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Center for Applied Conflict Management Honors May 4

Posted May. 5, 2008

By Olivia Mihalic

Following the events of May 4, 1970, when Ohio National Guardsmen injured and killed Kent State students protesting the United States war in Vietnam, Kent State took action. Established in 1971, the Center for Applied Conflict Management has honored that day and responded by bringing conflict mediation and resolution to the university and the broader community.

May 4

The Center for Applied Conflict Management honors the legacy of May 4, 1970.

“Kent State is known for the shootings in 1970,” says Dr. Patrick Coy, director of the center and associate professor of political science. “We need also to be known for how we respond to that legacy and how we have built on it.”

Immediately following the tragedy in 1970, a task force met to look at responses the university could make. The consensus was a recommendation that the primary response should be a center dedicated to the study and promotion of peaceful and more constructive mechanisms of change.

“There are times when conflict ought to be expanded and waged more aggressively,” Coy says. “The challenge is to increase the intensity on one hand but not increase the destructiveness. That is why we teach nonviolent action alongside mediation, negotiation and arbitration.”

Since it was founded, the Center for Applied Conflict Management has provided mediation, non-violent action and violence prevention training services in mediation for the community, schools and public housing in Cleveland.

In 1973, the Board of Ohio Regents approved a conflict studies degree program; today, the degree program has more than 40 students as majors. Students in the program learn theory and skills in negotiation, mediation, arbitration, non-violent action, strategic planning, environmental conflict resolution and group facilitation.

“Ideally, every college should have something like the Center for Applied Conflict Management,” says Coy. “These are necessary life skills. Conflict is always going to be present. The question is how can we wage conflict in a constructive way, not a destructive way?”

Kent State is one of only two programs in Ohio that offers conflict studies as a major and is the only one in the country with more than 1,000 students enrolled in its courses in an academic year. People with a conflict studies degree have continued on to run community mediation centers, staff human resources and personnel management offices, direct peer mediation programs in school systems and even work with the United Nations.

For more information about the center, visit its website.