Were you able to bring about organizational or structural change?


Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

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.



Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
This was the same group that you had constituted?

Answer:
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.

Question:
And what is the task force's purpose?

Answer:
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.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Were there any provisions in the document that addressed what would happen if any of the provisions weren’t followed, any enforcement mechanism?

Answer:
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.

Question:
Were they less afraid once the committee was formed?

Answer:
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.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
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?

Answer:
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.

Question:
So were you involved in a more systemic level, setting up these policies, or did you also deal with specific complaints?

Answer:
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?






Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

You had a school system that was different: a black system and white system. You had blacks that were not employed in any of the banks and a lot of industries there. blacks were in low- paying, menial jobs. Then there were comments that were appearing in national magazines attacking black women's character. So it was beyond the JoAnn Little case. The goals and objectives were not only related to the administration of justice, but economic development and housing. Some of the housing in the Washington area was really bad. If you made the wrong turn you would be in trouble. But then there were other areas where blacks had beautiful homes. By and large, it was economic development. There were employment problems and a whole range of things, so our goal had to be looking at what we could do as a result of the people coming together. Abernathe was there. At the time, he was President of SCLC. He wanted to call attention to economic development, housing, and education. Because of JoAnn Little, suddenly you saw a change in the education system. You saw a change in the industry when they started hiring blacks and putting them in supervisory positions. You started seeing roads being paved in the black communities where there had been just mud holes and pot holes before. So the broader picture resulted from JoAnn Little's case. The type of people who came could be very objective. You talk about 4th Street, well, 4th Street was run-down. I wish you could see it now. All of those houses are gone. Nice homes along there, Section 8 homes built for the first- time home buyers. Had JoAnn Little not been tried, I doubt if any of this would have resulted.



Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

It occurred to me last night, that there's one aspect immediately following the mediation at this island case that I thought was significant. It was the way the announcement was made to the community. I thought it was unique. The parties, after the mediation, and the pastor of the United Church of Christ suggested that we have an open house at his church and invited everybody from the community. This would be the white community and the non-Indian community, that's where the concerns were. They were all supportive that the community go along with this. Anyway, we had an open church a few days after the agreement was signed and had a very good turnout in terms of attendance. The procedure that we went through was that the key persons on both sides had a meeting together, had an explanation of what the grievance was, and people could ask questions and so on. After that, it became very informal and they had cake and coffee and that sort of thing and broke up into small groups and there were Indian tribal members chatting with residents and vice versa for the first time really, especially those who were most concerned about what had been happening. I happened to notice that there was one person, shall we say Subject A? If you remember, he was one of the person's who had more complaints about this person than anyone else that I came across. I couldn't help but notice that he was off in a corner with three men standing around him, and he was talking with them and showing them something. I couldn't see what it was and I had to look over his shoulder. This was a copy of the Bolt decision that he had somehow gotten a hold of. And it was all underlined with these parts and he was saying, you see, they have a right to come under our property. Now that is just as significant a part of mediation I think as the negotiations at a table. What the people at the table do at the wake of it. They've got the job of convincing their constituencies. We must never lose sight of that, empowering those people and each side needs to be aware of those needs, it works both ways. Later on, this same individual was sitting on his porch and noticed across a neck of the lake a tribal fisherman over there, somebody on the dock who looked like they were having some kind of problems, he couldn't tell what it was. This guy wasn't young and he wasn't in good health, but he gets in his rowboat, rows as fast as he can clear across the bay, and intervenes and sorts it out and works out whatever the problem was. That again is involvement in this way. At the subsequent meetings, before the next season started, those became very important people to tell their experiences and reinforce this kind of positive action. As they looked forward to relating this, they became a reference group of those involved in the review of their decisions. The persons involved in those joint meetings later moved on, tribal leadership changed and so on. Tribal Fisherman Patrol chief became police chief in another reservation. These follow up meetings helped to perpetuate the original understandings and most importantly working relationships, regardless of what's on paper. That's what producing the paper and producing the agreements created, working relationships. Those small joint committees focused on a purpose. That's what creates the working relationships. In other words, mediation sessions are just the beginning. There were people in CRS, when I would relate stories like this, who would say, "Oh no, that's not mediation. When you finish up your mediation sessions, signed, you're out of there and that's it." That's a philosophy practice. To me, I think it's the human relations, in addition to the human rights involved, they're equally important.



Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

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.



Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
I think you've already answered this question, but I haven't asked it overtly. How do you measure your success?

Answer:
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?






Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
How much of a plan do you develop before you go in? How much comes later?

Answer:
Has anyone brought up the Annual Appraisal of Racial Tension?

Question:
No.

Answer:
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 violence.







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