problem of defining Emory's most elusive year
conversation with John Banja, clinical ethicist at the Center
for Ethics in Public Policy and the Professions
Content on the Conference Table
Exchange How will the workshop following
the symposium session on restorative justice be relevant to Emory?
Professor Bob Agnew The workshop will focus on something closely
related to restorative justice--conflict resolution--here on
the Emory campus for faculty, graduate and undergraduate students,
and staff. Very often when there's a problem here--between students
in the dorms, among faculty within their departments, or between
faculty and the administration--people don't sit down and talk
with one another. Instead, the situation remains unresolved or
emotional energy is invested in formal complaints, even lawsuits.
In many cases, teaching people the skills to sit down and resolve
conflicts informally would be much better. Campus life is already
training some students in conflict resolution and placing them
in the dorm system. I understand the staff are moving in that
Considering last year's violence in schools, the recent murder
of an Arkansas professor by a graduate student, and generally
high levels of frustration among faculty and students, do you
think violence is graduating from high school and going to college?
BA Most of the problems here at Emory are not violent
conflicts. But even on a college campus, interpersonal problems,
if not dealt with quickly and adequately, can escalate into violence.
And campus life representatives tell me that it's their perception
that many students seem to have lost the desire or skills to
sit down and resolve problems, to talk it out, among themselves.
So campus life is receiving more formal complaints of conflicts
between students, and many complaints are escalating beyond the
point that they should.
Beyond the Reconciliation Symposium panel, do you see other ways
the daily work of violence studies offers a window onto reconciliation
in academic life?
BA Violence studies tries both to bring together
the differing academic approaches to violence and to reconcile
academic work with community efforts to reduce violence. We bring
together over seventy faculty from across the university. Some
are from places you'd expect like law, sociology, and public
health. But there are also people from literature, history, and
pediatrics, researching topics like child abuse, for instance.
We bring these people together to share their scholarship as
a sort of first step in promoting interdisciplinary research
We really have not experienced any problems in this process.
Faculty have been eager to learn about the research of their
colleagues. I think they've taken the view that theirs is just
one piece in the larger puzzle and that they can benefit from
broadening their perspective. And we're starting to see some
pay-off in terms of courses and research projects that are taking
Violence studies also stresses community work, with the idea
that we have much to offer organizations in the larger community
and much to learn from them, as well. Every violence study minor
does an internship with an organization designed to prevent violence.
Our hope is that they'll not only apply what they learned but
critically evaluate it. Relating class materials to practice
is not always easy, but it's an essential part of the violence
studies minor. And, in fact, we've generally found our students
eager to serve the larger community.
Many of the faculty are also very committed to community work
through research projects aimed at reducing violence. Others
do volunteer work but, again, this is not an easy process. We're
struggling to publish, teach, and meet academic and professional
service requirements. So the idea that we should serve the larger
community can present a challenge. Where do I find the time?
How relevant is my work? How do I go about doing this? To what
extent will the university support and recognize it? These are
just some of the conflicts in academic work begging for reconciliation.