Campus Restorative Justice
Restorative Justice is gaining popularity on college campuses as a philosophical and practical response to student misconduct. This website offers resources for learning about campus restorative justice. I share these as a researcher, practitioner, and trainer of restorative practices (and not as a representative of Skidmore College where I work).
Restorative justice is a collaborative decision-making process that includes victims, offenders, and others seeking to hold offenders accountable by having them (a) accept and acknowledge responsibility for their offenses, (b) to the best of their ability repair the harm they caused to victims and communities, and (c) work to reduce the risk of reoffense by building positive social ties to the community.
Restorative justice has become a popular practice worldwide. Its practices range from Neighborhood Accountability Boards in Denver, Colorado, to Victim-Offender Dialogues in Pennsylvania prisons to peacemaking circles in aboriginal communities in Canada to Family Group Conferences in New Zealand to Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa and Rwanda. Models and practices vary significantly under the RJ umbrella. However, most would agree that the core elements of restorative practice include a facilitated dialogue between an offender and a harmed party to identify and acknowledge the harm and find ways to repair it.
David Karp, of Skidmore College and Josh Bacon of James Madison
seek insight from the "grandfather" of Restorative Justice, Howard Zehr.
What are Campus RJ Practices?
Four practices best represent how RJ has been implemented on the college campus.
- Restorative Justice Conferences. This model focuses on the facilitated dialogue between offender and harmed parties. After a discussion of the harm, the parties (rather than the hearing officer or board) decide what steps the offender can take to repair the harm. Trained facilitators guide the dialogue.
- Restorative Justice Circles. These are similar to RJ conferences, but borrow practices from indigenous traditions, especially the Native American practice of using a "talking piece." This is a symbolic or sacred object that is held by the speaker, indicating that no one else should speak. The talking piece is passed clockwise around the circle, creating a different rhythm of the dialogue. A traditional talking piece is a feather, but at Skidmore College our Hockey coach uses a puck when he hosts a circle with his team.
- Restorative Justice Boards. These have a structure of a "model code" conduct board with standing board members that may be drawn from faculty, staff, and students. But they are run like a RJ conference or circle. Harmed parties are invited, but are not needed for the board to proceed. While RJ boards retain the ability to have private deliberations and make their own determinations about sanctions, these practices are avoided to increase the active participation of offenders and harmed parties.
- Restorative Justice Administrative Hearings. Because most campuses rely on one-on-one administrative hearings to manage their caseloads, many have incorporated restorative practices into their hearings. Typically, this would include an emphasis on identifying what harm was caused by the offense and how the student can repair it. But it can also include inviting harmed parties to participate in the hearing, essentially transforming the hearing into a RJ conference.
Campus RJ in the news
Skidmore College announces Campus Restorative Justice Facilitator Training September 20-22, 2013.
"ASCA Webinar: Campus Conduct and Conflict Management through a Social and Restorative Justice Lens: The Spectrum Model's Revolution and Evolution." Association for Student Conduct Administration. March 12, 2013.
“Using Circles in College Dorms: An interview with Tamara Kenney, Assistant Dean of Students SUNY Geneseo.” Talking Piece Partners in Restorative Initiatives. December 2012.
"Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia Offers Restorative Option for Students." Restorative Practices E-Forum September 21, 2012.
"The Offspring of Restorative Justice: Understanding the Power of Restorative Practices in Residential Communities." International Institute for Restorative Practices August 1, 2012.
"NCHERM-CR announces summit on the application of restorative justice practices to cases of campus sexual misconduct."Restorative Justice Online June 22, 2012.
"Report: Restorative Practices in Higher Education." Restorative Practices Blog May 24, 2012.
"How a Campus Might Have Dealt With a Bully." The Chronicle of Higher Education May 21, 2012.
"Protecting RA's from Burnout." SA Matters National Center for Student Leadership May 16, 2012.
"UC Explores Restorative Justice in Improving Campus Climate." UC Newsroom January 27, 2012.
"The Restoration of James Madison University." Peacebuilder August 4, 2011.
"Healing After a Student Suicide: Restorative Circles at the University of Vermont." Restorative Practices E-Forum February 12, 2011.
"Use of Restorative Justice Improves Campus Behavior." Eastern Mennonite University News April 8, 2010.
"With 'Restorative Justice,' Colleges Strive to Educate Student Offenders." The Chronicle of Higher Education April 14, 2009, A1.
"Restorative Justice: Part 1 of 2—Choice of Healing or Punishment." The Badger Herald (University of Wisconsin-Madison Student Newspaper) April 23, 2009.
"Restorative Justice: Part 2 of 2—Working with Students." The Badger Herald (University of Wisconsin-Madison Student Newspaper) April 24, 2009.