"Restorative justice is a lot of work, so there's a lot of learning being done," Darling said. "Research shows being punished does not stop people from doing things again, especially if the reason for their actions is still present in their lives. Restorative justice brings in the offender, impacted parties and the community, and asks, ‘What are our responsibilities to each other?' It brings everyone into the solution."
According to Darling, restorative justice conferencing is unique in its focus on communication between the offending party and the impacted party, particularly in cases when the two parties would not otherwise interact.
"Conferencing is an opportunity for students who are referred to the conduct office to have a chance to meet face to face with the individuals they have impacted, take responsibility, make amends, build relationships and move forward in a positive way through support from the campus community," Darling said.
As part of the conferencing process, Student Affairs may refer a student to the restorative justice program during a student conduct hearing. Two criteria determine a student's eligibility to participate: the offending party must take responsibility for the wrongdoing, and there must be potential for the impacted party to benefit from the process. When both conditions are met, the offender and the impacted party go through conferencing to develop an agreement which is then sent to the Director of Student Conduct to be reviewed.