policies explicitly refer to these options as a
“restorative justice” process.
Dr. Jacobson takes issue with the informal
use of the practice. She maintains that the only
way to effectively integrate restorative justice
into an institution’s approach to student discipline is to name it properly and spell it out in
policy. As an informal practice, it’s up to individual administrators or staffers to decide on
how the process should be carried out, and when
those people move on, “that restorative process
can be lost,” Dr. Jacobson said.
The University of Victoria has used restorative
justice since 2011, when it introduced a revised
policy for resolving non-academic misconduct
that allows for this kind of informal dispute-resolution process and educational sanctions.
However, it also formalized a relationship with
Restorative Justice Victoria, a non-profit organization that facilitates restorative justice circles.
The process has been used to deal with offences
such as threats of violence, vandalism, and even
a criminal charge of sexual assault, said Jonathan
Derry, UVic’s associate director of judicial affairs.
The latter case involved two male students
“pranking” female students in the library by
placing filled condoms on their legs. A witness
filed a complaint with campus security and eventually police charged the men with sexual assault.
Restorative Justice Victoria, working with UVic,
learned that although the offenders admitted
responsibility, they didn’t understand why this
woman no longer felt safe on campus. The process
allowed her to explain, through facilitators, how
the event had triggered a traumatic memory and
post-traumatic response, and to hold the men to
account for it. The men agreed to an educational
program (including regular meetings with sexual
assault centre staff and participation in a men’s
discussion circle), and the process “had a great
impact on them,” said Mr. Derry. “One of the students said it ‘changed the way I view the world.’”
Some, like Yvonne Atwell, executive director
of the Community Justice Society in Halifax,
believe that the use of restorative justice in cases
of gender-based violence requires more research.
the process), the harmed party (either in person
or through a statement), and relevant community
members to resolve the conflict. There are a number of restorative models used, the most common
being community forums, mediation, and restorative circles in which the parties literally sit in a
circle to discuss accountability, harms and repercussions.
“You’re able to give much more focus to the
needs of the community and the needs of the
person that’s been harmed,” Dr. Jacobson said,
“[by] asking questions like, ‘What’s been done?’
‘What’s the impact?’ ‘How can we remedy this?’
‘Who’s responsible for making this right?’”
Currently, most policies addressing non-
academic student conduct at Canadian universi-
ties allow for “informal processes” as an alterna-
tive to formal hearings before the university’s
senate discipline committee or other groups.
These informal processes generally include
restorative models and sanctions that are restor-
ative or educational in nature (reflection essays,
community service, etc.). Rarely, though, do the