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The Restorative Justice Coalition is dedicated to exploring restorative practices as a response to conflict and harm that occurs at MSU Denver. The Dean of Students Office is working alongside staff, students, faculty, and our MSU Denver community to share their knowledge and experiences to collectively envision restorative justice at MSU Denver.
The Coalition is working to build a restorative and community-centered culture on campus to prevent, address, and resolve harm. The Coalition started meeting in the Fall 2021 with about 18 members and 5 lead facilitators. The first year’s focus was on strengthening our community connectedness, learning about restorative justice, and moving toward action.
Meetings: What to expect
Meetings have included dialogue & brainstorming on:
Like many other colleges and universities, MSU Denver has a Student Code of Conduct and specific processes to address violations of community standards. Conduct processes have historically been centered in punitive notions of accountability, mirroring the criminal justice system in process and language. The MSU Denver Dean of Students Office recognizes that the current approach to student conduct can lead to inequity like that of the criminal justice system and can also be insufficient in addressing the needs and harms that have resulted from wrongdoing.
Restorative practices offer a different lens in addressing harm and accountability, informed heavily by indigenous peacemaking. Restorative principles of relationship and interconnectedness guide the Coalition will help address the systems that have contributed to what happened for all those involved. It is an opportunity to be more truly community-focused and conflict-positive, while meeting the needs of our students, particularly for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and others whose voices have been traditionally marginalized.
“I love being a member of the Restorative Justice Coalition because it allows me to be part of discussions that I otherwise wouldn’t be involved in. There is nowhere else on campus where a student, a dean, and the chair of a department can openly and comfortably discuss the changes we would all like to see. I leave each meeting having seen our campus from a new perspective and feeling more connected to our campus community. I love that the Coalition provides me with the opportunity to better understand our campus as a whole and values my voice as a student. I am proud to be a part of this group that is working to create a better campus for us.”
– Cae Draper, 4th-year student, Department of Criminal Justice/Criminology
“I love being part of the Restorative Justice (RJ) Coalition because it provides me opportunities to learn, grow, and connect. Every gathering expands my knowledge of RJ principles and practices. I often leave the meetings wanting to look deeper into my own relationships with others, which can be incredibly enlightening. I appreciate getting to know and learn about the campus experiences of a diverse group of students, faculty, and staff. I sincerely enjoy being part of this coalition and contributing to the goal of implementing RJ at MSU Denver to improve the educational experience on our campus.”
– Dr. Elizabeth Ribble, Professor of Statistics, Chair of Mathematics and Statistics
As a coalition, we have created these norms to uplift our members and set expectations for every meeting.
The Restorative Justice Coalition strives to create an equitable and brave space to ensure learning and growth for students, staff, faculty, and community members to reimagine how we address conflict at MSU Denver. As a Coalition, we make clear the connection between intersectionality, racial justice, restorative justice, and honor the restorative practices that originated in indigenous cultures worldwide. The Restorative Justice Coalition works to identify systems of accountability, integrate restorative practices, and increase dialogue to repair harm caused interpersonally and systemically.
The Coalition’s work is intentionally critical of how our social norms and systems are oppressive to people with marginalized identities often bare and share the brunt of these injustices. We center marginalized voices without the expectation of their labor. In doing so, we honor that lived experiences, wisdom and perspectives are part of our intersectional identities as Coalition members and in that of our wider community.
Community is often used in vague terms, but in restorative justice it is about the ways in which we are inherently connected to one another and are obligated to support one another through our individual and collective growth. Restorative communities aim to “have everybody covered” by recognizing that everyone is valued. We see our role as a Coalition to bridge gaps in our MSU Denver community to better realize our interconnectedness. No one is disposable.
Compassion, Empathy & Respect:
At a fundamental level, compassion, empathy, love, respect, and dignity are required in the restorative justice philosophy and in its practices. The Coalition centers the recognition of each other’s humanity amidst conflict and wrongdoing. This starts from a place of prevention and includes our collective obligation to support those impacted by systemic and interpersonal conflict as they reengage with the community.
The Restorative Justice Coalition’s vision is of a whole campus and community-centered restorative approach to addressing harm on campus, meaning we strive to embed restorative justice within the culture and policies of the University. We imagine a culture that empowers individuals and systems to take accountability. The Coalition guides and facilitates the campus community in resolving harm through dialogue and shared understanding, without implementing punitive measures. We aim to create a campus where we elevate and normalize difficult conversations when conflict or wrongdoing occur by centering our community in the dialogue, both as individuals and as a collective. In addition to creating a more equitable approach to responding to conflict, restorative justice can be used to cultivate community and belonging. Restorative work requires the Coalition and the MSU Denver community to critically assess our assumptions, policies, programs, classrooms, disciplinary practices, and much more to identify the ways in which we can better address the needs of our students, faculty, and staff.
This can look like:
The Coalition has made a commitment to enact change at MSU Denver on both a small and large scale. This work and community building takes not only time, but emotional labor. We recognize that there may be students, staff, and faculty who will not be here to see these changes implemented. We value the work from the Coalition members and ensure that their labor does not go unseen. As a Coalition, our commitment to our community is built off our individual commitments to reflection and growth. We also recognize the embedded power and implications of the partnership with the Dean of Students Office in doing restorative work.
Understanding & Openness:
In restorative justice, we give space to hearing multiple truths and experiences of individuals impacted by conflict. Having dialogue about conflict and wrongdoing is uncomfortable and we accept that discomfort as a part of the process. To reach our end goal of shared understanding and mutual respect, you must be open to other peoples’ truths, even if you disagree with them.
Responsibility & Accountability:
The responsibility to our community is to understand the (un)intended consequences of our own actions and the systems we participate in, and repairing harm that may come from them. In doing so, we strive to give space for failure and room for growth, while normalizing taking accountability in our everyday lives. We are all responsible for our individual growth and journey to unlearn and relearn what accountability means to us. This includes stepping up within our community when safe to address impacts from conflict, like microaggressions and bias. This is a shift in mainstream understandings from placing guilt on individuals to a collective accountability centered from a place of care. We all have a responsibility to cultivate belonging within our MSU Denver.