thought that
would make the minority group even more powerful, so maybe they'd better get you working
with them too?
Yeah, could be. They definitely don't want to be left out of the loop, nor do they want to be
perceived as not being cooperative. And that's a plus. Again, they say they want to cooperate,
they say they want things to be better. I'll take their word. Then the minority groups says,
"They've been saying that for years, but they don't really mean it. I know they don't really mean
it." "Well, I'm going to trust that they mean it. Let's see what happens. One of the biggest
factors is, what could it hurt to try? It won't cost you anything, the government's paying me.
You've tried and tried and tried. So the cost factor, what's it going to cost you if you do this.
Give me a couple of months, you could still do anything you want after that. But is it worth one
more try?" Again, most people say, "Yes, it's worth one more." On the other side, "Could it be
better? Not that you're bad, not that you're the worst people in the whole world, not that you've
done everything wrong, but could you at least see that the relationships between these two groups
of people could be better?" "Sure they could be better." Okay, then let's see what we could do."
So you're taking people at the pragmatic level. They have low expectations, but let's see if we
can make things better. Again, I'm dancing them into a more intricate kind of process that has
long term benefit.
Do you have any standard approaches of who you talk to first?
Obviously if somebody initiated the contact, that would be easy. If it was a news report or
some other way that I found out about it, I would try to contact the aggrieved group first to try to
get some read on what the level of violence and tension is. Also, how quickly do we need to
So you're doing this on the phone?
Yes. Letting them know I'm on my way, if it's really a violent situation. If I get a sense that
things are already started or getting ready to start, I would make a clear commitment to them that
I am on my way, I will be there.
How do you find somebody to call?
I don't know, it's kind of like being a detective I guess. You check the paper and you call
groups that you're aware of. Sometimes you call the newspaper and find out if they have any
names. A lot of times, in the minority community, the church leadership will know somebody
that's involved. So you just have to ask around the first six months or a year and after that, I've
created this file of people in every community. So I may even call one community and say, "Do
you know anyone in this community?" Usually they do. But you begin to have a network. Once
you've established those trust relationships and those networks within a territory you can do
something with a phone call because you've already established the trust, you've already coached
them through some conflicts before. You really do multiply your efforts when you create those
networks and alliances with trusting people. I began to have people from the establishment call
me, and that was a real benchmark. The establishment people were saying, "I think we've really
done some things here which might be a problem. We're not sure where to go with it, could you
help us out?" You just create a network like you would with anything else.
Did you ever just handle cases over the phone entirely without
Yes, after a time. I'm not sure if I would've counted them as a case, but there have been
situations where I could've been a consultant to an official or a minority community leader and
then they say, "I think we're okay. Things worked out." I would've considered that just referral
or consulting, not a case.
Did you always know all of the parties before you went down?
Yes, if at all possible. You might not be able to get in touch with everybody, but the goal
would be to get in touch with all of them before you got there. Whoever I talked to first, I would
tell them that I'm going to be talking to the other party today. "Before I leave, I'll be talking to
these people. Is there anyone else you think I should talk to?" That did two things. First, it
broadened the network for talking to people, it began to identify some of those leaders. Second,
it began to establish the trust that I was in fact going to talk to the mayor, the police chief,
LULAC, or this person who's in charge of the demonstration. Everybody knew I wasn't trying to
hide anything. Usually the next person is the chief of police who will say, "Why did you talk to
them before you came to talk to me?" I would tell him I made the appointment with them first
and I didn't try to go into that anymore. I knew there was always that feeling of, "Who did you
talk to first?" One would always say, "They're just trying to con you." So I just say, "Everyone's
trying to con me. It's part of the deal. Everybody tells the story from their perspective." I
understand that it's part of the dance. "I understand that's a concern of yours." I'm trying to
minimize any impact it has in a negative way. "I think we can be helpful."
Did you have these meetings mostly with individuals, or did you
try to get a group together?
It really depended. I remember several situations where I started with a community meeting
and many where I started with individual meetings. It really depended on the situation. With the
university, I had individual meetings with the administrators and group meetings with students.
But a lot of times where there was a major incident, it would start with a community meeting. I
would've had to talk to community leaders to get that community meeting together. But usually
that was on the phone and I would make contact with them when I got there. They would've put
the meeting together.
Did you do anything else to prepare before you went?
It depended on the case. Sometimes it would be a housing issue, and I wasn't that familiar
with the housing laws at the time. So I would need to research that. School district policy I
would sometimes try to look at. I would often ask an institution for copies of some of their
policies and procedures. Then I could find out if what the community perceived about the
institution was real or perceived. Was this true that they don't have a grievance procedure, or is it
that they have a grievance procedure, but it's not effective? Or, do they have an effective
grievance procedure, but they don't implement it? It's hard to know how to help if you don't
know what's in place. In a lot of the police departments I worked with, I was able to get them to
do a written brochure that outlined how to complement or grieve a police action. That was a big
step. So it was written and the police officers were handing them out. If you want to comment
or if you have a grievance against a police officer, these are the procedures to do that. Again, we
honored the interests of the police department. I made it clear that the community needs to be as
aggressive in commending police officers as they were in complaining about them. That was
part of my sense of balance. I had to honor both. The community had as much responsibility for
one as the other. And the department had as much responsibility to respond back to the
Did the commending ever happen?
Yes. A lot of people talked about good encounters, positive things with the police
department. Again there was no systemic way of channeling that so that the police and the
community realized they really were on the same page and really wanted the same thing. In the
community I talked about with the young man that had been abducted, one of the things that
came out of that community thing besides the city park, was an annual award banquet for the
police department that the community put on. That was a real positive thing. I really felt good
Did a party ever ask you to do something that you couldn't do?
Yes. Their first response was that they wanted us to fix it. My response was, "I can't do
that." The other thing is they want the police chief fired, they want this teacher fired. We were
not into that. They want a specific remedy for a specific individual. We didn't deal with that.
We dealt with community remedies. We might give them some referral information for getting
their individual grievance dealt with, but it was important to let them know what our boundaries
were. "We can't make you, the institution, or the establishment do anything." "So what can you
do? What good are you?" So that's where the dance starts and you begin to talk about this being
their problem. "What we have is a process that can help you find a remedy that's yours and
which will be long term.
How much of a plan do you develop
before you go in? How much comes later?
Has anyone brought up the Annual Appraisal of Racial Tension?
When I first went to CRS, one of the skills which I brought that they were interested in was
being able to write and design training materials and do research. One of the first things they
assigned to me was to research with all the other conciliators what they did for entry. How did
they know what to do when they went into a community? They were the first generation, then I
came along, and now we've got some newer people. The first conciliators had pretty much
learned it by doing it. Anybody that came in next had to be an apprentice with them. I was the
first one who was going to try to codify and write that down. Every time, I would ask one of
these veteran conciliators, "How did you know what to do?" "I just knew." "Well, how did you
know?" "I don't know, I just knew." What came out of the interviews was that they had
intuitively, over time, developed this whole perception that people who believe that the system
will respond to their grievances, don't usually respond with violence. If there isn't a grievance
procedure, or they don't have confidence in the grievance procedure and they feel that they've
been mistreated, the more likely there's going to be violence. So when someone goes in on a
school discrimination case, or a case involving violence in the school, they go in and ask
questions like, "How many minority students do you have in special ed? How many minority
students do you have on the cheerleading squad? How many minorities do you have in the
Talented and Gifted program? What is your procedure for responding to grievances?" They look
at the systems available to provide redress. If those systems aren't there, that will fuel the plan.
If they are there and the community doesn't know about them, different plan. That was true in
every institution, city government, contracting, or housing case. There are systems that should be
in place to respond to people's grievances. Gill Pompa's theory really proved itself, that the
higher the level of disparity and the lower the level of confidence in redress, the higher the
potential for violence. High disparity, low confidence, that's the highest configuration for
When you say high disparity, what do you mean by that?
The level of how awful it is. For example, if it's just that you can't
get a job, that's one thing. But if you get shot by the police, that's a high level of disparity. If it's
that your kids don't get into the Talented and Gifted program, that's bad, but if all of them end up
in special ed, that's really egregious. Again, if the people don't perceive any disparity, it doesn't
matter. There's not going to be any violence. They have to perceive the disparity for it to be
potentially violent. So we created this instrument, called the Annual Appraisal of Racial
Tensions (AART), out of these dynamics. Gill Pompa was the one that initiated it and when he
was gone, a lot of the regional directors hated doing it, so it died. But it was a good instrument.
We did good research in getting it together and it was a good indicator. The only thing was that
there were no real standards how many factors, how high does it go? We could say, eight of
the nine systems don't have redress, so that's pretty high potential, but we never could get beyond
low potential for violence, moderate or high. There was no real way in grading that any closer
Did you need to?
I'm not sure we needed to, but the thing it did for me is it created that matrix that gives you a
place to start in any situation. If it's complaints about contracting, then you go into the city and
you start looking at systems for getting contracts, bids, systems for getting awards and
commissions. What are the redress systems for people who believe they weren't allowed to bid
appropriately? I probably got a boost on my training just because I worked on that appraisal. I
gleaned the experience of the agency in a matter of six months by interviewing all the veterans.
Did that ever resolve in a training doctrine?
Yes. We had what was called the Annual Appraisal of Racial
Tension, and then I put together a program orienting people on how to use it, how to score it, and
what to look for. New employees could look at that and say, "Here are the things that I need to
look at. Here are the elements that I need to look for. Does the community have confidence in
those systems? Systems could be there, but if they don't have confidence in them, they might as
well not be there. So now we need either an educational program, or the system's redesign. It
could be just a matter of education. It may be a legitimate, viable, confident system, but the
community hasn't been educated on how to use it. Or, it may be a ruse, where they don't really
intend for them to use it. So you have to address that. It was a very good method, but many of
the old-timers resisted it because it seemed to push them into something, when in fact, it was just
a reflection of what they were doing. But they thought someone was trying to tell them how to
do their job. The truth was, it was just a description of how they had been doing their job.
And maybe the fault there was our role in educating them in what we were doing and
how it came about. I was real new, so I didn't have any input there. I was just doing what they
asked me to do, the political part of it. But at that point, I didn't know what the political impact
on the other conciliators would be.
You talked a couple of times, off tape,
about how you assessed whether a case was worthy of your time. You said that one aspect was a
potential for violence and another was the potential to make systemic change. Was this AART a
tool that you used to make that determination?
Yes, as far as the violence part of it. One of the potential goals of it was to routinely go into
a community and do an assessment. Like every three years.
Even if there hadn't been a situation?
Even if there hadn't been an incident.
So did you go into all sorts of institutions?
Oh yes. All the institutions were identified, as well as community systems. And it included
everything: city government, schools, housing, employment, police, law enforcement.
Did this meet with any resistence?
