Hearing and Healing Survivors of Harm : Restorative Justice on the College Campus Webb, Claire
What does a community need after a crisis? How can students, faculty, staff, and administrators in higher education affect a cultural shift in the way a campus communicates? When, in the course of a Title IX case, can the interests, needs, and wants of survivors be taken into consideration? Serving as the culmination of several years of work in psychology, political studies, and public action, this paper considers the history of restorative justice, rooted both in spirituality and indigenous practice, the psychological underpinnings of taking responsibility — or not — during the restorative justice process, and how this theory and practice can and has been applied on the college campus. Through circle processes, participatory action research, interviews, theory, surveys, and meetings with members of the student body, faculty, staff, and administration of Bennington College, I explore ways that restorative practice can be embedded in every aspect of higher education. My findings support the idea that guilt is a more “restorative” emotion than shame — that it is more likely to support reparation rather than revenge. I also found, through observing the restorative programs of other colleges and the literature on the topic, that with certain safeguards in place restorative responses to Title IX violations and other forms of harm are both sustainable and avoid many of the potential pitfalls pointed out in critiques of restorative justice. I provide, with sources, differentiations between restorative justice and diversion, mediation, and the state. On the Bennington campus, I found that restorative practice made students feel as though they had been given permission to pursue what they wanted, as well as the equipment to do so. Ultimately, I aim in this paper to propose a system for creating a “restorative campus,” and my findings support the need for one.