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Free mediation services, training offered to students, faculty, staff

The Athens Area Mediation Service, or AAMS, has signed a contract with Ohio University to offer its services free of charge to students, staff and faculty to encourage them to become mediators themselves.

Mediation brings in a third party to settle disagreements such as roommate issues, landlord-tenant issues, workplace conflicts, divorce, etc. The contract also offers OU students, faculty and staff free mediation training. 

Mediations can be requested on the AAMS website, which students can access for free. People not associated with the university pay on a scale depending on their yearly income. 

Mediations cost $50 for anyone with an annual income of zero to $25,000, $100 for people earning between $25,000 to $50,000, $150 for people earning $50,000 to $85,000 annually and it continues to increase until people making over $200,000 which would cost them $450.

According to the AAMS website, settling a dispute with a mediator or utilizing mediation skills can be less expensive and less time-consuming and result in a more cooperative outcome than settling things in a courtroom. 

AAMS also offers group facilitations that can help clubs, workplace teams, organizations or international communities. Facilitators will speak with groups about the best ways to foster communication and achieve their goals. Those services are also free for OU students, staff and faculty but would cost $100 per hour for a group of one to 10 people, $200 per hour for a group of 10 to 50 and $300 per hour for a group of 51 or more.

The Fundamentals of Mediation training series is a 15-hour training over five weeks to teach what mediation is and how to use it properly. Executive Director of AAMS, Cynthia Tindongan, said it is offered two to three times a year. It costs community members $200, but they can contact AAMS for a scholarship or arrangement.

"If someone is in a position of more power, then we have to consider that might affect the mediation," Tindongan said. "We train people to engage in conflict resolution."

A mediation training is currently in session with 10 trainees and three trainers. Virtual training will happen this summer and again in the fall, Tindongan said. 

Tindongan said that the trainees can volunteer with the AAMS to be mediators after the training is over. 

"Everywhere you go, in any workplace, in any family in any community, there's conflict," Tindongan said. "The more people who become more aware of how they might be able to resolve that conflict and learn some skills to help them do that, I think the better our community is."

Mediation skills can bring solutions to different relationships but having the tools to help solve problems can also lead to a better quality of life, Tindongan said.

"One of the things that people learn in our mediation training is how to listen and communicate other kinds of communication skills," Tindongan said. "I think that would improve the quality of their life as a student, and that hopefully they can take those skills with them."

All students deal with conflict, whether it's with a roommate, a landlord or a partner. Third-year English pre-law major Emma Diehl finds herself applying mediation skills in her major and with family members. 

As a pre-law student, Diehl said she wanted to explore all possible paths within her major and found herself loving the mediation training. 

"I love it more than I expected to," Diehl said. "It's not just learning about mediation, but I also get to work with a great group of people."

Diehl said that during the training, they talk about a certain topic within mediation and go into roleplay with that topic, hoping to work on their mediation skills in real-life situations.

"I've already used some of these skills with just helping out arguments in my own family," Diehl said. "I have a feeling that these skills will definitely help me further in my life mainly just because it's teaching me patience and communication, and is teaching me how to listen well."

Diehl said that having mediation skills has taught her to calm down and breathe rather than get angry and shut down.

"It's basically saying, 'All right, there is a clear conflict here, there is no (one to) blame on either side. Let's just take a breath, calm down, and see if we can sort this out rationally and then come up with a solution that benefits both people'," Diehl said.


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