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Twilight for campus legal codes? Talking circles aid the aftermath of destructively drunk students and more.

May 3, 2010

Even before the semester-long course was over, Bacon was applying restorative justice principles and techniques to cases referred to JMU’s Office of Judicial Affairs, which he directs. In the last 18 months, Bacon has offered students the option of participating voluntarily in “restorative justice circles” about 20 times. All concerned—the errant student, the people harmed by the student’s actions, community members affected by the incident, such as campus police or residence hall members—have found it to be an overwhelmingly positive experience, says Bacon.

Bacon’s fresh but effective approach to discipline caught the attention of colleagues at JMU. As a result, 20 JMU officials joined 50 administrators from 11 other universities at a March 15 symposium offered by the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at EMU. About half this group returned to EMU for the next three full days to undergo intensive training. The leaders of these trainings offered multiple examples from their universities of handling destructively drunken students, vandalism, plagiarism, theft, assault, interpersonal conflict and noise issues through circles and other restorative justice processes. Bacon’s preferred process—a restorative justice circle—is not complicated, though it does require a trained facilitator, preferably with a gift for handling sensitive interactions.

Read the whole article.


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