Restorative Justice for Bias Incidents and Historical Harm
In January, Student Affairs professionals engaged in Appalachian State’s first training in restorative justice for bias incidents and historical harm. This training was brought to campus to address the immediate needs of the Appalachian State University community, recognizing historical harm at Appalachian, current events such as the election, dual pandemics, increased bias reporting to the Office of the Dean of Students, #BlackAtAppState, and the desire to give professional staff immediate problem solving skills to address student and community needs.
You may be asking, “What is restorative justice, and why is it important to App State?” Thanks to modern technology, we worked with the Center for Restorative Justice, which is housed in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) at the University of San Diego to bring this training to Appalachian State. According to the SOLES website, “Restorative justice (RJ) is a philosophical approach that embraces the reparation of harm, healing of trauma, reconciliation of interpersonal conflict, reduction of social inequality, and reintegration of people who have been marginalized and outcast. RJ embraces community empowerment and participation, multipartial facilitation, active accountability, and social support. A central practice of restorative justice is a collaborative decision-making process that includes harmed parties, people who caused harm, and others to seek a resolution that includes: (a) accepting and acknowledging responsibility for harmful behavior, (b) repairing the harm caused to individuals and the community, and (c) working to rebuild trust by showing understanding of the harm, addressing personal issues, and building positive social connections.” Restorative justice incorporates elements of existing programs we have in Student Affairs, such as Koru Mindfulness, Sustained Dialogue, and the INTERSECT Social Justice Retreat.
Each time the training convened, facilitators Toni and Amisha encouraged participants to share a strength or value that would lead their intention for their work for the day, and the day began with a mindfulness moment, which was sometimes led by a participant of the group. The instruction, discussion and reflection intentionally addressed difficult topics such as online harms, what happens when there is not a specific target, facing trauma, and what individuals can do when institutions are not responsive. The intent of the training was to empower trainees to use their skills with student issues such as roommate conflicts, concerning language, classroom issues, student organization reports, and other incidents that do not rise to the level of a conduct violation but need to be addressed.
The Restorative Justice for Bias Incidents and Historical Harm Training included staff from the following departments:
• University Housing
• Electronic Student Services
• Intercultural Student Affairs
• Office of Student Affairs
• Office of the Dean of Students
• Office of Student Conduct
• Student Engagement and Leadership
• University Recreation
Participants attended 18 hours of training that was in two-three day sets and included asynchronous reading and reflection. This initiative was funded by a Student Affairs' Diversity & Inclusive Excellence grant and University Housing.
National Equity Project Resources for Dual Pandemic: https://www.nationalequityproject.org/resources/covid19