Finding common ground through mediation and restorative justice
The newly created Peer-to-Peer Counseling and Conflict Resolution Services is led by Associate Dean Love Odih Kumuyi. Kumuyi earned a law degree from the University of London. She also holds degrees from Norman Manley Law School and New York University. Before coming to Cornell, she was a consultant on Peacebuilding, human rights, the rule of law and justice for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and an associate professor of peace, justice and conflict transformation studies at Pace University.
In her new role, she serves as adviser to EARS (Empathy and Referral Services), the student peer-to-peer counseling program, and is developing a new program that utilizes alternative dispute resolution techniques such as restorative justice and mediation to help students resolve conflicts that have a bias or identity component.
How does your background translate to your position at Cornell?
At the UNDP I worked on policy and program implementation, and translated international human rights policy recommendations into a compendium of programs in 20 Middle Eastern countries. Some of my work included bringing together multiple stakeholders with varying interests to engage in dialogue about gender justice, reallocating funding resources to grassroots movements and building the capacity of community leaders working in regions affected by conflict. This experience has prepared me to look critically and creatively at the Presidential Task Force on Campus Climate report, initiate new programs and initiatives, and work with campus partners to bring these recommendations to life and create a more just, equitable and connected Cornell.
As a professor, I created an intergenerational simulation for students to be immersed in complex problem-solving over several days, to better prepare students for real-world challenges. At Cornell, I intend to bring a unique appreciation for cutting-edge research around conflict, peace, equity and justice within diversity and inclusion initiatives, balanced with an appreciation of the challenges around building capacity for social cohesion in diverse environments.
“Properly practiced, restorative justice creates a space for responsible parties, harmed parties and affected parties to talk about those harms, how to make those things right and how to rebuild community trust.”
As a new resource at Cornell, can you explain what an alternative dispute resolution process is, and when it might be used?
An alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process includes a variety of formal and informal practices that are used to resolve conflict and provides for creativity and inclusion in the way that we address community harms. It can also provide an opportunity for a resolution when people have felt harmed or impacted but there hasn’t been a clear rule violation. For example, if the judicial administrator determines that a perceived offense isn’t actionable, an ADR process can create opportunities for dialogues between the respective parties to have hard conversations, gain clarity about the situation and decide as appropriate how to promote healing within the community.
In some higher education contexts, ADR may be used to divert cases from the formal traditional justice system model of addressing civil or criminal violations, or operate parallel to the traditional systems. An ADR model of restorative justice is useful where an offending party has taken responsibility, and there is need to repair and heal others harmed or impacted by the event.
What is restorative justice?
Restorative justice is an ADR that includes a series of practices used to address harms, needs and obligations. RJ can create opportunities for broader community healing or by addressing past harms. There might be misperceptions about what restorative justice is. Some think of immunity or as a way of people to avoid responsibility. Properly practiced, restorative justice creates a space for responsible parties, harmed parties and affected parties to talk about those harms, how to make those things right and how to rebuild community trust.
What is mediation?
There are different strains of mediation. The conflict resolution school of thought seeks to extinguish conflict, whereas the conflict transformation model uses creative ways to empower parties who have differences to make the decisions which best suit their conflict. The conflict transformation approach is not just interested in hammering out a settlement; it’s very much interested in mutual empowerment, the recognition of all parties and ensuring that a healthy relationship continues if the parties are connected in any way beyond the conflict.
How does ADR differ from or supplement the Judicial Administrator or Bias Assessment and Review Team systems?
We are engaging with campus partners to design processes that would be complementary to the JA and the BART system. There are systemic limits to the processes of JA and the BART which leave gaps. We are filling gaps and supplementing existing processes in a way that reinforces the values of the community.
What are the greatest opportunities for personal and institutional growth through peer-to-peer counseling and conflict resolution services?
On the peer-to-peer counseling level, I’m interested in sharpening the cultural competency component of EARS. It was started 40 years ago, so I am reflecting on how EARS can effectively reach into all the communities that need support. I’m working on an ambassador program for EARS to find champions within cultural and affinity groups, within the athletics community or other communities, to find ways in which we can get people to champion the understanding of the EARS program, and to let them know that EARS is available to all of Cornell.