ADR: The Big Question

In 2015, the ADR Center began organizing its programming and events around a "big question" related to the Center's overall focus on social justice. Although we still sponsor events that are not part of the Big Question theme, we make an effort to devote our resources as much as possible to exploring the annual Big Question in depth. 


BQ 2016-17:  ADR as Activism, Activism as ADR

Modern alternative dispute resolution (ADR) started as a social movement organized around three ideas:  delivery of dispute resolution services; individual empowerment; and social transformation.  Early ADR activists believed that ADR could provide a legitimate and even better approach for disputants who either could not or did not want to address grievances through formal or traditional processes. 

 In 2016-17, the Oregon ADR Center will consider how social activism -- broadly defined as efforts toward change existing outside formal political or legal processes -- relates to modern theories and methods of ADR.  Is activism a type of negotiation or an obstacle to negotiation?  Does our ADR curriculum have any relevance to activists on the ground?  Has ADR become part of "the establishment" or is it still fundamentally an activist enterprise?  How do we in ADR account for activists, anarchists, violent protestors, and other radical groups that are suspicious of political and legal institutions and often reluctant to negotiate? 

 Over the year, we will host speakers, workshops, and other events that explore the potential synergies and tensions between activism and ADR.


BQ 2015-16:  Implicit Bias and ADR: An Exploration of Intent and Action

News coverage of recent events in Ferguson, New York City, Baltimore, and elsewhere highlight the psychological science showing that even people who value equality often act in ways that perpetuate and increase inequality. Implicit bias, such as automatic stereotyping and evaluation, affects numerous kinds of professionals, including people working in alternative dispute resolution.  See for yourself—take an implicit bias test here.

In 2015-16, the Oregon ADR Center examined the intersection of ADR and implicit bias.  How does implicit bias affect the neutrality of ADR professionals?  And can ADR practices reduce the effects of implicit bias? 

Over the year, we hosted speakers, workshops, and other events that explore how ADR is both a problem and solution to implicit bias.  We were fortunate to have Carol Izumi (Hastings), Michael Z. Green (Texas A&M), and Laura Scherer (Missouri -- livestreamed) give lectures to our students and community members (click the links for more information on what they talked about).  We coordinated a symposium on implicit bias that brought together administrators and policymakers from across the state.  And we showcased the work of Erik Girvan, whose scholarship and external trainings have made him one of the nation's leading experts in implicit bias and law.