Once the ombuds office opened in 2000, the need became apparent for an extended mediation program on campus. With support from the ombuds office, a team of students, staff, and faculty worked together to design a mediation program to address the needs of the college community.
The Design Team consulted with Diane Kenty ’77, who teaches at the University of Maine School of Law and is director of its office of Court Alternative Dispute Resolution, and Leah Wing ’84, who teaches in the legal studies department of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and is director of dispute resolution at the National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution. The Design Team interviewed students, staff, and faculty and completed extensive research to develop the plan for the college’ dialogue center.
The Oberlin College Dialogue Center (OCDC) was created in 2001 as an extension of the ombuds office. The OCDC mediation program is based on the social justice model, with team members representing the entire college community. All mediation sessions are conducted by co-mediators, and are designed to empower the disputants as they take responsibility for solving problems and for their future relations.
Yeworkwha Belachew (YB), who founded OCDC, retired from the college in 2015 after 35 years of service, 15 years as ombudsperson. At her retirement celebration on October 3, then-Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov honored YB by renaming the center the Yeworkwha Belachew Center for Dialogue at Oberlin College.
The YBCD sponsored a 10th Anniversary Symposium to highlight and celebrate the work of the organization and its alumni.