All students in SOC 345 are required to maintain a journal of items related to conflict and dispute resolution.

Requirements: Students must purchase a folder with two pockets in which they can insert typed journal entries. The folder should have a white label on the front with the studen't name. Each time journals are submitted there must be one new separate entry. Each entry must be a half page to a page long (double spaced with a 1.5 inch margin on the left side and typed in arial font, 12 points in size). This amounts to approximately one entry every three weeks (a bit less than that over the entire semester). That is, each student's journal will be submitted 4 times over the course of the semester. If your journal entry is based on a written article or on the internet, i.e. if it is based on anything other than a television show or a personal experience, you must make a copy of the article and include it in your journal. Each time you submit your journal entries, please include all of your previous journal entries.

Topics: Each journal entry must report on some case of conflict and/or conflict resolution. Reports related to innovative means of conflict resolution are especially encouraged. Topics related to labor and employment issues are permitted but other types of interpersonal conflict are encouraged as topics.

Sources: Sources include newspapers, magazines, the internet (although weblogs are not acceptable), television news reports, etc. and these should be from within the past month. Students may also use personal or family experiences as journal entries (they need not be recent) but no more than one such entry can be used over the course of the semester. Each entry must clearly identify its source. For newspapers, magazines, internet sites, etc., you must print out or cut out a copy of the article you are using and include it in your folder along with your journal. The journal should analyze the sources of conflict and the analysis should lead to a suggestion for a process of possible resolution (not the substance of what that resolution should be).

Evaluation: At regular intervals indicated on the course syllabus students will be required to present in class their journal entry for the most recent period. There will be class discussion of the nature of these conflicts, the techniques being used to resolve them and whether there are other techniques that might be more successful. Journals will be submitted to the instructor at the end of each such class for evaluation. All entries must be maintained in the journal for the entire semester. Journals will be collected by the instructor at the end of the semester.

Feedback: Each time your journal is submitted, the first new page must be a response to all questions and/or observations the instructor wrote in the journal when it was last submitted. "Okay" is not an acceptable response. You must answer any question asked and you must respond to any comment by indicating how you could have done better.  If the comment is that a sentence is poorly written or difficult to understand, you must rewrite that sentence.  However, do not rewrite and resubmit the entire journal entry!  Just answer the questions and respond to the comments.

Schedule: Students will discuss and submit their journal entries during class on February 15, March 1, 22 and April 17.

Samples: Below are three samples of journal entries from an earlier class. The first received a "C" grade because it did not analyze the issue in terms of class concepts and it did not use that analysis to suggest possible solutions to the conflict. The second received a "B" grade because it did some analysis of the causes of the conflict and possible modes of resolution. The third received a high "A" grade because it made excellent use of class concepts and used those to suggest modes of resolution.

Sample 1:

Source:  Syracuse Post Standard – Thursday, February 24, 2005

 Court Says No to Gay Marriages, by Rebecca James

            Ithaca, State Supreme Court Judge Robert Mulvey, joined three other lower court judges on Wednesday in declining the idea that same-sex couples have the right to marry.  The ruling was brought upon the courts because of 25 same-sex couples who filed lawsuits against the state saying that the state should allow same sex marriages, and not just heterosexual marriages.

            Currently same sex marriages are not banned by law in New York, but the state’s purpose is more to support heterosexual couples.  There are obviously religious factors at hand which are the primary stokeholds by the courts in New York.  The longstanding tradition of heterosexual marriages is also a big driving factor in the continual court decisions made throughout the country putting a stop to same sex marriages.

            This situation is similar to other cases across the country that have been talked about in the past year or so.  The debate of same sex marriages comes down to religious beliefs that homosexual couples feel are unfair because society has changed since the original concept of marriage.  The attorneys representing the gay couples were being discriminated against and denied fundamental rights in the same manner that some state laws used to ban interracial marriage.

            The situation between state courts and same sex marriage has been a problem for many years.  Only until recent years has this situation become so important and controversial because homosexual relations are becoming more apparent in the world today.  There doesn’t seem to be any way to get both sides to fully agree on the situation.  The decision on the lawsuits from Ithaca is a step back for the gay community, but there have been some advances in the recent year to give hope to the advancement of gay rights.

Sample 2:

In a new episode of a children’s PBS show, “Postcards from Buster,” the main character visits a Vermont farm to teach viewers about the maple sugar process and Vermont farm life.  Controversy has arisen, however due to the fact that the farm, located in a state that recognizes homosexual civil unions, features two lesbian couples.  On one side of the controversy, Margaret Spellings, the new United States Education Security, has criticized PBS and the producers of “Postcards from Buster” for exposing children to an alternative lifestyle with federal funds.  PBS conceded and agreed not to distribute the episode in question.  On the other hand, while the show’s producers intended to educate about farm-life and maple sugaring, the desired to do so on the background of diversity.[1][2]

In this issue, conflict has arisen over two points.  First, Spellings and the producers appear, at least subconsciously, to have a conflict of values.  The show in question was produced by a Boston-based TV station while Spellings was appointed to her position by President Bush.  While these two facts may not on the surface appear to generate conflict, the fact that the show was produced in a state, like Vermont, that recognizes same-sex marriages, and that Spelling was appointed by President Bush, someone who is vehemently against such recognition, does generate conflict.  It is never explicit, but underlying the whole conflict lays the controversy over the morality of homosexuality.  Second and stemming from the conflict of values, Spellings and the producers have a conflict of interests.  As Education Secretary, Spellings has a duty to ensure that programming funds are used appropriately for education-based initiatives.  Since she recognizes the controversy that could result when airing a tax-payer funded episode featuring homosexual lifestyles, Spellings feels that the episode is not appropriate for PBS.  On the other hand, producers of “Postcards from Buster” wishing to promote diversity and understanding, featured lesbian couples to educate and open dialogue between parents and children.

            The solution that Spellings and PBS eventually decided on was to refund the production funds received to make that episode back to the Education Department and PBS would not distribute the episode.  The Boston-based television station will instead fund the episode, with no government or PBS assistance and make it available to any stations that wish to air it.  Refunding the money was probably ideal for curbing any controversy surrounding the episode.  However, completely refusing to distribute the episode is likely to alienate viewers who see no controversy with homosexuality, especially when parents, not PBS should decide whether the episode should be viewed by children.

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Sample 3:

On there was an article about the drivers for the train company One in England and how they are refusing to work overtime because of a policy instated banning the drivers from wearing shorts. They are now being required to wear a shirt and tie; something they feel will make them look like “little tin soldiers”. They also say that the old cars are very hot. The union ASLEF says that the dispute is not official and that the drivers are not working on their days off as is their right. There have been other disputes regarding dress codes, one of them resulting in the employer removing disciplinary action against those with “bulging pockets”.


I think that here there is a conflict of interest. The employer wants the drivers to look more professional with a shirt and tie. The drivers feel that this uniform would be uncomfortable and they place more value on comfort. This is an issue of focusing on the issue, not the positions. Part of the issue is the ventilation of the old cars and the resulting heat for the drivers. If both the employer and union sat down and discussed the issue, not the positions, they could probably come up with a uniform that is both professional and cool. They also may decide that something needs to be done about the ventilation in the old cars. They could compromise to either leave the shorts as part of the uniform or fix the cars that probably need to be fixed anyway and instate a new, more professional dress code. Either way, I think that this is a problem that probably could be fixed if both sides looked at the issue at the heart of this matter, not just that the drivers want to wear shorts.


[1][2] Education Secretary condemns Public Show With Gay Characters.” 26 January 2005.