No, not really. When they realized that it was internal and it wasn't going to become a part
of some national paper, that said these are the highest violent cities in the country. You could
lose a lot of credibility there. "The long term goal is: how can we help communities be
pro-active?" We know these things need to be in place, and we know that the community
leadership needs to have confidence in these things in order to reduce the potential for violence.
So if we can help you be pro-active in developing these systems and educating the community on
how to use them and have confidence in them, then it's good for you.
How many cities did you use?
Oh, hundreds. For the two or three years we used it, we did it all over the country. Every
conciliator did at least two a year, so probably a hundred a year. That's one of the reason's people
didn't like it. It began to codify and kind of move toward more deliberate responses. Although
the history of the agency had been that they perceived themselves as lone rangers, just doing their
own thing, a pattern had developed in their methods. That consistency was there when I talked to
all of them. But they didn't like the way it felt when we wrote it down.
Did your role ever get to be an issue?
As in what role you were going to play in the conflict. Whether you were being a mediator,
or an advocate?
I talked a little bit about that at the beginning. I only remember two times where someone
was just so out of bounds in terms of their arrogance, or their racism, or their overt ignorance that
I wanted to be outraged. It took every once of control I had not to just light into them. The only
thing that saved me was the greater good. I knew if I did that then I'd lose any potential with that
person. I had to figure out some way to bring them around without taking them on or I would
lose any possibility of intervention. But it was tough sometimes. I had one situation with a
superintendent where I said, "I know now why we don't carry guns." I would have shot him, he
was that bad. I was so angry inside, I was so furious with his attitude and the whole business.
Generally, what happens with people like that is, I would try to find someone who had influence
over that person and go to them. Like in that case, the board president was the one that I was
able to intervene with. And the board president was then able to reign that guy in. But if I had
taken him on, I would have lost credibility with him and with the president.
That reminds me of something you talked about with the university
case which we veered away from and never got back to. You said the KKK was handing out
leaflets. Did you ever work with them?
I did. I made contact with them, but not in that situation because they had come in to the
community from somewhere else and just passed out leaflets. They weren't in the community.
The only time we worked directly with them, and it usually was as a team, was when there was
going to be a KKK rally. We would help organize it so that it was peaceful. We would work
with the community and the KKK. We would make sure it was marshaled and make sure
everybody knew what to do and all that technical kind of stuff. Other then that, it was just a
monitoring factor. I would make contact with them though. If there was a situation in a
community in which they were involved, I would usually try to find out who was there and make
contact with them. I never had an occasion where they became a party, other than a
So they never sat at the table?
No. I never had a situation where there were the direct perpetrators. I suspect they were
KKK members at the table, but they were probably members of other organizations.
My impression, this is just from the media, is that the KKK wants
to create violent situations at their rallies. Is that incorrect?
The ones that I was at were very small, very few people, so we could keep the community
from reacting to them. Usually it was a non-issue, a non-event. They got publicity by creating
disruption. But if you could keep things safe and let them demonstrate, then it became a
non-issue. It was sad to me to see the inauguration of their own children because that's who
usually was there. Four of five adults and their kids. Perpetuation of hate and those kids don't
know any better.
Were they interested in having your assistance with preventing violence?
Yeah, they were always cooperative with us in terms of creating safety. Safety in terms of
working with the city to make sure they get their permits. Sometimes the city would say, "We're
not going to give them a permit." "Well, you know, it might be better if you do, go ahead and
manage it, do it the right way. Don't have them off at the edge of town and you not having any
influence over it." So it was that kind of a negotiated deal.
Were there any situations when you were used as a scapegoat, or
were you ever used to help the other party save face?
I think a lot of times that was part of the role, giving people an out. I have had many law
enforcement people; chiefs, or sheriffs, say to their rank and file that Wallman from the justice
department is making us do this. When in fact, the chief was interested in it, he wanted me to
help implement, train, or do whatever, but he couldn't say that to his officers. At least he didn't
think he could and I didn't care if he wanted to use me as a scapegoat. It's okay with me, he
could save face. It wasn't the best way to do it, but it was a beginning, and I know that happened
How does that affect you long-term though? What if you try to go back into their
community and all those police officers think, "Oh, this is the woman who made us...."
A few people will never buy into my ideas, but the majority of people realize it's good for
them. It's a safer community for the police officer once they get the community involved with
them. Police officers were ten times safer going into those housing projects once the community
became partners with them. Their life was in terrible danger every time they went in there. They
went in a group of four or five squad cars. But after they began doing some of this community
involvement stuff, they didn't mind going by themselves, because the community was there to
help protect them. Just like any community, there are police officers who are there for the wrong
reasons and they are going to resist any of that. But the ones who are there for the right reasons
are going to realize that it was a good thing. And if it got started because "that woman told us we
had to,” that's okay with me. The chief knows that I can't tell him he's got to do anything, but if
that's where he wants to go with it, that's okay with me.
You mentioned at one point that the issues that you thought were
the critical issues often turned out not to be. How did you decide what was and what wasn't
The parties decided. That was always the surprise. The incident with the school is a good
example. As much as it turns your stomach, the kids didn't do any direct harm to anyone with
that fraternity party. What came down to be more important to those minority students was the
fact that they weren't getting a fair chance at a fair education. If we had only addressed the frat
party, we would never have gotten to the real problems that they were having. I had no idea
going in and came out knowing that we created an environment for them to feel safe.
How much do you read when you're trying to delve into this with these groups? Do
you let them explore on their own, or do you ask them leading questions? How directive are
I'm really not directive in the content. I'm directive in how they interact, as far as not letting
them take each other on. I try to get to talk about their own issues without talking about the other
groups. I don't try to lead them into discovering their issues. Before I got into this, I was
finishing up a PhD in Adult and Continuing Education. The philosophies of adult and continuing
education are very compatible with peace making. The core value there is the adult knows what
the answer is, and it's the teachers responsibility to help them discover it. And I had students in
class with me say, "We really are the experts, right?" The teacher will correct them and say,
"No." You're an expert helping them discover. And I believe that, I believe whole-heartedly in
education. I think my role is to help them discover, and I'm good at that. Part of that is because
as strong as I feel about my own answers for my own questions, they will not be helpful to them.
It may be a great answer, but it's not their answer. And whatever answer they come up with is
going to be better then mine. I believe that. So I think those two disciplines really have
cemented my commitment to the fact that my job is to help you discover and to create a safe
environment. That is a critical element, I think. You can't discover and you can't explore if
there's not safety. We shut people down real quickly when there's not a safe environment. So I
try to honor that. I will give guidance and ideas when people are having trouble formalizing.
People realize that everybody in this situation can be empowered and nobody is going to be
diminished by it. They realize that by involving the minority community in decision making, it's
not going to diminish the power of the establishment, it's going to enhance that environment. To
me there is nothing more exciting than to see people actually start to believe it, because that's
what keeps them from cooperating, everybody believes they're going to lose control. You have
to create an environment where they can see that cooperative efforts enhance everybody. They
want that. It just takes such a burden off everybody.
So what do you do if the person says, "We want to fire the superintendent?"
That's not our role. We'll look at that the problems your having with the school district, why
you think the superintendent needs to be fired, but the decision about whether of not the
superintendent keeps his job is the board’s decision.
So do you try to get them to define more exactly what the problems are and then try to
propose some other solutions?
Right. "What is going on that makes you believe firing the superintendent is going to
change anything?" "Well, because none of our school kids can ever sing in the school choir. Not
one of our children have ever been invited to sing in the school choir." And that's just one part of
that coaching stuff. "Firing the superintendent is not something we can deal with. Let's talk
about where your concerns are." "My daughter was valedictorian and it was taken away from
her, and the superintendent didn't support us." Now you have a specific issue. You can go back
and start looking at how that decision was made.
You were saying that there are several documents that CRS has
that might be worth referring to on this website.
In terms of this becoming a resource to people who are interested in responding to race
relations, or racial conflict, there is one little booklet that is just a gold mine. It is just like a little
pamphlet that is a municipal guide. It says that in a municipality, you are being pro-active on
these elements, you are much less likely to come into racial tensions that are going to escalate
into violence. You are going to have difficulties, but you are going to have a way of responding.
If you are pro-active, you put systems in place to respond. Then your reaction to some incident
could be, "It's okay, we understand that's a problem. This is where you go to get redressed for
that." A couple of the cases generated publications that were guides to racial tension on campus.
There's one on lending practices for community banking groups. There is a notebook that was
put together to kind of capture the history of how the agency has responded, like riot or boycott
situations. Basically, the whole thing is generated on responding to violence and then the
different kinds of ways that the agency has been involved in that. There's a handbook on
developing housing and responding to discrimination in housing. That looks at the HUD law that
was in place at the time. It would have to be reviewed for updates, but it had what was in place
at the time and what the community should do in order to have good redress for housing
discrimination. So there are several documents like that. They may not be appropriate to put on
the web, but it would be appropriate to say in responding to civil rights violations, that these are
some resources the agency has. You can contact them for help, because they are really internal
tools. They are tools of the trade the agency uses.
Do they hand the pamphlets out?
Now they do, the municipal guide is a public document. And again, I can give you that
because it is a public document that was generated and sent out to the public. But most
everything else I described were internal tools to help new people see the history and the basis of
the work. We did training based on that violence notebook to bring the veteran staff and the new
staff together and let them teach and learn from each other. It was a really nice mix of that
material, plus the veterans and the new people learning from each other.
Let's talk about training. Did you use
training as an intervention technique?
A lot. We used it a lot with police departments, partly as an intervention and also as a
courtesy to the departments. We would go in and do a review of the polices and procedures for
compliance and then do training on excessive use of force. So the police officers would
understand what that meant and how it related to the policy. Sometimes there were no policies.
Sometimes there was a policy, but nobody knew about it. Sometimes there were policies people
knew about and they chose not to abide by it. One of the interesting dynamics in the law, which
affected police departments, were the deep pockets where the municipality could be sued and
become liable for a police officer's action. As soon as that was discovered, the number of suits
against municipality skyrocketed. It didn't change the number of incidences of abuse, it just
changed the legal response to it because it became lucrative for attorneys to consider taking it on.
So all of a sudden, the cities were saying, "You're going to have to do this differently." The
pressure came from the legal system and the municipal government to the police departments,
where it had never been there before. They were saying, "You are bankrupting us." And
literally, several small communities were bankrupt by these kind of suits. There was the custom
and practice of the department, and then there was written policy and procedure, and many times
they were completely opposite. They did not match. And that was one of the training pieces.
There has to be integrity between policy and procedure, and the custom and practice. If you end
up in trouble they're going to look at custom and practice and you are going to be held
accountable, regardless of what's written down. So we had that kind of discussion with
administration, and then we did the orientation and training with police officers about their
liabilities. We'd explain that the department wasn't going to back them up anymore because they
are going to become liable. It was an interesting dynamic. One of the real hard struggles for
police officers now was that if they get in trouble, they may not have even done it, and it may be
false. But the department, all of a sudden, had its own interest, separate and apart from the police
officer. So the police officers became very isolated and I think that it created some really
difficult times. Community policing though, has helped bring back together the interests of the
community, the administration, and the police officers. They don't see each other as
How does it do that?
