Justice in the Campus Setting (page 3 of 4)
Rethinking Sanction and Embracing Restorative Justice
a review of college judicial affairs practices, Dannells
(1996) argues that the historical development of the field
has moved away from retributive punishment and toward rehabilitation
and the development of student self-discipline. Nevertheless,
the continuum of sanctions is still defined by punishment
and outcasting, rather than restoration and reintegration.
Students are given warnings, their privileges are restricted
(such as being preventing from participating intercollegiate
sports or in other co-curricular clubs), they are removed
from campus housing, suspended, or ultimately expelled.
Thus, a student already operating at the margins of social
acceptability is progressively outcast from membership in
the conventional college community. The community justice
approach promotes inclusion over social distancing, emphasizing
instead sanctioning strategies that rebuild conventional
social ties to the college community.
Central to replacing outcasting with reintegration is to
shift the burden of sanctioning responsibility from the
college to the student. While suspension and expulsion must
be retained, they are anti-communitarian devices that should
be minimized wherever possible. The removal of a student
from the community is likely to displace the problem to
another, less-fortified community without resolving it.
We believe that suspension should be limited to two situations.
First, colleges are not correctional facilities and when
a student poses a threat to campus safety, removal may be
necessary. Second, when a student refuses to participate
in or learn from prior judicial proceedings, or a student
fails to complete sanctioning tasks, then the student should
be removed. Otherwise, the goal should be reintegration
through the development of personal responsibility.
We advocate a new conceptualization of suspension called
"self-suspension." Each student is obligated to
repair harm and demonstrate his or her ability to be a member
in good standing. A contract with the student should be
negotiated and it should clearly detail what steps the student
must take to regain social standing. While a student may
apply to the board for an extension if necessary, in general,
a student is not allowed to register for the following semester's
classes until the contract is complete. Thus, a student
who fails to comply with the college's expectations for
responsible membership loses his or her right to participate
in community life. The burden of responsibility is shifted
from the college to the student.
Apology. In restorative justice, apology occupies
a central place. Retzinger and Scheff (1996) argue that
reconciliation is predicated on a core sequence: "This
process involves the social rituals of respect, courtesy,
apology, and forgiveness
The ideal outcome, from the
point of view of symbolic reparation, is constituted by
two steps: the offender first clearly expresses genuine
shame and remorse over his or her actions. In response,
the victim takes at least a first step towards forgiving
the offender for the trespass. The core sequence generates
repair and restoration of the bond between victim and offender,
after this bond had been severed by the offender's crime"
(p. 316). The sanctioning process, therefore, must begin
with an acknowledgement of responsibility for the offense,
articulated through an apology. Our apology guidelines require
that letters contain (a) an acknowledgement of responsibility,
(b) a delineation of how the behavior was harmful, (c) an
expression of remorse, and (d) a commitment to making amends
and socially responsible behavior in the future.
From Fines to Restitution. Restitution should be
distinguished from fines. Fines are imposed as a punishment
in order to deter the misbehavior and, presumably, to generate
revenue. Restitution is collected in order to pay for lost
or damaged property as a result of the offense. The amount
of a fine is determined by the deterrent need, and is independent
of the particular offense. Restitution is determined by
the extent of harm. From the perspective of the offender,
fines are likely to be perceived as arbitrary since the
rationale for the amount is not transparent. More problematic,
fines create moral ambiguity (Kahan, 1999). In a market
society, goods and services have prices, but are morally
neutral. If misbehavior is fined, the message of moral disapproval
is easily obscured. Instead, we communicate that the behavior
is acceptable, "if you can afford it." Restitution
is paid in order to make amends. By clearly identifying
harm, the offender learns why the behavior is morally unacceptable.
Enlightened Community Service. Community service
is widely used in college judicial sanctioning, yet it is
not often restorative. Community service can be misused
as a retributive device. This is the case when it is merely
a substitution for another punishment, scored on a rubric
of punitive commensurability (Kahan, 1999)-40 hours of community
service = $400 fine = 4 days in jail = 40 lashes of the
whip. The symbolism suggests it is just one more type of
pain that can be imposed on the offender. This is just the
wrong message to send to someone in need of community reintegration.
If service is used as a punitive deterrent, why would the
offender embrace it as a positive expression of community
Community service is central to a restorative approach when
used correctly. As restitution should be distinguished from
fines, so should restorative community service be distinguished
from punitive service (Bazemore & Maloney, 1994). If
a student vandalizes a campus building, community service
would be necessary-the student should fix the damage, perhaps
working alongside maintenance staff. In a recent case at
Skidmore College, two dormitory roommates had removed lounge
furniture to their room. As part of our judicial process,
the students learned that the violation was not only harmful
to the other residents by denying them a comfortable common
space, but had broader effects on the college because visiting
prospective students would only see unpleasant residential
spaces. A contract was negotiated in which the two students
would return the furniture, and clean the lounge (renting
an upholstery cleaner) in time for an upcoming event in
which large numbers of prospective students would be visiting
the campus. The students were encouraged not to do this
alone, but to organize a dorm-wide "spring cleaning."
Their leadership would serve as a demonstration of their
commitment to making amends and promoting school spirit.
Community service, properly understood, is a mechanism of
reintegration for student offenders because it provides
a venue for making their prosocial efforts visible to others,
and fostering positive social ties with the campus community.
It is also a means of reframing individual student misconduct
as a community issue. Since the problems that appear before
judicial boards generally speak to the broader issues of
student culture (e.g., underage drinking and drug use),
service projects linked to the offense become vehicles of
community education. The student who uses hate speech might
work with a diversity specialist to organize a campus event
on multi-cultural issues; the drunk driver might work with
MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) to bring a relevant
speaker to campus; the student who downloaded a term paper
from the internet might organize a session during freshman
orientation regarding the standards of academic integrity.
Community service sanctions may be endlessly creative as
they seek to change the underlying social norms that reinforce
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