The Equality Unit (EqU) recently welcomed a group of 16 Stellenbosch University (SU) staff members as mediators, following their successful completion of the SU Workplace Mediation Course. The course was presented over a period of five days by Francois Botha, a Mediator and Relations Strategist in the Office for Inclusivity & Change at UCT and the EqU.
During the course, the group received extensive training in areas such as mediating two-party and group disputes involving faculties, staff and students.
The group also gained knowledge about the unique nature of conflict in an academic environment and how to resolve it. Coming from various faculties, divisions and departments, not only will these mediators be assisting the University community with addressing their conflicts in specific situations; but will also more importantly, promote sense of cohesion, and foster mutual respect through a facilitated process.
The unit says while there are many ways to manage conflict at the workplace, the SU Policy on Unfair Discrimination and Harassment places mediation as the preferred means of resolution in matters about unfair discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and victimisation. Mediation is quickly growing as one of the preferred alternative approaches to conflict resolution in the 21st Century, including in the Higher Education sector in South Africa. However, we do recognise that certain matters may not be resolved through mediation.
According to Head of the Equality Unit, Jaco Greeff Brink, since their inception in 2016, 90% of mediation sessions initiated by the unit were successful where both parties were able to reach an agreement or an amicable solution.
He adds that the Unit aims to strengthen its mediation programme in the 2018 Academic Year to enhance personal development, conflict resolution and interpersonal relationships.
“We are excited to welcome the group to our already existing pool of mediators and hope that moving forward they will be able to utilise some of the key aspects and tactics learned throughout the course", said Jaco.
One of the course participants said attending this course was the most enriching experiences they ever been privileged to be part of.
“I lost my enthusiasm in the last few years for being part of this institution, but I can see that there still are such units focused on individual growth and kindness", read the remark o the course evaluation.
Another one said they appreciated the manner in which the teaching was done saying, it was very practical and interactive, and it pushed their boundaries in some instances.
“Above all, the training provided training a skillset that I can use in different contexts. It also offered the opportunity to do some self-reflection", said the remark.
The Equality Unit, promotes collective action towards social justice, discourse regarding social asymmetries at SU, and implements a comprehensive HIV response. The Unit coordinates, educates and raises awareness around sexualities, gender non-violence, HIV/Aids and anti-discrimination. The Unit also formulates and oversees the implementation of SU's Unfair Discrimination and Harassment Policy, EndRapeCulture 2017 Report findings and the SU HIV/Aids Policy. We also serve as a centralised service for students and staff managing accounts of unfair discrimination and various forms of harassment at Huis Simon Nkoli House (at 39 Victoria Street).