Every month the Santa Barbara Superior Court Small Claims Division sees numerous cases involving UCSB students and local property managers come through their courtrooms. “These cases are usually a result of property damage or unreturned security deposits” stated Lizzie Rodriguez, Executive Director of Conflict Solutions Center (CSC). CSC is contracted by the Santa Barbara County Superior Court to offer free mediation services to all small claims cases. “We have found that disputing parties who utilize the mediation process are much more satisfied with the agreements they reach together than when the judge makes the decision for them”, stated Rodriguez, “mainly, because they are included in the decision making process”.
Through a grant from UCSB’s Associated Students Community Affairs Board, 13 UCSB undergraduate students began learning mediation skill from Conflict Solutions Center. With a combination of classroom training and hands-on mediation apprenticeship, participants observed small claims courtroom proceedings and mediations, before participating as a co-mediator.
Darlene Morris, a UCSB student studying psychology and communication, is participating in CSC’s mediation training. “I would like to go to law school and my family told me I’m good at arguing, so I thought learning mediation would give me the skills to get people to agree with me without even trying” stated Morris. “I’m getting way more out of the experience than I thought. Every session is different and I’m learning a new way of speaking and relating to people.”
Darlene specializes in landlord/tenant disputes. “I am very surprised at how successful mediation really is. I’m not sure why everyone who goes to court doesn’t try to mediate first”, she said. As a mediation intern, Darlene works with professionals such as judges, lawyers, and other mediators. “Every time I leave a mediation session, I learn a new perspective and grow as a person”, stated Darlene.
Darlene and other student interns provide free mediation for the Isla Vista community for disputes involving tenants, property managers, or roommates. Together with CSC’s professional mediators, student interns offer the opportunity for the IV community to resolve difficult conflicts through mediation. “I see mediation as a valuable resource for IV”, stated Darlene, “sometimes it’s not the messenger, but the way the message is delivered. And mediation really helps”. Anyone interested in trying mediation to resolve a conflict can contact Lizzie or Darlene at CSC and ask about the IV Community Mediation Program at (805) 963-6765 or LRodriguez@CSCSB.org.
Mediation is a facilitated, constructive negotiation process for resolving differences and conflicts between individuals, groups and organizations. It is an alternative to avoidance, destructive confrontation, and prolonged litigation or violence. It gives people in conflict an opportunity to take responsibility for the resolution of their dispute and control of the outcome. Community mediation is designed to meet individual interests while strengthening relationships and building connections between people and groups, and to create processes that make communities work for all of us.
In mediation, the decision-making authority rests with the parties themselves. Recognizing variations in styles and cultural differences, the role of the mediator(s) involve assisting the disputants in defining and clarifying issues, reducing obstacles to communication, exploring possible solutions, and reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement. Mediation presents the opportunity to constructively express differences and to “hear each other out” even when an agreement is not reached.
About Conflict Solutions Center
Founded in 1989, Conflict Solutions Center is a community-based non-profit organization committed to the development of non-adversarial responses to conflict and differences that strengthen social harmony and support individual healing. The organization serves the communities of Santa Barbara County by providing compassionate communication, appropriate dispute resolution and problem solving practices, Restorative Justice, consultation, training, and mediation services.
Community Building – Once Peace at a Time