Because the bottom line is, even if it's a lawsuit, the whole community is the one that loses.
If there's abuse, the whole community loses. If police officers are allowed to behave that way,
then everybody loses. And if the administration lets them get away with it, then it's going to
leave an impact on them. The right thing to do is to work with the community and make it
everybody's interest. Cost-wise and law enforcement-wise, it's safer for the police officer when
the community's involved, the police officers are less likely to be harmed. When the
community's involved, the citizens are safer and community money is used in a more productive
and pro-active way. It's interesting that most police departments still project themselves as
protect and serve, but they have become law enforcement people. You can read about it in my
dissertation. That shift occurred when the professional law enforcement image came in, and the
image of protect and serve became a slogan and not a reality. The shift was partly because law
enforcement realized that they can't enforce the law in a society that's democratic. The
community has to allow them to enforce the law. The police theory is that they can only enforce
the law in a police-state kind of environment. It can't work in a democratic society where you
have to have the community give you permission to serve them. It's an interesting transition
because the history of our style of policing is to protect and serve. I also saw it in the school
systems, where the professional educators said they didn't need the parents there. Then they say,
"We going to do. What are we going to do?" You need the parents there, you need the parents
involved if you're going to do a good job.
Did you go after an incident, or did you do it pro-actively?
If we were in an area and there were time and resources available, I would do it as a
pro-active response if they were interested in it. If the department specifically called and asked,
we would try very hard to do that. Anytime I was in a community, it was a service that I offered
to the department. The training was pretty set and we could spend half a day. It was good public
relations for them. The excessive use of force training was one of them. Principles of good
policing was another, and it talked about some of the things I just talked about. Another really
important piece was their mission statement. The police department's described mission whether
it's protect and serve or law enforcement and arrest. That reflected throughout the department,
one way or the other. Sometimes, there was inconsistency and one group believed it was protect
and serve, but another group believed it was kick butt and take names. They all acted out in
different ways, depending on who their field supervisor was. That in itself created conflict in the
community, in how they interacted with the department. So one of the things we stressed a lot
was to make a clear statement of what the mission is. That needs to be done in cooperation with
the community. That way, the community and the police department choose the cooperative
relationship between the two. That became part of our brochure that we did on commending and
complaining about police officers. The first thing on there was the department's mission
statement. Then, reviewing every police procedure that you have, or that you ever had, to see
whether it enhances that mission statement or detracts from it. That became the benchmark.
Does this policy enhance our mission statement? If it doesn't, we need to change the policy. If it
does, then it's a good policy. That gave us a tool to be pro-active with the department and be a
consulting resource to them.
Did you do other kinds of training beyond police departments?
We did some training with housing authority people. One in particular, we would bring in
teams from different community housing authorities, and we would do problem-solving and
team-building and to respond to civil rights issues. Civil rights is our mandate, but they could
use these skills in any situation. It was a problem-solving, team-building approach. I did the
multi-culturalism diversity training with different groups, university students and faculty. A lot
of the training was on the job. Often, I felt more like I was coaching and mentoring, being real
careful to make sure I was modeling the skills of consensus-building and protecting interests.
Those things were critical to every encounter and every community. That probably was the
ongoing coaching, mentoring relationship. We did a lot of internal training.
You mean within CRS?
Within CRS, in the last five or six years. There hadn't been a whole lot before that. One of
the things that was a mission of that training was to create an environment where the veteran staff
was honored and valued for what they contributed. They became coaches for the younger staff
rather than it becoming competitive. That was successful. John Chase was kind of the dean of
that group and there were about eight of us that were faculty for that effort. I felt good about it, I
felt like we really were moving away from competing with each other to being a team and
supporting and working with each other. I don't know what the situation is now.
Did you provide any kind of technical assistance to parties, beyond framing?
Like understanding law or something like that? We would do technical assistance with
review of policy and procedure. Once, I had a university call and request assistance with
reviewing their student handbook. I went in and spent a couple of days looking at their policies
and procedures and gave them recommendations. The interesting thing about that, was they were
being pro-active and that was really positive. We looked at pictures, we looked at recruiting
photographs. "What does it look like? What does your campus looks like? Looks like it's all
white to me. If I'm a minority, I don't see myself in this university." Most of them were going,
"Oh!" They probably took that picture back when there weren't any minorities there. In this
particular instance, one of the glaring kinds of things I said was, "After reading your student
handbook, the most egregious thing you could do on this campus is drink beer in the dormitory."
The administrators said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Well you have eight full columns in the
handbook about what's going to happen to me if I'm caught drinking beer in the dormitory. And
you have one little column at the end of the handbook that says, 'Oh, by the way, don't
discriminate against anyone!' It's obvious that this handbook was written in the fifties, when
drinking in the dormitories was the most egregious thing anybody did. But now you have interest
in discrimination and all you did was tag it on. Again, if I were a minority reading your
handbook, the message is pretty clear from the written policy that discrimination was a tag on.
So you need to incorporate that as an integral part and you need to be more realistic about what
are the violations of the university. Drinking in the dormitory probably isn't high on your list
right now." It was those kinds of things that people don't see in their publications. That's the
benefit of that third party coming in. We're not here to harm you, we're here to help you. So I'm
not going to then go around and tell people, "Look at what this," and then name that university.
The positive thing is they asked for help and someone who has an eye for that is going to see
some things that you're not going to see. It can help you, it's not going to harm you. So that was
a good example of how we were able to help them see themselves and look at themselves in a
way they hadn't been able to do. They wanted to, but you just don't see it if you've been looking
at it for twenty years. That was considered technical assistance.
We did the same thing with police departments. We'd review their policies and
procedures. You would look at their policies and procedures, and they'd say they want to be
community policing, but the policy still reflected traditional policing. One of the glaring
examples of that was the evaluation system. That was interesting to help people understand. If
your evaluating system is still evaluation of police officers on the number of tickets they write
and the number of arrests they make, but you're asking them to be community-oriented, they're
going to perform to the evaluation, regardless of what you say here. We all perform to our
evaluations. So there has to be consistency between the evaluation and what your goals and
missions are. That's difficult. It's difficult to change an evaluation system within an institution.
But you can't change the mission if you don't change the evaluation system. We also helped
people understand where they may not be in compliance with civil rights law, and then help them
come into compliance. This was an ongoing thing regardless of whether it was housing or
contracting. That was one of the real benefits of that municipal guide, it helps municipality look
at themselves and do some of the things we would go and do if we had time to go into every
community. I've done whole communities. Once we get in there, it's something that I'm willing
to do to really enrich what we do.
How did this municipal guide get handed out? Did it get widely distributed, or just when
somebody calls and asks for it?
I'm not sure. It was finally produced close to the end of when I was with the agency. I don't
know. But it's a great piece. They had a booklet years ago, and it's not as necessary anymore, but
that's a good thing. But they had a great handbook on how to create a human rights commission
in your community. You could follow that booklet and create one. Most communities have
them now. The same thing can happen with this municipal guide. You can go another twenty
years and see that most communities are there.
What about in the context of the case? Do you do any training, especially with a
minority group, in order to somewhat level the playing field?
I would talk to the establishment and the minority group about learning how to clarify issues,
and begin to strategize. I'll coach and train them. I'll sit in private with them, in kind of a
teaching mode, and explain to them how to respond to a system and get what you need in a
productive way. If you're going to do some destructive things, you can do that on your own. If
you want to be productive, then I want to help you with that. A lot of the coaching, teaching, and
technical assistance was not behind the scenes because I made sure everyone knew I was doing
that. It wasn't undercover, I wasn't sneaking around and helping. Some of the establishment
people weren't any more sophisticated about the issue than the community groups were, so I'd do
the same thing for them.
Generally, the issues were being generated out of the community because the
establishment says they don't have any problems. The teaching and the coaching on the
establishment side was to help them understand the dynamic of perception. I didn't feel like I had
to make them fess up and say, "Yeah, we violated this rule," or, "We've not done all we can do."
If you have to get them to confess, you're not going to get them to the table. If I could get them
to say, "Sure, we could do better," then that's what I was after. My next goal is to help them
emphasize and say, "We're not doing that. But, if they believe we're doing it, I understand why
they're so frustrated." That was my next indication that we were moving in the right direction.
Can you verbalize how you moved in that way?
It took time establishing that trust relationship. The community would be saying the same
thing, "They're not going to be fair or honest. They're not going to deal with us with integrity,
they never have." To be able to come to some point and say to the community, "They have
assured me that they're coming to the table in good faith. Now I'm going to take them at their
word. Are you going to at least give it a shot?" The same thing with the establishment. It was a
matter of being able to verbalize for the community at first, this is how they feel. "If that
happened to you, how would you feel?" "Well, I'd feel awful. But we didn't do that." "Well, I'm
not saying you did. But if they believe you did, they feel that." That worked.
You're doing this before the group meeting?
Yes. Right. One of my decisions about whether they were ready to meet at the table was
whether or not I could get any glimmer of empathy from all sides, however many sides there
were. If I couldn't get some awareness or sensitivity to other party's position, I was reluctant to
go to the table. I might continue shuttling back and forth and come up with some kind of an
agreement, but if you can't create empathy, you can't have a relationship. Without that, mediation
is not going to work. If there's no reason for us to relate, there's no reason for me to empathize
Can you still do something productive?
Yeah, because I think you can create boundaries. You can create behavioral boundaries that
say, "This is how we will relate." That has some value. It's kind of a demilitarized zone, but it's
better than the stuff that was going on before. Maybe the next effort will be to bring them closer.
In a situation like CRS, where you've got professional people who are being supported and paid
by the taxpayer, you have the luxury of seeing this as an ongoing effort. We may not have gotten
them to the table, we may only have diminished the violence and stopped the abuse. Maybe the
next time, we'll be able to go in there and bring them closer to having a genuine relationship.
Maybe not. But at least because of your ongoing relationship, there's a possibility of that. And
the longer you work with the groups, the more trust you establish.
Did you do anything else to deal with power disparities between groups?
This was something that I used to talk about with all the parties. The CRS mediator became
the fulcrum on this power beam, and I may need to move toward one group or another to keep
the balance. We used pre-mediation for coaching and guiding, so as to make it productive when
we did get together. This way, we had some substance there and not just emotions. I don't ever
want people to think I'm diminishing their emotions. Those are a significant part of it and they
need to be shared. But, if you're going to create systemic change, you have to go beyond that.
