Off the Cuff: Oberlin College Dialogue Center
The Oberlin College Dialogue Center operates under the Office of the Ombudsperson as a mediation center and a forum for dialogue in the Oberlin College community. Established on the principles of social justice, OCDC — with its values of resolving conflicts by promoting dialogue and creating social justice by providing a space for people to express their views — reflects and reaffirms the basic values of Oberlin’s history. Since its start in 2001, OCDC has built a reputation within the Oberlin community. Students, faculty and staff constitute its member and they act as mediators, facilitating dialogue. The Oberlin Review met with several members of OCDC, asking them about their experiences and what they consider to be the role of OCDC on campus.
Keeping in line with OCDC custom, the group discussed and answered the following questions as a single unit.
A lot of Oberlin alumni are professionals working in the field of conflict resolution, and they too inspired me to be a part of this body.
Working with various people and different communities around campus has been a great learning experience. Being able to handle dialogue and learning about multi-partiality has seen me evolve into a better listener.
Moreover, I have realized that change can be made in a small setting — through dialogue and conversation. You don’t always have to go out on the street and protest.
After all, when it did not exist, where would you go if you had a conflict or a dispute? OCDC fulfills this essential role of a mediation center where people can come and talk about their opinions freely, and what makes it special is that it functions within the structure of college, and yet it functions independently as part of the Office of the Ombudsperson.
OCDC offers a special service to the College and the members of the College, and the community greatly appreciates our efforts. Over the years, we have held symposiums, facilitated dialogues and annually held the Social Justice Institute, and we plan to continue this in the future. I would also like to acknowledge and thank the institutional support that we continue to receive from the College. More recently, President Krislov, too, has complimented our efforts with the recent events [including dialogues regarding the Oberlin Police incident] on campus.
People outside Oberlin have also expressed interest in knowing more about the OCDC model. We have received requests from several colleges and universities, and we are also working with Amnesty International. In the future, we hope to resume mediation training, and we also intend to branch out by working with the local school systems in developing a mediation training program for school-going children.