Interested faculty, staff, and graduate students founded Campus Mediation Services (CMS) during the fall 1979 semester in response to a perceived increase in tensions at the University of Maryland, College Park. Spurred on by innovative leadership at the Counseling Center, CMS organizers conducted several surveys of university groups and departments in order to gauge their understanding of the need for conflict resolution service on campus; moreover, CMS volunteers targeted these surveys to groups reported by the Diamondback as experiencing high levels of conflict and tension. In establishing CMS, its founders hoped to address the many interpersonal problems described in these surveys and articles. In support of this purpose, a secondary aim for the organization was to create a pool of certified mediators as a resource for the campus.
From its inception, CMS worked as an independent program, reporting to no campus administrative unit and run entirely by volunteers. The program did, however, receive support and some limited resources from the Counseling Center, where many of the volunteers also worked. Chief contributors Franklin Westbrook (Director), Rebecca Williams (Coordinator of Services), and Arnold Medvene (Mediator) formed the core of CMS, providing it with their leadership, organizational skills, and mediation experience. At its peak in the early to mid-1980s, as many as eight fully certified mediators and eight apprentice mediators staffed CMS. The Friends Suburban Project of Philadelphia provided early training for CMS mediators, while a number of newer mediators received certification in fall 1981 at a training event hosted by the National Center for Collaborative Planning and Community Services of Boston. From the time a description of CMS appeared in a 1983 edition of the University of Massachusetts's Mediation Bulletin, many interested colleagues from other universities corresponded with CMS volunteers to learn more about the program's aims, structure, services, and procedures.
CMS provided conflict resolution workshops, pamphlets, and presentations, as well as third-party intervention and information referral services; campus police, residence hall personnel, and students constituted the CMS's primary clientele for these services. Particularly in cases requiring conflict resolution between students, referrals to CMS came from the Office of Judicial Programs, the Student Legal Aid Office, the University Police Department, the Office of Human Relations Programs, the Office of Resident Life, and campus clergy. Cases brought to CMS ranged from minor roommate disputes to grave academic offenses. The CMS mediation process consisted of a series of voluntary meetings to air the grievances of all parties to a dispute, to establish common ground between disputants, and to define and agree upon a settlement plan. Following the conclusion of mediation in a given case, CMS mediators followed up by checking with participants to ensure that all parties' actions and expectations conformed to the plan.
Despite its brief tenure on campus, CMS met with considerable success. As Dr. Franklin Westbrook recalled in a 2005 interview conducted by the University of Maryland, CMS managed to provide outreach to a broad, diverse set of campus constituents, while employing non-traditional means to reach mutually satisfactory agreements. Thus for many students, CMS constituted a timely and approachable alternative to other, more bureaucratic methods of dispute settlement. Indeed, CMS volunteers reported consistently high levels of satisfaction among past mediation participants and noted an increase in referrals from them.
Even as demand for the program's services continued to expand through the mid-1980s, a lack of funds and full-time staff plagued CMS. The desire of CMS's founders to keep the program independent from the oversight of established campus administrative units and, thus, to confer upon it a neutral, impartial image also meant that it had no official claim on campus resources. The need to solidify its funding and staffing drove CMS volunteers to seek support from the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, the Counseling Center, the Office of Human Relations Programs, and other, external sources. Ultimately, the lack of a permanent, dedicated staff and budget undermined CMS's ability to meet the demand for its services.
In October 1986, the staff of CMS decided to disband the service and informed referring units that CMS would no longer be able to accept new requests for mediation. The memorandum they issued cited a lack of university funding and support as a factor in the demise of CMS and drew attention to a new mediation program emerging at that time through a partnership between the City of College Park and the Office of Student Affairs. This new initiative arose from a heightened interest among community leaders in establishing a program whose mediators would undergo training and jointly resolve concerns common to campus and community members.
The experience of establishing and administering CMS also paved the way for future services initiated by the Counseling Center. Dr. Westbrook credits the mediation work with aiding in the establishment of a current initiative to identify and aid groups affected by traumatic events, including Campus Police and Counseling Center staff members.