You need to determine where those emotions are coming from and what systems can be managed
or changed in order to create positive emotions. I may need to move closer to one group or the
other, but that's why I'm doing it. The only danger is if you don't let everybody know that you're
doing it, then one group hears about it, and thinks that you're advocating or becoming aligned
with that group. You have to be real careful that the group doesn't perceive you as an advocate,
but that they know you're coaching and helping for the purpose of everybody. You're offering
that same level of service wherever it's needed.
In the mediation, it's the matter of using titles, agreeing that we won't
use titles, or if we do, then everyone is addressed with a Mr. or Ms. We're not using Dr. and
Chief. We don't say Chief Williams and then Joe. We're going to use Mr. Williams and Mr.
Smith. That nuance says to Joe that the mediator is honoring him and around this table we're all
Mr. or Ms. Either that, or we all use first names, which is the preference. There's some dance
with that. If there's somebody that's a revered community person, we just couldn't call them
anything but reverend or brother, so then you honor that and you don't violate the honor of the
group. But at least there's some acknowledgment that we're on the same playing field.
In the context of the discussions, we need to keep people safe. If one or the other starts
taking somebody on, then you stop that. You say, "remember we're talking about how you feel."
If you let one of them diminish or take the other one on, then the environment is not safe
anymore. Once the group realizes that you are going to manage that, then they feel safe and they
respond to it. That's power. If you let one party overpower the others, you can't have mediation.
That technique was part of it. It was again a delicate balance because you as the mediator can't
put anybody down either. And that's where the ground rules come in. I establish ground rules,
like we diminish no one, everyone's opinion is respected, no name calling, no use of profanity.
Then whatever those ground rules are, when someone violates that and starts cussing at Joe, I can
say, "Susie, remember you agreed that you wouldn't use profanity, you agreed that you wouldn't
call names, and I'm going to have to ask you to honor that." I'm not the bad person, or the parent.
I'm the one that reminds them of what they've agreed to and it feels a whole lot different then if
I'm going around and pointing fingers. If that doesn't work, then I caucus with them. If a caucus
doesn't work, I ask the other party if they want to continue but I won't allow it to get out of hand.
I think I've violated the confidence that people had that I was going to keep it safe. Police chiefs
seem to be especially concerned about it. They don't want to come to some meeting and let
people chew them up and my assurance to them is I'm not going to let that happen. People may
vent their feelings or their frustrations and they need to do that, but it won't be personal. But if I
violated that then I violated my trust. Those were the kinds of steps that I used to honor that.
The most important thing is that they buy into some behavioral ground rules that I can call them
Do you suggest these ground rules before you start or do you develop them with the parties?
I develop them with the parties. "Diminish no one," was always one that I used for myself
and for them. Generally they would come up with something similar, but if they didn't I would
add that. I let them develop the ground rules. I would ask, "What's it going to take to make this
successful?" Then I list what they have come up with. Every meeting, I bring them back and put
them up in some fashion.
Do you ask those questions in group session or do you ask before
the group session when you're meeting individually?
Individually, because that's part of the setting and setting the mode. I would talk about
expectations and ground rules, and it helps them understand that I really do have a plan. That's
part of the confidence. They would've been thinking of it ahead of time, and in the group they're
prepared for that. But everybody buys into it at one time. We'd go back to the issues, we'd
develop the issues again, and all of us validate and affirm these are the ones that we're going to
deal with first, and there may be some that are inappropriate. They're great issues but they're not
appropriate for this context. And they need to be referred to somebody else. That happens
individually, but then it happens again when the group's together. We start working on ways of
responding to those things.
Do you do anything else that you haven't already described to try to
manage really strong emotions?
I pay attention to the setting. How people are arranged in the room, whether they're sitting
close to each other, if they're really hostile toward each other. I may intentionally put myself
between them. Have enough room between them so that they're not going to feel threatened by
one another. I remind them in a private meeting, they may not want to embarrass anybody, think
of what it's going to cost. If you continue in this direction we're not going to move toward
productive resolution. But if you feel that strongly, that may not be an appropriate response. I
think that always needs to be restated when emotions are really high. Not to try to push them on,
but to give them an out. If you feel that strongly, this may not be the appropriate avenue. You
may need to take legal action. You may need to use another option. Most times they'll come
back from that and say, "No. I really want to try to do this. Maybe we need to meet another day.
Get some more information." A lot of that I've dealt with in private groups where they've been
allowed to really vent as much as they want and then I begin to test some of that. This is not a
community example, but it's a clear example. Some of the community people believed that this
municipality and the business leadership intentionally kept the gas prices in their community
high, because those establishment people could all go outside the community to get gasoline. The
community was pretty much confined to the community to buy gas and their gasoline prices were
higher. I traveled from there and out of there all the time, and the reality was that the prices were
cheaper in town, then they were out of town. But to say that to them immediately, is not helpful.
But as they gained trust venting, I began to test some of that and say, "Okay, have you checked
some of that out?" So next meeting they come back with better information. I had one situation
where the community just swore that if you were arrested and a minority, when you were taken to
jail you would be beaten, no questions asked. I shared this with the chief and the staff, his
administrators. They were just horrified. One of the deputies said, "we haven't beaten anybody
for twenty years!" I said, "Well, they remember." He couldn't believe that the community still
carried that perception. I didn't even tell him as I remember, he had the courage to go ask. He
was really horrified that people would say that. He had the courage to ask the prisoners that he
had right then, "what did you think was going to happen when you got here?" They said, "we
expected to be beaten." He then had the courage to come back to our group and say that. That's
what they thought, that's what they believed. I said, "That's the power of history. People carry
any incident with them, until there's intentional effort to change that history." You know you
haven't done that for twenty years, but there's been no intentional effort to say to the community,
"that's not who we are anymore." Those were examples of where you deal with some of the
reality checking ahead of time, so you begin to break down some of the myth. You break down
as many of the myths as possible, so that by the time you get to the table, there's some basis for
discussions. If all of these myths are true, then you don't have much relationship to deal with. If
you can see that some of those myths don't have a reality base, then you begin to think maybe
there are some things we can talk about. If that wasn't true, maybe we were misunderstood.
Do you do something similar to control rumors?
There's a whole process in terms of creating communication channels. Especially in the
middle of a crisis, where there's a joint effort between all the parties to say, "this is the place you
go to check out information." Or to share information. That's a whole strategy of rumor control.
What is the place that people go?
It's usually a community center, where there's an official and a community person assigned
there for credibility. Information comes there, is checked out, and shared back. There's also
some intentional media information, where there's sharing of information to the media. If this is
what's being shared you need to share the other part of it.
Was the CRS person at the control center too, or was this held by the parties themselves?
The CRS's person's role was technical assistance. A lot of what we
did was considered technical assistance. We would help them know what resources they needed,
what equipment they needed, who needed to be there, and how to get information back into the
community. A lot of times the media wasn't the best way to get the information back to the
community. If you're going to create a curfew in a community, you need to work with the
community leadership to do that so you don't create another problem. Those kinds of things were
considered technical assistance and we were coaching and teaching and giving resource
information about what you need to make that happen.
How did you decide that was the appropriate response as opposed to a more intensive
conciliation or mediation?
If technical assistance resulted in a remedy for the parties, then that drove it. Sometimes it
didn't, like the community where I ended up with five different groups and five different issues.
Certainly technical assistance is the beginning. Everything you're doing is basically technical
assistance. If it were an outside term, it would be a consultant to the group. But then you move
on toward developing a remedy that has systemic long term benefit. This is probably an
oversimplification, but the more trust the parties already have in each other to communicate, the
less likely you'll need to go to the table. Because you don't have to help them build the trust,
there's just been a breakdown in communication over a particular issue. You can help them
reconnect and move on. If the history is there and the breakdown has been long term, then in my
opinion, the table mediation was as much about helping them establish or reestablish the
connection, confidence, and the trust, that everyone at that table wanted what was best for the
community. We may have a different answer as to what that is, what's best for the community,
but we all believe that our interests are what's best for the community. It's the ability to bring
them together and begin to watch them learn that these people really do want what's best. These
people want the police department to be safe. These people want the business community to be
successful. The leadership wants the minority community to be effective and successful. They
want to do the right thing. When you can do that, to either establish or reestablish that
confidence with each other, that's the payoff. That's the intangible payoff, and the piece of paper
is the tangible. That intangible is what's going to give them the framework for addressing, on
their own, the next issue that comes along.
Did you ever have to help one side understand the other side's
Probably always. I think a party's first inclination was, "They don't understand us, and
they're wrong." Again, I think one of the critical elements of mediation is that there's got to be an
acknowledgment of the legitimacy of the other party's interest. You don't have to say you agree
with it, you may not even think it's worthy, but you've got to agree they've got a legitimate right
to have that position or that interest. The community never believed that the establishment
honored their interest or even understood them. In fact, they were intentionally trying to
undermine their interest. That was the community's perception and sometimes it was true, but
sometimes it wasn't. The establishment’s position was, "We haven't done anything wrong.
Those are just a few troublemakers. You're just going to cause more trouble by being here." It
was that dance of seeing if I could get them to at least say, "That's not true, we didn't do that, but
if they believe we did it, I see why they're so angry." To me that legitimizes the interest.
That's when you're willing to go to the table?
What did you do when one side had an issue or demand that the
other side considered absolutely non-negotiable?
Once it came to the table if there were enough other things that were important to move
ahead, we'd put it aside. Often, the important thing about that is, if you try to press at that point,
the whole thing breaks down and you don't gain anything. If you put it to the side, by the time
you've come through all the rest, you bring it back over and say, "Is there any chance we could
look at this?" By then there's been enough confidence and trust built that they can work through
that now. Sometimes not, sometimes it stays there and you may give them some ideas about
other ways of addressing that. Other resources for referral, but not everything is appropriate.
You can't always get the parties to address every issue.
When you identify something as non-negotiable, do you just table whatever it is and go on?
Yeah, it's not always the standard, but generally I have already discovered some things in
small group meetings that they agree on, and they don't even know it. That's one of the benefits
of the mediator too. You begin to know some things about the groups, such as where they're
really willing to negotiate, but they're not willing to tell the other group. You've got to honor that
confidence, but at least you have some hope and you can share that hope. Or you already know
that on an issue of minority hiring, there's agreement there, the department has been frustrated
about being able to find good recruits, but their interest is there. The community's perception is
that they just don't want to. Teacher's especially, I've had lots of school districts say we've tried
and we want to hire some minority teachers, but the community's perception is that they don't
even want to. Again, I'm not going to judge whether or not the administration is telling me the
truth or not. I'm taking them at their word, so we're going to help them know how. The
community has to help me find the resources. You're going to help them to know what schools
to go to and who to talk to, to get qualified, competent, minority teachers who will come back to
this community. Why should they teach here when they can make ten thousand dollars more in
Dallas? It's a reality, that it is a reality. So it does become a joint effort if it's going to be
successful. Now I know from talking to them, they both really want to hire minorities, and that's
something we can start with. I would try to start with things I felt they were closer to agreement
on, because it begins to build some camaraderie and sense of working together, and effort to
solve some of the community's problems.
