Joseph C. Alfe

First Page


Last Page


Document Type



Higher education is fraught with disputes on both a macro and micro level. In a broad sense, institutions of higher education serve as a focal point for many disparate cultures, economic strata, ages, genders, races, ideologies, and other societal influences, and concentrates them within an insular community. Such an amalgamation of humanity is bound to produce conflicts of all kinds. These disputes can range from the elementary to the criminal. Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 governs disputes rising to the level of sexual harassment or discrimination and are updated by periodic agency updates disseminated through “dear colleague” letters. Most organizations and institutions have an authority in place to handle these disputes, the most common being a Dean, Ombudsperson and/or a Title IX office. However, the picture gets murkier when faced with ordinary disputes, or those which may be “riding the line” of Title IX discrimination. These lower-level disputes often involve “micro aggressions” or other conduct that individually may not rise to the level requiring Title IX attention, but in the aggregate—may do so in time. Universities and other educational institutions may not have clear plans to handle these disputes. This may lead to them becoming underserved, or worse, ignored, often leading to larger and more costly disputes. In short, there is a missing link in the chain. In response, I propose a new species of dispute resolution and framework for intervention—micro-mediation. In this paper, I first define micro-mediation, its scope of application, and who should administer the intervention. Next, I explore the pros and cons of micro-mediation as a response to disputes in higher education, taking particular care to address concerns of fairness and access to justice within an intersectional framework. Next, micro-mediation and other ad hoc dispute resolution options are compared with and placed within a mixed-mode dispute resolution structure. Campus risk mitigation and legal liability is then discussed. Lastly, I propose a micro-mediation construct in the context of a mixed-mode alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) model applicable to institutions of higher education.