A New Conversation On Commitment in Community

My conscience demands that I admit to not always abiding by the Community Lifestyle Commitment (CLC).  Further still, I must admit that I find conversation on the document disheartening when it is simply reduced to a list of rules.  The “thou shalt nots” of the document make up only a paragraph and the CLC is accurate when it states that “…it is impossible to create a community with expectations that are totally acceptable to every member.”

The purpose of this article is not to focus on the letter of the document, but rather the spirit.  The spirit of the CLC is simply that administration, faculty, and students commit ourselves to living in faithful community with one another.

The Student Handbook outlines the University’s policies in more detail.  This includes a section called “Discipline in a Christian Community” on how the University addresses members of the community who break the CLC.  It goes on to talk about the system of “restorative justice,” a process which takes place in the “context of community.”

All members of the University have committed to this system of restorative justice when signing the CLC.  Additionally, the University staunchly advocates for this process through our Peacebuilding and Development major and the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.

I am writing to say this: I do not think that we as a community are living up to the CLC.  I am not talking about the list of rules.  I do not think that we as a community are living up to the spirit of faithful community set out by the CLC.

I do not think that we as a campus are practicing restorative justice in matters of Student Life.  The University still awards hefty fines for alcohol infractions and charges a dollar a minute for breaking open hours.  These disciplinary practices are punitive and do very little to restore the offender to the campus community.

Additionally, the University only partially implements the restorative process in arriving at these outcomes.  True restorative practices would include all affected members of the community, as opposed to just the offender and Residence Life.  Many more conversations would have to happen to fully reintegrate the offender back into the community.  Hall members and Community Advisors would be invited to participate.

This process requires a lot of time and effort and may be uncomfortable in some situations, but it is very necessary if we are to claim that we are living by the CLC.  As a community, we should not underestimate the value of these conversations.  In this way, all members of our community, administration included, are failing to live up to the standards that we have all agreed to; not just those who drink alcohol or break open hours.

This is why I believe that our interaction with the CLC is flawed.  If our administration and Residence Life do not believe in the restorative process enough to fully implement it here on campus, as is the stated intent in the Student Handbook, then the trust that makes the CLC work is already broken.

As long as our administration does not fully implement restorative justice, they demonstrate that they do not wholeheartedly believe in the CLC and they are not upholding their half of the commitment.  Focusing on the single paragraph in the CLC that lays out rules misses this key point: for EMU to foster faithful community requires a commitment from both students and administration to the spirit of the document.

If the spirit of the law is not upheld by anyone, why would anyone follow the letter of the law?

Darian Harnish, Contributing Writer


Categories: Opinion

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