Can you operate if one of the parties or both of the parties don't
I don't think so. If I was aware of that or if they made it clear, I try to be directive about that
by saying, "if there's anything about who I am, what I'm doing, or how I'm doing it that you don't
trust or you're uncomfortable with, if I can't relieve you of that, then I'll help you find somebody
else to help you." I try to keep that door open. I think trust is the only currency you have. And if
that currency's not there, you don't have anything to operate on.
I want to talk a little more about the neutrality/impartiality issue.
Did you ever find that you had to walk a fine line or strike a balance, between helping the parties
reach a settlement at all and coming up with a settlement that either you or they thought was fair
I think it's in the mediator's responsibility and ethics to have a clear belief that the parties
understand what they've agreed to. And if it's fair to them, then that's legitimate. But if I'm
concerned, then I need to go with that concern to make sure that I'm confident the parties
understand what they've done. If they do and they're still ok with that, then I don't have any right
to determine or say, "do you realize what you've just done?" That is biased, but as an ethical
issue, and certainly as a private mediator I have a responsibility to make sure you're competent to
make that decision and that you understand the decision you made. In a divorce situation, one of
the parties will say "I just want out, let them have everything." If you're sure that they are really
competent to make that decision and they understand what they're doing, it's not your business to
say, "are you kidding me?" It's a common property stage, "You get half,” "I don't care and I don't
want it.” I don't want to deal with that, but you're ethically obligated if you don't believe they're
emotionally competent even, to say, "Why don't you get some advice and why don't you go talk
with someone first, consult your attorney and let's come back next week." I think you're obligated
to do that. And I would say the same thing in a community dispute, if you think one party really
doesn't understand what they're doing, then it would be critical to refer them to somebody for
coaching or insight. I may do it in a private caucus with the community group, because
everybody knows I've been working with everybody. I may talk more specifically about what
this decision may mean, what it's going to cost down the road, and what's the impact on the
community long term. The community may agree to something that it financially can't live up to.
You've just agreed to this, but where's the money going to come from? I think that's legitimate in
a caucus situation. Also, unless a decision is violating law, it's their decision, they're competent
to make them and they understand what they're doing. One of the hard parts is when you know
something they may not be aware of and you can't really say anything because of confidentiality.
The best you can do then, is refer them for some guidance and counsel. The impartiality/neutral
thing we struggled with that for years. Basically, the conciliators/mediators were not
comfortable saying we were neutral. Because we were not neutral in terms of civil rights law.
Being impartial to the outcome and impartial to the parties meant that we were serving both
equally and fairly. Being neutral meant no interest and we did have an interest. Our interest was
civil rights law. We were trying to bring the parties to a voluntary compliance with that. We
became much more comfortable with the word impartial third party than neutral.
Did you ever have the situation when, once you gained the trust of
one side, that side started trying to get you to become an advocate for them?
That was pretty routine also. I think, in some way, each group or each party began to see me
as an advocate and it was a balance between making clear that I have as much obligation to
protect the interests of the municipality as to protect your interest. The institution has a right to
exist, unless you're ready to destroy the institution and that was always the bottom line. There
had been instances in history where the institution was so debacled that it needed to be destroyed,
but are we there? Have we gotten to the point? If no, then you have to honor the institution's
right to exist. It has interest. You have to honor those interests. They need to be interested or
played out in light of civil rights law. That's where we come back to. To move beyond that, to
get a sense of what our role really was, to not be an advocate for anyone except for civil rights
law. And we were advocates for that. Then to help people to come to some voluntary
compliance with that. And hopefully even beyond that, to come together in community to
become community rather than just abiding by the law.
Did you sometimes use outside
community resources to help resolve conflict?
Yeah, again it would always depend on how the case played itself out. The
situation in the small community where the Iranian students were coming into the community
college and they were really being discriminated against by the community, is an example. The
incident occurred because some high school students had been driving along and used a baseball
bat on an Iranian student as he was walking. That was the triggering incident that got our
attention and brought us into it. I went to the police department and it was a "boys will be boys”
kind of thing. I went to the school board, and the principal, and it was, "Well, they're dating
some of the girls,” and the boys were mad, and that's what happens in small towns. I wasn't
getting any empathy. They wouldn't generate any understanding from the Iranian students’
perspective at all. I talked with the community college about their guardian responsibility to
these students. There really wasn't any strong support there because they saw their funding and
support coming from the community at large, which was an Anglo-white farming community. I
was just pretty much saying to myself, "This is going to have to take some legal action or the
students are going to have to do something in terms of protecting themselves from the legal
perspective. The community's not open and they're not going to listen to the interests of these
Iranian students.” I started thinking about that small rural community and they would have 200
Iranian students come in there. It had become a place they would come for two years to get their
English up to a level where they could be admitted to the University of Tulsa, in the Petroleum
and Engineering school. So it was a pipeline for that community college. I thought about how
much money had to be coming into that community because of those students and what impact
would this have on the community if those two hundred students a year went away? The
network that got them there could certainly stop them and pretty quickly cut that off. And if they
kept treating them as badly as they were, and there was physical danger, they'd leave. So I
decided to go to the chamber of commerce and talk to them about, "What is the impact on this
community economically, about having these students, and what's gonna be the impact if the
student's are gone?" And so they got involved, and of course, that meant the business leadership
got involved and things began to change then. We began to see some empathy and some
understanding that we need to do something different. But, again, I appealed to their
self-interest. I think in most instances, that's where you have to start with people and try to figure
out what is in it for them. What's it gonna cost them if this continues, and if I point that out, then
they're more likely to listen. In another situation, there were some educational issues for migrant
workers. And I learned through just talking with some people, listening to people, that the great
operator was really the power broker in the community. And I had never sat down and talked
with him directly, so I made an appointment, went in and spent a couple of hours just talking to
him about what we were doing and what our interests were, and what would happen in the
community in the long term if these kids don't ever get an education. It was almost just honoring
him by the appointment. He opened the doors, and things started moving then. So, that's part of
the dance. If you go in and you're not ready to move wherever the thing's going, then you're
gonna miss something good.
Q - Now he didn't feel threatened by you?
A - No. He didn't project that. He probably felt he was finally honored.
Q - And he wasn't being personally accused?
A - No. But everyone knew that as soon as he said to the school board, "Let's go for it," it would
happen. As a mediator, you could go in there and try to strong-arm, but we didn't have any
strong-arm to go with, except if this is not resolved, then the agencies who do enforce may come
in. But it was persuasion and working from a perspective of good will, and to appeal to people's
higher being. And 90% of the time, people will respond to that. And that's what this man did.
He made a call to the president of the school board and all of a sudden the school board president
was open to some ideas. And he hadn't been. I'm not sure that he had talked to that operator. He
just historically thought he knew what he wanted, and he wasn't going to violate that. That's the
nuance and that's the dance. It’s following those trails and seeing where they go. It’s finding
out who the power structures are and where the doors get opened, and then appealing to their
higher being. And most of them will respond to that. Anybody who's self-interest is greed or
power, is not going to respond. And that's when you have to know to hand it over to whoever the
law enforcement people are and let go of it. But most often, when you give people an
opportunity, they'll respond.
Q - I'm going to completely change subjects on you now. Did you promise confidentiality with
all of your preliminary meetings and then with what was going on at the table?
A - Yes.
Q - Has that ever become a problem?
A - In what way?
Q - Either you felt for some reason that you needed to inform the other side about something that
you couldn't because it's confidential, or you were accused of breaking confidentiality when you
A - I don't remember ever being accused. I tried to create the boundary for confidentiality that
did not include illegal activity and I don't want to hear about it. So if you start sharing your
illegal activity with me, I'm gonna ask you to stop. Or if I see that going on, I'm going to leave.
Because that is not a confidential issue. It's like child abuse. But from my standpoint in terms of
point of integrity, if there's illegal activity going on, from the establishment side saying, "Yeah,
we intentionally discriminate against people." You know, I don't want to hear that. Now if
things need to be investigated, that's another issue. So I tried to create that boundary ahead of
time, because one of the premises is that you don't negotiate illegal activity. If that becomes an
issue, then we're not mediating anymore. It's like with a charge of discrimination for a particular
teacher in a school. We're not negotiating that person's individual charge of discrimination. It
needs to be litigated or taken through proper channels. We can negotiate and talk about how we
can create an environment where that doesn't happen. How can we put systems in place to help
the community have confidence that it's not going to happen? That kind of helped in not having
those kinds of issues come up that you would feel a struggle between confidentiality and not.
Q - Now how did you deal with what was happening at the table being
confidential, yet people had to go back to their constituencies and fill them in?
A - Well, there was a discussion at the end of each meeting about what kind of summary
information would be helpful to solicit input from the parties. And anytime there was a group of
two or more, confidentiality became almost a moot point. Twenty people have heard it, they
can't take this and use this against you in court because it's within the context of mediation. But
they certainly can go find it out somewhere else, now that they know it. So, there's a kind of a
risk at the table, regardless, and when it's involved the whole community, you've got to keep the
community involved with feedback. There are conversations that occur where there may even be
an intentional, "This definitely needs to be held in confidence in this room or it's going to create
more disharmony, more problems, and then we're back where we started." Generally, there's a
clear agreement that we need to share this about what we've done, about what we've
accomplished, and this is what we're working on. Then we need input from people on whether
they feel comfortable about what we've agreed to, and what kind of suggestions they want you to
bring back to the table. Confidentiality, in the strictest sense, is generally a one-on-one kind of
conversation. Or one group saying, "I don't want you to tell the other group that I would do this.
I don't want you to tell them that I would." And again, if you violate that, they're going to find it
out and you don't have trust anymore and you don't have any currency anymore. I used to say if
you violate the trust of one superintendent, after the next superintendent's meeting for the state,
you might as well move on to another state. We have organizations that talk. "Yeah, right. She
came over here and this is what happened to us." And so you don't have a job if you don't honor
that confidentiality and the trust relationship.
Q - And do you tell people about that right up front, that all of your conversations are
confidential, or do you wait until they ask for confidentiality?
A - It's part of gaining entry, that there's a safety there, that you can confide in me and that I can
help you. The more you trust me to really understand your position, the better. And that will be
held in confidence. Now I may, at some point, come to you and say, "I think if I could share your
perspective on student selection process, it would be helpful. I think the community would help
us move along a little bit. Are you willing for me to share that? With that specific intent?" If
they say no, I don't share it, it can't be shared. If they say yes, then I can go back and share that
perspective. And there are many instances like that where I have, in the dance, been going back
to one or the other and said, "I think if I could share that piece of information, it would move us a
little further along. Are you willing to let me do that?"
Q - And presumably, they usually say yes.
A - Generally, yes.
