Aspen Restorative Consulting

 Restorative University

 

Universities inspire transformation. For many, the time spent pursuing higher education is a time of answering not simply "What do I want to be?" but also, "Who do I want to be?" University stretches students to push boundaries and expand horizons. We believe university should also be a safe, supportive community in which to grow. A Restorative University focuses on building this community so students, faculty, and staff can thrive.

 

We've created a program to build and support Restorative Universities through partnership with the Diana Unwin Chair in Restorative Justice at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

 

Read more in the article, "Living Restoratively," from Victoria University.

 
 

What does it look like?

A Restorative University is underpinned by the principles of inclusion, democratic participation, accountability, deep listening and respectful dialogue. Restorative processes can be employed at three levels:
 

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Who is creating Restorative Universities?

Residential Life

We teach and coach Residential Advisers (RAs) and Residential Life staff to create safe, healthy places for students to live, learn, and thrive.

 
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Faculty and Administration 

We support faculty and staff to nurture respectful working relationships and provide conflict management techniques to work with both students and staff.

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Student misconduct

We support the use of Restorative Justice for incidents of harm resulting from student misconduct. We'll help you work through policy and procedure to support Restorative Justice service provision at your university, and provide training in Restorative Justice facilitation. 

We work with you to create bespoke workshops based on your unique needs and vision.

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The following are sample descriptions of previous workshops we have developed with our partner universities.

 

Building Restorative Communities

Participants will learn the history, theory and benefits of restorative practices. They will explore the paradigm shift from retributive to restorative ideas of justice and will learn to think creatively about conflict through practical experience, role-plays and games.

Participants will come away from this training ready and able to lead Connection Circles, a restorative process for building and deepening relationships within residential halls. This is a practical tool that can be used in hall gatherings, floor meetings and among staff and provide building blocks for an inclusive, caring restorative community.

Connection Circles…

o   engage residents and empower them to communicate openly and honestly, contributing to a safe and healthy living and learning environment

o   support cultural awareness

o   foster inclusivity and develop interpersonal and social skills

o   bolster participants’ roles as leaders in their communities

o   provide a space for concerns to be raised in a safe, supportive environment

 


Restorative Conversations

Participants will learn how to hold difficult conversations, both one on one and in groups. Restorative conversations and peacemaking circles are ideal tools for addressing minor conflicts, behavioral issues and sources of disruption within the community. Through practice, games and role-plays, participants will learn how to ask good questions, move a conversation forward through conflict and arrive at agreements for repairing harm.

Participants will come away from this training ready and able to lead one-on-one restorative conversations and facilitate group conversations for establishing norms and responding to behavioral issues.

These tools can be used to respond to common student living conflicts, such as…

o   noise

o   messiness

o   vandalism

o   interpersonal misunderstanding

o   intolerant behavior

o   disruptive “partying”

o   rumors


Restorative Justice Facilitator Training

Participants will learn how to facilitate restorative justice conferences following a breach of the university’s code of conduct or following incidents where significant injury or wrongdoing has occurred. Restorative conferences are voluntary meetings where the person who has caused harm meets with all those affected by their actions to discuss what happened, who has been hurt and how things may be put right again.

Through teaching, practice, games and role-plays, participants learn how to create a safe space for the parties to express their needs, identify the harms done, take responsibility for their actions, and form and commit to a plan to repair the harm.

Benefits of restorative conferences include:

o   heightened victim sensitivity

o   reduction in repeat offending

o   better understanding of the why behind rules and standards

o   greater accountability for rule violations and increased investment in repairing the damage caused

o   enhanced community respect and strengthened relationships

o   improved communication between students, staff, faculty, and surrounding community

o   development of valuable life skills (such as perspective taking, empathetic communication, conflict resolution, decision making)

Note: This is a skill-based workshop. University authorities must determine whether and how restorative justice conferencing will play a role to play in its formal disciplinary procedures.