Conflict and crisis management

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

My experiences as the conduct GTA have provided me with a solid framework in how to deal with conflict and crisis both in the short-term and long-term as well as knowledge on how to prevent larger crises from arising. Having personally witnessed the Critical Incident Response Team and Bias Response Team handle and train for such crises I have been able to develop my own steps to dealing with the small conflicts and personal crises that I have handled thus far and at the same time instilled in me an understanding that constant improvement is necessary in order to stay on top of issues related to campus crisis management. Here is my basic outline of what I think are the keys to effective crisis management:

*Whenever possible, I would want to collaborate and act as a team when going through these steps*

1.) Assess the various types and levels of direct harm caused or likely to occur because of the immediate crisis. Physical injury or harm must be dealt with quickly and efficiently. It is imperative to create safety plans for those who may still be in harms way.

2.) Pool resources from both on and off campus to handle the direct and indirect effects of the crisis. This will include, but not be limited to mobilizing counseling and psychological services (to provide counseling to all those effected by the crisis),  health services (to provide sexual assault kits, infectious disease  and public health info, etc.) religious and spiritual advisors along with cultural service centers (to provide guidance and counseling), housing and dining services and local housing companies (to provide alternative or emergency shelter), and public safety/local law enforcement (to patrol and create campus wide safety plans). * If the crisis creates media attention then campus public relations needs to be informed so they can disperse information on the university’s behalf or let administrators know what they should and should not say.*

3.) Extend appropriate resources to all those involved in the crisis. While those directly affected may be getting the majority of the attention and services, it is important to also extend services to those less directly affected. Give those involved the opportunity to use the resources, but whenever possible don’t force these upon them. People in crisis often feel and or have had their power taken away from them in some way and allowing them to make choices may help in their recovery. At the same time, make personal attempts to discuss resources with individuals who may benefit from them. People will be much more likely to accept services that are recommended to them and people in crisis should not be made to research the options each service provides.

4.) Follow-up with all those involved. Make sure that the resources promised are being delivered. Find out what services or resources they are going to need in order to deal with the more long-term effects of the crisis. It is best to have a clear understanding of some of the resources you can and cannot provide going into this meeting. Also follow up with those providing the services. Can they maintain their current level of service? Do they need additional resources? Are those receiving services holding up any contractual agreements on their end?

5.) If possible, use the conflict or crisis to develop programs or create teachable moments for the campus community. If a crisis cannot be completely avoided, it may still be used as a tool to open people’s eyes to important issues on campus or in the community. When doing this, be very careful not to trivialize or make someone else’s injury or pain seem like just an academic matter.

6.) Analysis the situation. Figure out what could have been done better and what was done well. Brainstorm similar crises that might occur and do training exercises based on these events. Use events from other institutions or based on other current issues at college campuses to think ahead and prepare for potential, upcoming crises.


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One Response to “Conflict and crisis management”

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With regard to Eric’s questions about what other departments that supervise graduate students can learn from my experience working with managing conflict and crisis as well as what I can learn and utilize as a supervisor of graduate students:

Having the opportunity to observe CIRT meetings has allowed me to understand the moral and professional dilemmas that are paramount within the areas of conflict and crisis management. Departments that host graduate students need to provide students with the opportunity to see some of the more complex inner-workings of their operations. Getting the chance to see professionals struggling with complex issues and not always having the “right” answers has been a key component of my learning. Being able to engage others in discussions about steps that were taken to manage or mediate conflict and whether or not things could have been done better has also been a key to my learning.

As a future instructor, advisor, or supervisor of graduate students I must try and expose students to these complex issues. While I may be hesitant to showcase mistakes I have made or challenges I still face, the benefits to students will be well worth it. In addition, having the chance to discuss such matters with new professionals may open my eyes to new ideas or ways to handle situations.

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