Mason Dean Is a Panelist at Justice Department Civil Rights Commemoration

Posted: July 11, 2014 at 5:02 am, Last Updated: July 10, 2014 at 9:48 pm

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By Buzz McClain

"Kevin Avruch, ICAR"

Kevin Avruch

The dean of George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution Kevin Avruch will join a panel of distinguished conflict practitioners from around the country Monday afternoon to discuss peaceful means of resolving cross-cultural disagreements within communities.

The panel will take place at the Department of Justice’s Great Hall in the Robert F. Kennedy Building in Washington, D.C., during a 50th anniversary commemoration of the department’s Community Relations Service (CRS). Attorney General Eric Holder and former American ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young are also taking part.

The Community Relations Service was established in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to help communities in the United States resolve disputes “relating to discriminatory practices based on race, color or national origin,” according to the agency. In the last five years its mandate has expanded to responding to hate crimes.

George Mason’s conflict school, known as S-CAR, and the Community Relations Service have a long and shared history, says Avruch. “One can say that some of the formative intellectual capital at Mason and S-CAR spent significant time helping to shape the CRS as part of its larger role in the history of the Civil Rights struggle in the United States,” he says. “As practitioners, they lived deep-rooted and intractable conflicts before coming to write and teach about them.”

Roger Wilkins, a Robinson Professor of History and American Culture at Mason until his retirement in 2007, was the first director of the CRS and held the rank of assistant attorney general. Wilkins was appointed by President Johnson in 1966. He was an early supporter of Mason’s early conflict institute and was one of its senior advisers. (Wilkins went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for his role in uncovering the Watergate scandal in the Washington Post.)

“Among early ‘conciliators,’ as CRS third-party neutrals are called,” says Avruch, “was the late James Laue. He helped develop the first PhD in the world, at Mason, in conflict analysis and resolution. Additionally, the late professor Wallace Warfield was a key figure at CRS, and retired from there as its acting director in 1984, before coming to Mason. He taught for us for 20 years, and is near-legendary, both in the CRS for his work on civil rights conflicts and at S-CAR, where he taught generations of master’s and doctoral students.”

Avruch’s panel will tackle the topic of “Exploring Peaceful Resolutions of Cross-Cultural Community Conflicts,” the core mission of the Community Relations Service and a field Mason’s conflict school has pioneered since its founding in 1981.

Write to Buzz McClain at bmcclai2@gmu.edu

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