Students, faculty and a graduate of the University of Florida Levin College of Law earned national accolades Feb. 4 for their cutting-edge approach to handling disciplinary concerns within higher education and its local community.
UF Law's Conflict Resolution Initiative (CRI) earned the Innovation Award, UF Law alumnus Chris Loschiavo (JD 98) received the Donald D. Gehring Award for his exceptional contributions to student conduct administration, and the University of Florida's Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution won the top honor of Award of Excellence for an Institution.
"The Institute for Dispute Resolution is very honored to have the Levin College of Law recognized by the Association for Student Conduct Administration's Innovation Award for its creative collaboration program with Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution," said IDR Director Robin Davis (JD 88).
The IDR's mission includes actively encouraging and enhancing knowledge and service in the field of alternative dispute resolution, Davis said, and the CRI program helps to fulfill this mission.
"One of the things the University of Florida student conduct program has been known for is its cutting edge work as it relates to conflict resolution," said Loschiavo, student conduct director and UF's associate dean of students. "Without the Conflict Resolution Initiative, Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution would not be able to offer as many conflict resolution options as we're currently able to."
The Conflict Resolution Initiative — sponsored by UF Law's IDR — is an innovative program that benefits the Gainesville community, University of Florida students and UF Law students by providing free mediation services in a wide range of disputes.
"The law school program trains participating students to be Supreme Court Certified County Mediators," Davis said. "These students are then able to serve as neutral third parties who coordinate structured sessions which give the parties an opportunity to resolve conflicts without need of having to resort to court or other more formal processes in addressing their disputes."
The student mediators are trained to handle cases from dorm room conflicts and landlord-tenant disputes to bad break-ups. Last year, the CRI began offering services to UF students, but has since expanded and welcomes cases from the general public — a service previously unavailable in Alachua County.
"The CRI is a unique opportunity to assist both UF students and the Gainesville community to solve their disputes in a free, friendly and less intimidating atmosphere than the courtroom," said Rachael Bruce, a second-year law student and a CRI coordinator. "We really look forward to new cases coming in because it gives us a chance to put our mediation skills into action and to facilitate compromise amongst the parties, which is all too often a rare thing in the law."
The University of Florida's Levin College of Law has played an active role in the development of alternative dispute resolution in Florida. The IDR was the first of its kind established at a law school in Florida, as a result of state legislators enacting one of the first laws in the country giving judges broad authority to order mediation in all types of civil lawsuits.
Mediation and other alternative dispute methods are becoming increasingly more common in civil law. According to The Florida Bar News, the number of federal civil dispositions increased from 258,876 to 501,320 between 1962 and 2002, while the number of jury trials went down from 5,802 to 4,569. Alternative dispute resolution is cited as one of the contributing factors to this decrease.
U.S. News & World Report's 2012 rankings placed UF Law seventh in the field of dispute resolution among public universities and 19th overall.
For more information, visit the CRI website.