On 22 April 2021, Warwick International Higher Education Academy (WIHEA) ran a Restorative Justice in Higher Education Symposium.
The event looked at understanding the challenge of how universities react when students have harmed others. Traditional disciplinary measures can often feel inappropriate, but alternatives can be difficult to imagine. This symposium brought together experts with experience of RJ in a range of contexts, who examined the rationale, extent and effectiveness of restorative justice and its place in a higher education setting as a possible way to repair harm and re-educate the harmer about the needs and values of the university community.
This event proved to be of particular appeal to those in the university community with an interest in conflict management, such as Heads of Departments, Discipline teams, Academic Integrity leads, residential life teams and many others.
The speakers were:
Dr David Karp, professor of leadership and director of the Center for Restorative Justice in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences at the University of San Diego. His current scholarship focuses on restorative justice in community and educational settings. See a video of his presentation here.
Clifford Grimason. who has recently been appointed as the national restorative practice lead for HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) in England & Wales, tasked with establishing and managing Re:Hub – the restorative practice hub. Clifford has previously worked as a national coordinator during the development of the SORI RJ Programme for HMPS.
Dr Amanda Wilson, a Leverhulme Trust Fellow at the University of Warwick’s Law School. Amanda has been researching and writing about alternative justice mechanisms for over a decade and has collaborated with a number of leading experts from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
All of the speakers seemed to support the idea of RJ and demonstrated how effective and useful it could be at healing the harm caused by wrong-doing, but all of them provided narratives and academic argument about how difficult this could be. Clifford’s picture of the compass seemed to sum up the whole situation – there needs to be a cultural shift that enables a community to take a different direction through a situation.
RJ can be critical of institutions, so this isn’t for the faint-hearted – Amanda’s three key points of commitment, risk and co-option/trust are important to consider.
It helps if the whole community has some experience of RJ in order to believe that it can work – so this supports the small steps from the ground up approach, to embed it into the community, although it’s also possible to invite in RJ experts to help work through a specific situation. It is also possible for the processes of RJ to flex around situations that require flexibility which is how David explained they use RJ in sexual misconduct/assault cases.
The event organisers were Jane Bryan and Imogen Davies.
There is a listserv address for anyone who is interested in exploring restorative practices in higher education : email@example.com.
Warwick International Higher Education Academy Restorative Justice Events and Resources can be found here.
Dr Jane Bryan’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.