The initiative to bring Restorative Justice practice to the UMass Amherst campus is a multi-year, campus wide campaign lead by a task force of students, some of whom hold positions within the Student Government Association, the Center for Education Policy & Advocacy, and other RSOs. The goal of the campaign is to establish a sustainable restorative justice program that is funded by the University and that has ties to the local courts. If you would like to get involved with this campaign click HERE. Everyone is welcome including undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, staff, and community members!
Restorative Justice is a framework for an alternative way to deal with wrongdoing within a community. It focuses on the needs of the harmed party(ies) and the responsibility of the responding party(ies) to repair harm done. Instead of looking at wrongdoing as an infraction against the institution, restorative justice looks at wrongdoing as a violation between people and relationships; where those who have committed said violations are now obligated to take accountability to whom they harmed by their actions.
You can explore our 2021 Restorative Justice Initiative Proposal here
We have established the task force, and made relationships with key administrators to garner support for the campaign. We are piloting Restorative Justice in Residential Life and Student Engagement: we provided revisions to the CORE class syllabus (mandatory for all Residential Assistants and Peer Mentors) to include Restorative Justice practices and created a rubric for a Restorative Justice bulletin board as part of the RA curriculum. We hosted an educational event called Meditating on Restorative Justice on November 14th 2018, where we gave the (approximately thirty) attendees a fictional scenario and demonstrated how Restorative Justice is often carried out. Additionally, the event provided space for people to question, challenge, discuss, and think about Restorative Justice and what our program could mean for the UMass community. We created a billboard about RJ for the residence halls and have put Restorative Justice language in the Code of Conduct. Additionally we hosted an educational event titled "Restorative Justice 101" in Spring 2019 where we educated an audience of students, faculty, and administrators about Restorative Justice. In Spring 2019 we also brought Restorative Justice trainer Dr. Derrick Dixon to give a training to administrators, staff in Residential Life and Student Conduct staff as well as the Task Force.
Our goal for the upcoming years is for all levels of individuals in Residential Life and Student Engagement to be well-versed in Restorative Justice and for student groups and organizations to use Restorative Justice practices to address conflict. We will pilot Restorative Justice practices and processes first within CEPA and the SGA, and use what we learn as a template for other groups. We will also continue to do education around Restorative Justice, so that the larger campus community is thinking about this as an alternative to punitive justice systems.