Jay Wilgus, one of two final candidates for the position of the director of the University’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution, gave presentations this week for students, members of the University community and Ann Arbor residents to convey his future hopes for OSCR if he gets the job.
The University has been searching for a new director of OSCR following the departure of former director, Jennifer Schrage in December 2009. Monita Thompson, co-director of The Program on Intergroup Relations, has led a search team in finding a replacement.
OSCR had planned for Wilgus, currently the assistant dean of students at the University of Utah, to host a student presentation on Monday evening, but no students attended. Yesterday morning’s public presentation in the Union’s Wolverine Room drew a crowd of about 45 people. While many of those in attendance were members of OSCR, students and police officers also attended the event.
After a brief introduction from Thompson, Wilgus began his 45-minute presentation, during which he spoke about his personal views on conflict resolution and outlined the challenges that he believes OSCR and the University as a whole face.
Wilgus, who received an honors bachelor of science in speech communication from the University of Utah in 2001, has worked extensively in conflict resolution. After receiving his Master of Dispute Resolution from Pepperdine University’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution he earned a Juris Doctorate from the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, where he was a member of the Utah Law Review.
Wilgus became the assistant dean of students at the University of Utah in 2007, where he is also the director of fraternity and sorority life, a counselor with Student Advocacy — a sub-committee of the Dean of Students Office — and a mediator with Community Conflict.
Despite his law education and work as a part-time attorney in Salt Lake City, Wilgus said he prefers his work as a mediator rather than as a lawyer. At his presentation on Tuesday, Wilgus discussed his theories on student conflict resolution, and said that while many other schools may prefer to focus on student judiciary systems, he prefers a system of education.
“I don’t want students thinking of OSCR as a principal’s office,” Wilgus said. “We educate and repair harm.”
Wilgus said he’s in favor of OSCR’s Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities — the code that governs student conduct on campus — and that it can be viewed as “students stating community norms” rather than a set of rules set by the school’s administration.
If he secures the position of OSCR director, Wilgus said he hopes to create an atmosphere that would allow Michigan students to graduate with better conflict resolution skills.
“The assumption is that conflict is unavoidable…it’s how we deal with conflict that is important,” he said.
Wilgus said he prefers to use the Spectrum of Conflict Resolutions Options, which is a guide for students about how to make use of OSCR’s resources in resolving conflicts — like using a mediator — rather than taking action that could lead to punishment. He said if he becomes director, he’d like to make a push to use both OSCR’s statement and the Spectrum of Conflict Resolution Options in order to help students deal with conflict.
Wilgus said OSCR and the University of Michigan lead the nation in what he hopes will become a revolution in student conflict resolution. He said he’s “not interviewing this position to maintain the status quo.”
In an interview on Monday, LSA senior Rokimas Soeharyo, who works at OSCR, said that much of the reason the University has taken a new approach to conflict resolution stems from the campus’s diverse student body.
Wilgus also said that the change is fueled by the University’s wish to provide better services and positive learning experiences for its students.
Will Hathaway, co-general manager of OSCR, said after Wilgus’s presentation on Tuesday that he is “very articulate.”
The selection process for a new director of OSCR continues this week. Jim Neumeister, the director of Northwestern University’s Office of Judicial Affairs, will speak this evening and Thursday morning.