Q - We talked about this yesterday, I think, in the context of the
university case more broadly. How do you decide when to end your involvement in a conflict?
A - If it's a mediated agreement, when we sign. But, there's generally a paragraph that said that if
either party believes that the contract's not being honored, they have the right to call us for
consultation and we'll come back. Sometimes even where there were task forces established, we
would write in a voluntary reporting quarterly about some process. What issues you're dealing
with and what responses.
Q - According to you?
A - Yes. Just as a courtesy. They would usually do that for a couple of quarters and then they
would quit. But it was kind of a way of kind of keeping them focused and getting some feedback
from them. But that was clearly the end. The other way would be when either party made it
clear they didn't want us involved, and that's another signal. If a party said they didn't want me
involved, I would say, "Well the other party still wants some assistance, so I'm going to be giving
them some referral information." Again, try not to ever create some kind of sense that I'm going
behind somebody's back. I understand that you don't want to participate, that you're right, these
folks still want some help, so I'm gonna give them some referral and guidance, and then I'm out
Q - Will you give them more than referral and guidance? Will you actually give them some
fairly substantial consulting if they want? Or will you just pass them off to somebody else?
A - Mostly referral, because we really don't have a role to become an advocate. And again, in
that context, if I become an advocate for that group in that community, the next time the city
manager's get together, they're going to say, "Yeah, right. You don't have to participate,” but if
you don't, then they become an advocate for the other group. So again, you don't have a game to
Q - Did you ever stay involved in any of the
structures that were created after the settlement?
A - No. And I don't know how that could ever be appropriate. Again, because it's their deal.
They may call for consultation, they may call for some coaching, and I would do that, but it
would be technical assistance, it wouldn't be anything beyond coaching.
Q - Did you ever initiate any follow up?
A - If I had time. But generally, you were on to something else. I think it's one of the things that
could have been real helpful to the agency, and even to the mediators, to do some follow-up and
feel good about the long-term impact. But generally it happened as you got involved in the
community or the area again, and you were aware of people and you talk to people. Again, once
you've spent a couple years in a state, you know most of the players and the civil rights issues.
And you'll see them in other contacts and talk about it informally. But there was never a formal
process for follow-up. If you've got one person working a state and a half, you don't even touch
what needs to be done, much less getting around to following up on what you've done already.
Q - I'd like to go into a couple other issues that we didn't touch on, but that you mentioned that
struck me as interesting. One of them was boycotts. Nobody's told us anything about what you
do with boycotts.
A - We try to create structure so that someone's in charge of the boycott, or march. You've heard
about a boycott specifically, or a demonstration?
Q - Demonstration we've heard some about, but boycott strikes me as different, because as you
say, it's more diffused.
A - Right. The boycott happens when whoever they’re boycotting hasn't been willing to
negotiate, from their perspective, in good faith. And generally, it has to happen. Now what you
want to do is keep contact with the people who are boycotting, the leadership in the boycott so
that at some point you can still be helpful to them. A boycott is not threatening and so there's not
any real potential danger at that point. It's economic generally. So it's a matter of keeping the group
that they're boycotting sensitive and really giving them a way to save face and come to the table.
That's probably the biggest challenge.
Q - How do you do that?
A - Using their public interests, and good will. "You know, you may even shut this plant down,
but what's it going to look like to the national community when it becomes public knowledge?”
You can gain a lot from interfacing and having somebody like me in there, giving them a way of
coming to the table without saying, "You're right." Again, it's the very same discussion. If they
feel like you're not sensitive to their needs for education and you're just taking advantage of them
as workers and they're wanting you to institute GED programs, what's it going to cost you to do
that? What do you gain from it? And you've got to figure out a way for it to be in their self
interest to do it. And I would sometimes do research on other
companies that had done stuff like that. I would bring information to them and say, "This is what
happened to production. Production went up." So they gain more. The organization gained
more from that than they lost. We did a really long mediation with Levi Strauss one time. They
were closing a plant in San Antonio. The community's perception about who they are as an
organization was very important to them, so they weren't difficult to bring around. Generally, it
becomes an ego thing and both sides become entrenched. So then you've got to figure out a way
to let them save face and come out of that entrenched position. If there's no potential for a
long-term relationship, it's probably not ever going to settle, short of both groups being
destroyed, economically or whatever. These people lose their jobs, these people lose the plant.
But you try to find a place where you can bring them to a joint, mutually beneficial goal. Save
the plant, save our jobs, but get some of our needs met. Also give them that place where they can
stay safe. "Yeah, I understand how they feel, but we didn't do anything wrong." And it’s really
as simple as that sometimes.
Q - Now how do you save face if the one side is steadfastly refusing to negotiate? It seems like
just the act of sitting down at the table, in a sense, is losing face. Because then they're saying,
"Well, I was wrong before, I guess I will talk to you."
A - Yes. But, you have to get them to a point where it's in their interest to come to the table. You
have to come up with some reason. For example, in the community where the Iranian students
were. Everybody I talked to, from the officials side, did not feel there was a problem. Not until I
was able to point out that there was an economic reality. If I hadn't thought about that, I'm not
sure that we'd have done anything except try to bring some referrals for the students in terms of
getting some legal redress. There was some misunderstanding about what the US law's
limitations and realities were. The Iranian students were expecting some things from the local
police that they couldn't deliver. So that was a part of the dynamics then, the education. We also
found out that the high school students didn't have a clear understanding of what law
enforcement limits and responsibilities were. So we did some orientation with them as well as
the Iranian students and the college students. Without some personal interest, they're not going
to come to the table. Your job is to find out what's in their interest and try to point that out.
Q - Are there other factors that you can identify ahead of time that suggest that something cannot
be mediated? Or something that makes you think that a case is inappropriate for mediation?
A - At the outset?
Q- When you're doing your assessment.
A - Obviously, one for us was non-jurisdiction. If I didn't have to do with civil rights, that was a
clear referral. You'd still try to give them some sort of referral, but we didn't have the mandate to
intervene. The next level would be, and even in those instances, if there was potential for danger
or violence. Then, we'd still be there in terms of a calming effect until we felt like somebody else
was there. But then, it became the party's willingness to participate. That's when you use your
entry skill. Can you create the trust and the confidence in the process in order to get them to
participate in good faith? I had one situation where one of our participants was carrying
information back to one of the other parties after one of the private meetings. The group was
doing some confidential stuff, and this player would take it back to the city. I found out through
the discussions that they already knew everything before I got there. I guess that would be a
confidentiality issue, where somebody else was violating it and it could become a problem if the
group thought I was violating it. Luckily, I kind of had an idea who was doing it and I went to
the power person in the minority community, in confidence, and privately said, "I think this is
what's happening and I think this is who's doing it." He said, "Well, I'll take care of that." That's
another one of the things I learned. You can't take individuals of the group on, the group has to
do it. And if the group doesn't want to, you still can't. Your involvement may not work, and you
may have to back out. In this case, the leader was very well-respected with incredible integrity in
the community. He also had a radio station. He announced on the radio station that someone
was doing that, and that he knew who was doing it, and if it happened again, he would announce
his name next time. So that was the end of that. But you never know how things are going to
play out. That worked great, but if I had challenged that person, then I would have had a
problem. And as far as the group doing it, there's often a point at which the group has to decide.
I would say to a group, "This person doesn't want to reach a solution."
Earlier you talked about personal success and institutional success.
How did CRS measure success?
It goes back to what I said about evaluation systems having to match philosophy and mission
statements. The most consistent evaluation system was number of cases closed. So if we had
sixty cases closed, that was the equalizer in a year.
What does closed mean?
Opened, assessed, you did some intervention, whether it was technical assistance,
conciliation, or mediation. Or you did the assessment and made a determination that it was
non-jurisdiction or that the parties weren't open. So you had some sort of involvement and
closed it. The problem with that is, in one region, you may read about something in the
newspaper, make a phone call, open a case, close and call it a case. In another region, if you
don't have a document showing institutional change, you don't have a case. That creates some
morale problems. If somebody burped in Atlanta, they knew it in Seattle. The internal network,
as far as information sharing, especially that kind of information, was pretty quick. There wasn't
a consistent measure of success across the agency. You were more likely to be recognized by
your being called on to do a task, being called on to offer assistance, either from headquarters or
another region. That was a measure of respect and success for your work. There was never an
official evaluation system that would measure success, that the agency as a whole felt confident.
There was not any real confidence in the way it was done. It wasn't consistent from region to
But at the same time, that gives each region more freedom to do what they wanted to do.
Right. It did. It was part of the good and part of the struggle, because historically, the
agency had headquarters. Gill Pompa in particular, did a good job of working with the legislative
side of that. He kept Congress informed and kept the money coming. He let each region and
each regional director basically have their own domain. They resisted that. "What do you mean?
Tell me what to do in my region." You didn't cross regional lines unless you were invited. That
was understandable. But each regional director created their own domain, and that was their
power structure. Changes were not done in the context of how to honor the history of the past
and still transition people into the future. It was done in a way to just change, and that's always
difficult. As far as institutional success, it was generally measured by
informal recognition, or respect, rather than what you can do. Occasionally there would be some
extraordinary event where you would be nominated for the Attorney General award, and that was
a financial recognition. Certainly, through government evaluations, if you got an outstanding,
there was some financial reward connected to that. That was good, but again, there was no
consistency across the agency, where one person felt like they were competing on level ground
with another person for that same outstanding evaluation.
Did the changing nature of the civil rights movement affect your
What do you mean by changing nature?
There appears to have been a lot more protest activity in the early years of CRS. There was
much more active advocacy going on among minority groups than in later years.
Absolutely. Many of the veteran people came out of that advocacy role. They were
community advocates and they came into the institution under that. That's why for me to say
something like honoring the institution, it throws a flag up from their history. In order to get
positive change, that's the way to do it. You honor everybody involved, and you get everyone to
rise to the occasion. In the early days, that was not an option. Many of those institutions were
blatantly not going to rise to any occasion. In the change, there was an awareness that we've got
to change. "We'll certainly do it of our own accord rather than be forced into it by the
government or the community." Being able to choose was a face saving option for them, and if
they could save face, they're more likely to do more, do it in a more productive way, and change
with the community involvement. Using strategies for institutional change, looking at
institutions for their current redress systems, being pro-active with identifying ways of meeting
voluntary compliance with civil rights law; all of those things were a shift. In the early days, you
were on the streets and you were out there trying to keep communities from being killed or
destroyed. It was very much a more volatile situation. Crisis-response was the norm. By the
time I came along, crisis-response happened occasionally, but it wasn't the norm. You needed to
be available and prepared for that, that's your first response always, but if you just waited until
there was an eruption, then we wouldn't have a role to play. So the role had to change if we were
going to have a long term role to play. It became more planned response. Also, I loved forms
and I loved creating forms. I had this tension reduction resolution plan. It was a matrix of
responses that we had in certain situations. Again, I think it was more helpful to set something in
history and also be able to help people who were new to the field. Here are some things that
were done in the past. Tension reduction plans. I had a matrix. I'm a process thinker, and that's
one of the reasons this job was so fitting for me. That may have been one of the new directions
of the agency, to be a process agency rather than a crisis-response agency.
