I agree with Darian Harnish, author of the article “A New Conversation on Commitment in Community” which appeared in last weeks issue of the Weather Vane. It is important to focus on the “spirit of the document” and not just the “letter of the document” in regards to the Community Lifestyle Commitment (page 9 in the planners/handbook that all freshman got). However, I want to point out a few things that were not correct in last week’s article.
First of all, I was disappointed with the way he [Darian] talked about restorative justice (RJ) in ResLife. He talked about it as if it doesn’t exist. In this letter, I want to educate people on ResLife’s restorative justice focus and give people hope that there is a way that is offered to help those who commit an offense to the EMU community.
I want to point out that ResLife practices RJ in nearly everything it does. Eric Codding, Gloria Mast, the RD’s, the CA’s, and others in the community will never get someone in big trouble or expel them from EMU for a bad decision they made without working with the person extensively through their issues and grappling with how a decision may be impacting themselves and others in a way that they may not even realize. Hopefully no one on this campus will hold someone’s offense against them forever without trying hard with the love of God to forgive them and help them move on.
I know of several halls which had issues, and they responded with what you might call restorative justice and a circle process. In these situations, the offender, the whole hall and the CA all sat down together to discuss how each person had been impacted and how/if they wanted to forgive, grow, and move on.
As a second year CA, I’ve been through the long week of training before the school year starts. We talk about restorative justice. We talk about different ways to handle conflicts. We talk about how to help residents who are struggling with fitting in or struggling with certain issues. No, we are not perfect, and have definitely not lived up to CLC all the time or handled conflicts the right way all the time. But we have goals of community to strive for.
Another example of how ResLife is responding with restorative justice is by hiring Jenn Bricker, a CJP student and Assistant RD in Hillside who was specifically brought onto the team to pay more extra attention to RJ in residence life. I agree that if we fully believe in living in community as the CLC states, we need to practice restoring offenders, victims, and everyone in the community. And I would say that this is what ResLife believes as well.
Yes Darian, you have good ideas on what EMU’s CLC should look like, but ResLife and many other parts of Student Life are already trying hard to do this. I apologize for the times that we are not perfect and people have felt ostracized, but people in ResLife and Student Life are striving for faithful community.
Unlike what Darian stated about “hefty fines for alcohol infractions” and charges for “a dollar a minute for breaking open hours”, ResLife would much rather help you than fine you. Furthermore, when there is a fine, the intention is for the money to go toward resources that address the issue that was violated to further educate the campus.
Like it states in the Student Handbook on page 59, “the student disciplinary process is intended to create an opportunity for students to accept responsibility for their behavior and create an opportunity for growth and change”.
For example, if you have been drinking alcohol and want to change your lifestyle, you should feel free to tell your CA, or walk into Eric Codding’s office and tell him.
I know it sounds crazy to turn yourself in, but if you are honest about wanting to change and grow, they will listen to you and help you. They will work with you, guide you, set you up with a mentor that you trust to help you, etc.
If you absolutely do not want to change and/or deny what you have done, then more specific consequences such as fines may occur, but only after you have had the opportunity to get help and change if you want it. I want this to be clear. ResLife is not here to punish those who fail in holding the high standards that we set in the CLC, but to help us all grow in who we are in Christ and in community.