Time to Practice Our Restorative Justice

web_mariah_elliotBeing a Social Work and Peacebuilding and Development double major, I have heard restorative justice mentioned in my classes at least a dozen times over the past four years. I have read on it, done my research, and I am currently taking a class on it. It is one of my core values, and I think it is an incredible concept. I am doing my senior practicum at the Fairfield Mediation Center next semester with hopes that I can get myself involved in their restorative justice program.

At EMU, I do not think you have to be in the social sciences department to hear about restorative justice. It is preached almost everywhere on campus. It may have been mentioned in your required Bible and religion class, discussions in Common Grounds, and through student/professor lunch time conversations.

So my question is this: if it is discussed so much, and the school backs this concept, then why it is not always put into action?

Recently EMU implemented a new policy about alcohol use. The new policy includes a week of suspension as well as fines.

In a way this new policy only encourages students to go off campus and do their drinking, and many saying there should be no punishment, but there should at least be an opportunity to restore what was broken.

Even alternatives such as community service, classes, etc. could be offered instead of automatic suspension.

I have heard stories of students being assaulted on campus by other students, verbal abuse, and other things much worse than being caught with alcohol. What happened to those cases?

Were they just dropped? It seems we have turned into a school where we pick and choose what matters.

I have learned that if you request, you may ask to see records of events on campus such as the number of sexual assaults, violent acts, drinking, and other recorded events. I have yet to do so because frankly, I am worried about seeing those numbers. They could either scare me, and tell me things I was not aware of that I should have known. Or they could show me that there are things that are not being recorded, and that being caught with alcohol is the least of our worries.

I do honestly believe that we should be thankful to be on a close-knit campus where we feel safe most of the time. I also believe administration is doing their best to protect us and are doing what is in our best interest.

I do not want to come across as criticizing those who are in a position of power. I want students to know they have power as well. They have power to propose alternative punishments when they are caught in the wrong. This is a way to get the ball rolling on restorative justice. JMU is making their restorative justice practice work, and we certainly can too.

-Mariah Elliot, Staff Writer

Categories: Opinion


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