Is this related to what we've heard from a few people, who have said there was a change
somewhere along the line of the agency, where the agency became programmatic?
There was a time when they first started when they definitely were just crisis teams. They
went out as teams to respond to crisis. Then these programmatic functions were centralized out
of Washington. They had an educational program, law enforcement teams, and a community
specialist. So people were specialists in those fields. The next shift was where everybody
became a generalist. You had territories.
Is that when regions were created?
There were regions, but individual conciliators covered the whole
region. For example, we have five state areas in Texas. So you went anywhere in that area. If
there was an educational issue, the educational specialist would go. They had the field office in
There was a Houston field office, there was a New Orleans field office, there was an
Oklahoma City field office. There may have even been one in New Mexico. But there were
more field offices and more people, so those education specialists, or law enforcement
specialists, were in smaller areas and they covered their whole area. When the agency was
reduced, and you only had five people in region five, then each conciliator had a state and they
had to become generalist. I had Oklahoma and part of Texas, somebody else had New Mexico
and part of Texas, Arkansas and part of Texas, Louisiana and part of Texas. Efrain had south
Texas. That's when we became generalists, and I think it was as much driven by resources as
anything. You had to research. If you didn't have the background in a particular area, you'd have
to research that. There were materials the agency had and some things you just had to research
on your own.
Did you ever call up somebody who was
a specialist in a particular area?
Sometimes, but sometimes the ego thing didn't let it happen. It didn't happen as much as it
probably should have.
What do you think are the most important skills and attributes of a
The most important skills of a civil rights mediator? Apart from skills that I would talk
about, the most important would have to be a clear understanding and empathy for civil rights
law. A commitment to fairness and justice. Police officers get frustrated and say, "What are we
supposed to do? We're supposed to watch every corner? We don't know what's expected of us.
Are we supposed to know the law forwards and backwards?" I would say, "No, you're supposed
to do the just, reasonable and fair thing. If you're being just, reasonable, and fair, you'll be okay.
You'll make mistakes, but you'll be okay." Somebody asked, "What's that?" "Well, if you don't
understand what just and reasonable and fair means, you have a problem." We all know that.
We all know intuitively what's just and reasonable and fair. I think you have to have a passion
for that. I don't always live up to it, but I have a passion for that, for myself and for other people.
So in terms of civil rights, I would say that. In
terms of mediation, you would need an absolute commitment to the belief that people really can
be empowered to solve their own problems. My best skill is to facilitate that. Being a good
listener is important. You don't know the tune if you don't listen. If you don't listen to them,
both emotionally and verbally, then you don't know what dance to start with. If you can't
empathize with people, with integrity, I don't think you can be a good mediator. Again, it doesn't
mean that I agree with what your saying, but with genuineness, I can say that I understand. That's
where the trust comes from, when people can hear me and trust that I really do understand. That
in itself diffuses the potential for violence more than anything. Just the fact that they've been
heard and understood. By anybody.
Even by somebody who can't do something?
Yeah. It's an incredible gift to people to be able to truly understand what they're feeling. "I
understand what you're saying. I understand you're hurt. I understand where you're coming
from." How can they trust me to communicate in parties if they can't see in me some empathy
for their position.
What would you say are your greatest skills?
I guess my consuming passion for fairness and justice. Flexibility to work with any kind of
group, whether it's a president of an institution or a major company, or a street person, and feel
very comfortable. I think I've been able to communicate respect for people regardless of their
position. I've also been able to communicate that I'm not intimidated by anybody while still
being respectful. I think that's a gift, part of who I am, my personality. I have a really gifted
ability to process and think quickly, and that's been one of the way's I've gained entry when I
might not have come up with a quick response that's right on target. That's a gift. A good
example of that, which I've been able to share when training mediators, was a sheriff who really
didn't want to talk to me. When we went into his office, I just sat down in the chair assuming he
would go sit at his desk. But instead, he stood right beside me against the wall, and there I was
already seated. My mind is whirling because one of my principles is, you diminish no one. So if
I diminish him or try to put him down, he's not going to talk to me and he’s certainly not going
to respect me. But if I let him get away with this, he's not going to respect me. When I say
diminish no one, I mean me also. I said to him, "Sheriff, do you have problems with your back?"
He said, "Well no. Why?" I said, "Well, you're standing," and as I said that I stood up. If you
have a problem with your back I'll stand with you." "Oh no, no. It's fine." He went over and sat
down. He knew that I knew what he was doing. But I did it in a way that allowed him to save
face. He was able to get out of it, but he also respected me for not letting him get away with it.
We had a good conversation. I think that was one of my greatest gifts, was to be able to do that
in a way that didn't diminish him, but also commanded respect.
yesterday that you spent a year on the church-burning task force. Tell me about that.
When the public outcry over the church burnings hit its peak, toward the end of 1995, the
administration had to do something. There had to be a public response. The group obviously
most competent in that field was CRS. However, the staff had just diminished down to forty-five
people across the whole country, so they didn't have the resources. So they started calling some
of us back on contract if we were willing. If they called me back today and said they had a
situation they needed me to help them with, I'd go in a minute. I think most of us have that
commitment to the task, regardless of any of the problems we talk about. There is a commitment
to the task. I would help in a minute. So I was glad to do that.
They put together teams, and I was working out of Birmingham. What we did was go to
communities where fires had occurred. Our role was to coordinate with the other federal
agencies, the F.B.I., the ATF, the local law enforcement, the U.S. Attorney's office. We all
became a part of a team, and it was one of the most effective cooperative efforts I've been a part
of. So that became a good model for some future things they might do.
Green County, Alabama was where several fires were, so we spent a lot of time there.
We did the same kinds of intervention that we would've done in any circumstance. We found out
where the tensions were, where the perceptions between the races were, and if it was causing
additional tension. Was it likely to erupt into any other violence? In many instances, many
communities just did what they needed to do. They didn't need our intervention.
What they needed to do?
They met with the parties involved and they made a public and professional response to the
perpetrators. That had integrity, that said, "This is not acceptable. We're going to figure out who
did this, and we're going to do something about it." The community at large, other churches,
began voluntarily to mobilize resources to rebuild the churches that were burned. They gave
support and affirmation to those generally minority churches. By doing this, they showed, "We
do not condone this." Those were the kinds of things that didn't happen in the 1960's, which
made this different.
I think CRS can be proud of that. I think many of those people had learned how to do
that from CRS intervention in the past. The way to do it is for us to work together and say to the
perpetrators, "This is not acceptable. Whoever you are, this is not acceptable. All of us are going
to respond to it." The black church, the Hispanic church, or the Jewish church is not isolated in
this community. They were doing what they needed to do.
In communities where they needed some help, we did community building things. I met
with a group in Green County for six or seven months once or twice a month, and began to do
some things that were community building. After you get into it, it didn't have anything to do
with the church fires. It was, "What can we do to become a stronger community?" They put
together some really exciting proposals and implemented them, and had some good things going
on as a result. I did some training there, community training and department training. One of the
things I did was bring teams in. One of the things we did in Alabama was put together a regional
training. We brought in municipal teams that included community leaders, law enforcement,
civic leaders and elected officials. We had resources from all those different agencies to help
everyone understand what was going on and what resources were available to them. Then we did
team building workshops with them, to help them function more as a team when they go back.
That was a broader regional response. They were probably one of the most exciting things we
A few of the instances continued to be responding to the fire and the tension over that. It
was a he said, she said, he did it, we did it, kind of frustration. There were also difficulties and
conflicts that arose out of money. There was money coming in for the churches to be rebuilt, but
the perception from some of the communities was that it was being siphoned off and stolen, and
used for other benefits.
In some places, they couldn't get resources because of whatever technicality, and we'd try
to network for them and try to find some other resources. We were really very generalist
consultants out there, trying to respond to community tensions. While we were there, we also
provided some technical assistance.
How did you work with the other federal agencies given that most
of them are enforcement agencies? Presumably, you're doing a very different thing until you find
out who did it and prosecute them. So how do you coordinate with them?
For example, they may call us to help them create some confidence with the community.
Often times, the community may already not trust them, but they do trust us because they know
us. We've worked with them for years. We can go and help them to create trust. At some of
those regional meetings where the teams were brought in, they began to see us as a team. But we
didn't cross our boundaries in terms of enforcement and community support. We had to work
together. Their priority was to find the perpetrator, our priority was healing the community.
Those are very valid and different. There became more of an appreciation from the law
enforcement side for what we did. They saw what we did and they saw the impact of it. They
saw that their job became easier because of what we did. It also said to the community that there
is an administrative response that includes all of us, and that was important for the government.
Was there a state level response as well as federal?
From the state police, local police, and the fire marshals, yes. They were involved also as
part of the working team.
But beside law enforcement, was anyone else involved?
One of the state agencies that was most involved was the state sheriff's association. They
were at every one of our team-building meetings. They helped sponsor them, as a matter of fact.
There was one guy who was the head of that, who had incredible personal power as well as
position power. If he told some of the sheriffs that we were doing something, they would come
because they trusted him. He was a great resource. The state police were involved from the law
enforcement perspective. Of course local police were always brought into the network. It was
probably the best example of inner agency cooperation that I've ever seen, and a great testament
to that effort.
How long did it go on?
Task forces were probably in place, full force, for a year. The building up and the winding
down, maybe a year and a half total.
And CRS was involved throughout the entire time?
How did the government decide when to end involvement?
Just the lack of need. The emergency was over, CRS went back to doing what it routinely
did. The intensity wasn't there. I think the biggest impact is that the people who were doing it
for malicious reasons, realized the community at large wasn't going to tolerate it. That national
and local resources were saying publicly, "This is not acceptable. They got bigger and better
churches after you burnt them down, so what have you accomplished?" There were more people
eventually apprehended, percentage-wise, in these church fires then there ever had been in arson
kind of things, because there's mass resource going on. Some of the fires were accidents. Some
of them were heating systems that went bad. Some of them were lightning, while some of them
were intentionally set. So every fire that occurred wasn't a hate crime, but every fire that
occurred was responded to as if it were. The intensity of that response made perpetrators think,
"We're not going to get anything good out of this. There isn't going to be an outcry for us that
this needed to be done anyway. It isn't like it was in the 60's." Certainly it brought all of these
emotions back, but the communities produced a very different response, saying, "This is not
Did you help other communities generate hate crime response
We did that a lot. Hate crime task force. We did it in Oklahoma as a state initiative. They
didn't have a hate crime law. There was a task force made up of community and city and
legislative leaders, and we put together a policy statement and handbook that went out across the
state. It stated that Oklahoma will not tolerate hate crime. That was one of our pro-active things.
