As the practice of restorative justice gains momentum within higher education, 35 representatives of colleges and universities from across the country gathered at Skidmore College to take a closer look at this growing movement.

The group attended a three-day training program, Nov. 11-13, designed to teach participants the basic principles and practices of restorative justice so that they can strengthen programs on their home campuses. The schools represented included Williams, Swarthmore, Dartmouth, Stanford, and three campuses of the University of California system. A common goal was to find more effective ways to address student misconduct and to improve relationships on campus....

“Student affairs administrators are responsible for keeping their campuses safe, but they are also educators who help students learn how to resolve conflict and take responsibility for misconduct. Restorative justice is a philosophy and a set of practices that help administrators achieve the dual goals of ensuring a safe learning environment and fostering student development,” said David Karp, Skidmore professor of sociology and director of the Skidmore College Project Restorative Justice, which organized the workshop....

Tony Tolbert, who came to the conference from UCLA Law School, has used restorative justice approaches to address conflicts among student organizations. “We need to clear a space for students to engage in respectful and civil dialogue,” said Tolbert. “The goal may not be to come to an agreement because it may be two groups that are diametrically opposed in terms of their perspectives and ideologies. But they need to understand how one group’s actions might be harmful to another group.”


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