It's as if the more light you shine on something, the hate can't grow. Hate grows in darkness and
the more you put the floodlights out and say, "This is not acceptable," the more they go
underground somewhere else. They grow in an environment where it's dark. That was probably
one of the greatest impacts, working with that group and helping them put that together.
Can you think
of anything else that you've done that was especially interesting or important that we haven't
discussed? Another category of issues perhaps?
Personally, I really value being able to create models and forms. They gave me the time to
do that. The lending thing -- at first blush, it doesn't sound very exciting. But it was really
exciting for me to get into that and see the law has changed. But when I got into that, I realized
the Community Reinvestment Act allowed the banks to be the monitors. The only way the bank
got involved was if there was a complaint from the community. I said, "Okay, how does the
community complain?" "Well, the banks have to let them know how to complain." "So the bank
is supposed to tell the community how to complain against the bank? I don't think so." And that
was interesting. It was interesting to discover that little glitch. The next Community
Reinvestment Act legislation became more pro-active. Now the banks have to show results,
because before all they had to do was show intent. Now they had to show results, and they didn't
have to show results before. Those kinds of things were kinds of things that I really enjoyed
getting into and being a part of for people.
So were you involved in a more systemic level, setting up these policies, or did you also deal
with specific complaints?
Generally, I was more likely to go the systemic level than some. Some others did that too,
but because of my propensity and my interest, I was more likely to go there. There was a
complaint out of the community. The community that had five or six issues, and one of them
was the banking, and access to housing monies, and stuff like that. So that was one of the issues
we dealt with during the year. It evolved out of that community-raised issue. Then out of that, I
developed a model for other conciliators, because I did learn a lot from that. I was allowed,
because of our regional philosophy at the time, to move towards a systemic change, because our
regional director valued that. If our regional director had not valued that, the evaluation system
wouldn't have let me do that, because my evaluation eventually came from the regional director.
If they didn't value that, then I would have played to them. But this was something I really
enjoyed doing, and was something that I was good at. I do think that way. How does the system
work, and how can it work better?
talked yesterday about the theory we developed, based on talks with a lot of people, about what
we call intractable or resolution-resistant conflicts. We came to the conclusion that conflicts
were more resolution resistant if they involved very high stakes and distributional kinds of
questions. They were also more resistant if they involved fundamental moral differences, or
what we call domination conflicts, pecking order conflicts, or identity conflicts. All of these tend
to be involved in race issues. I threw this out at you yesterday, and you said that the factor we
hadn't been thinking about was the need for relationship. If there was a need for relationship
between people, then they would be willing to negotiate on those things. Are there other factors
we're not thinking about?
Another factor is the party’s or the individual's ability to look
beyond their current power position. If they can't perceive themselves in an honorable way,
beyond this entrenched position, then the issue's not negotiable. That's why I always ask, "What
is in your interest?" If I can't help them identify an interest that serves their needs beyond this
entrenched position, it won't work. I can explain to them, "You have the power to direct
authoritarian decision making on this plan, but what is it getting you? What might happen if
you're willing to move in a different direction? Is it worth that?" If they say it's not worth that,
then I'll tell these people what to do. If they don't do that, they're out of here, they're not going to
negotiate. Again, at that point, I'm not looking for them to understand the other party's interest.
I'm looking for something to catch their interest. So if they're so entrenched that they can't see
hope of personal interest served -- beyond this entrenched position -- they're not going to move
out of it. That's when I would say, "Call me."
You mean if they change their mind?
Yes. I think one of my propensities was to keep moving beyond
their real interest. They would have to be really overt to me and say, "Go away." As long as they
just danced around it and kept the door open, I just kept moving forward. Generally that worked
out, although sometimes they slammed the door. I think that's one of the skills of the mediator,
to understand whether or not it's mediatable. If you can’t help that party see beyond the
entrenched position, then it's not going to be mediated. I use it in the 40 hour mediation class.
For example, one of the barriers may be authority. It's a big rock. Here's the mediator, they're
the fulcrum underneath this lever. As the mediator, I'm trying to get this party off of its
entrenched position in order to see the benefits of the mediation. If I can't come up with
something to put on the other side, then it won't level out and it's not going to work.
So the mediator is looking for a leverage point to move people out of their entrenched
position, to get them to consider a negotiation. In family situations, children are often the point.
Sometimes it's money. "How many resources are you going to use supporting that intrenched
position? Are you willing to consider another option?" So you've got to find that leverage point.
If you can't find it, and I don't say many things absolutely, but that's where you would have an
intractable conflict. If they had found that point already, they wouldn't be there. So, all your
incredible skills have to involve helping find that leverage point. It's either going to be a
common interest or a personal interest. A common interest gives you the possibility of a richer
mediation. A personal interest can at least get you to the table and create some sort of
contractual relationship to the conflict. If you can get them toward a common interest, that's
where the payoff is. That's when I try and transform those relationships by the process. But
sometimes the best you can do, because of personal interest, is to get to some contractual
relationship. It's better than nothing.
Abortion is another example I use. With the abortion issue, there is no common leverage
for either side to move off that intrenched position. You're wasting your time. The best you can
do is work with the majority of people who are in the middle and try to bring reason to the
extremes. That's what has happened in these big international affairs, like Kosovo. They don't
have a middle. In Ireland, there's become this middle group who says these intrenched positions
are killing us. That's where you need to start focusing your energy, is in that middle group, in
helping and nurturing and supporting. Then the light's on, and these two intrenched positions are
no longer acceptable and the community often has to move on beyond them. They'll still be
agitating back here, but the group as a whole has been able to create some life to move forward.
Now you talked yesterday about groups wanting to keep the
extremists away from the table. But you disagree and think you really need to get them there?
Revisiting that in light of this conversation, do you want to bring extremists to the table or
do you keep it with the moderate group?
My first beginning is to bring the extremists there and try to find
the leverage point. But if I can't find the leverage point, then they're not going to participate.
Do they leave on their own?
Some. Some of them, you have to say to the group that they represent, "This person
obviously is not willing to become a part of the team or part of the solution. They're not prepared
to build a response or a resolution. Are you prepared as a group? You all have to decide that. If
you are, we will continue. If you're not, then we need to move on to something else." If you
could bring them to the table, many of them, you can give the individual a way of seeing
themselves as still having honor. You can use them as a decision maker. "We need you here,
you're a very influential part of this community. You can make a difference." So you give them
honor in this new role and many of them will again rise to that and see their identity shift while
still having honor. They may not, and they may have to be left behind. But if you can bring
them with you, it's all the better for everybody. Remember that they're still out here agitating the
cause. Some people cannot visualize themselves as having any influence or honor outside the
role they have. You're not going to get them to negotiate off of that. An example of that is
someone who's been an authoritarian in the family. A mother or father. They can't learn that a
different way still brings honor. They're too frightened of it and they're too intimidated by the
possibility of losing influence and power. You're not going to negotiate honor away from them
without replacing it with something that has honor. I think that's something we miss. I think we
miss the reality that everyone needs to be honored, and if we don't provide that, then they're
going to stay where they are.
power being a factor? Do you have to provide some way where they can maintain power? We
sometimes talk about the difference between 'power with' and 'power over.' Is there any way to
have power with instead of power over?
I would interchange that with what I just said about honor and put power in there. Before,
the power, the only way they perceive themselves as having any influence is by 'power over.'
You've got to create a new picture for them that they can buy into, and that's 'power with,' that
still has honor and influence. If you try to diminish them and their influence, it won't work. So if
you can reorient their paradigm to see that they have more influence inside the group and they
can make a difference here. "You've had an incredible influence on this community. What
you've done has made an incredible difference for these people, for the change in working
relationships. Let's look at it a different way. You can still have influence. You're very
important to this process." Many of them will see that and come along, if you'll help them create
that new picture. That's one of the gifts of the third party. You don't have anything to win or
lose, so they're not looking at you as a vested interest. Nobody else can play that role because
everybody else is suspect. But yes, I think everybody has to have a position of honor and have
some sense of personal empowerment.
Are there some situations that you found to be much more resistant
to resolution than others?
Corporate institutional change. I think this is because the corporation interest is so driven by
a profit. Unless there was somewhere within the corporation, a cultural influence for justice and
rightness, it was difficult to do anything but impose compliance. Those were the places where I
was more likely to feel like they were just doing what they had to in order to get rid of me. "Get
her out of here, tell her anything, just get her out of here." The other issues generally were
working with governments and public institutions. Those groups have a public interest, even if
they’re not honoring it, they do have one. You can hold them accountable to that. With a
corporation, their public interest is profit. And in terms of civil rights, corporations were not one
of the most difficult, because they were pretty easy to work with. They knew how to placate and
get you out of there. But I'm not sure how significant the long term change was.
Tell me what
you think about the debate between transformative mediation, as they describe it, and the
problem solving approaches.
What I was trained in and learned from CRS was very transformational, in terms of
relationships. That was the highest goal and that's why if you get institutional change that's great.
If you can transform relationships that's incredible. But there's a very directive process for
implementing the mediation process, the conciliation process, or the technical assistance. There
are steps in the process to go through. Now, when I'd gone through orientation with them on the
transformational I still don't buy into the whole idea of hands off as far as process is concerned.
It's like finding the common interest or the personal interest that can get people to move on. If
they could do that for themselves, they wouldn't need you. They wouldn't even be there, they'd
be working it out. So, if you don't have a process in mind or a plan I'm not sure you're doing
anything but refereeing and you're not supposed to do much of that. Now I think it's effective in
highly relational situations where it's a family, an employee/supervisor, where that relationship is
there. The transformative model is really a nurturing kind of guiding, keeping them focused on
aspects of the issue. So in that context the purely transformational model may be most effective.
Anytime you move to more complexity I'm not sure it would be effective in the pure sense. I
think I have said to more parties than I could ever name, "I'm in charge of the process. If you're
uncomfortable with that I need to know." What I have to offer you is the process, and it works.
If we'll honor the process something good can come out of it for you. It's my job to make sure we
honor the process.
Do you give them opportunities to tinker with it?
Oh, I think from what I've said the dance is part of the tinkering. I'll go in different
directions and I think one of the real challenges is to always be open to that. But if you know the
process you can deviate from it. That's one of the things that I thought about with Folger, Bush
and Folger is to be able to do that really well, with great integrity, you would have to be an
incredible craftsman with the process. To be able to use it effectively you would have to have
complete confidence in your abilities to use it. You can break rules if you understand what the
rules are and why you're breaking them. It supercedes the benefit of the rule. But if you don't
know that then you're just open to chaos. Now I'm not comfortable with that. I think in the role
of the mediator there are some specific skills of process that give people a sense of hope. But it's
not going to be a free for all. They've done that, they know how to do that. But there's going to
be some structure and some process of dealing with issues that can bring healing and